How Word Choice Creates Connection & Gets Results

July 20, 2018

I recently attended Baconfest, an event that takes place in Lucan, Ontario each July. “Bikes, bacon and beer” is the theme of the day, with enthusiasts of any (or all) of those items coming from far and wide to experience all that the community of Lucan has to offer.

This year, among other personal highlights (meeting Food Network Canada’s John Catucci, for one), was a lesson in the importance of knowing your audience so you can speak to them directly. Along the main street, many vendors were selling their wares, and my parched 10-year-old asked me to buy him a slushy. As I waited at the window of the food booth, I happened to notice there was a tip jar right beside the napkin dispenser (extra bonus points to the booth’s staff for the choice of location!).

But this wasn’t any ol’ tip jar! Two words, printed in black marker, appeared on the label on the outside of the jar:

“Tattoo Fund.”

Ok, so this makes a bit of an assumption, but let’s face it: tattoos are common in the “biker” culture, and are far more mainstream than they used to be. (IPSOS claims that approximately 20% of the population has at least one tattoo, while Pew Research says 40% of millennials have been inked at least once. Overall, it was a safe bet that the majority of the people who would stop by that booth would have a tattoo, be thinking about getting a tattoo, or even saving some coins themselves for their next tattoo. This would make them far more likely to toss their few quarters of change into the “tattoo fund” than the “tip jar.” I mentioned the wording to the (tattooed) owner of the booth while he was preparing my son’s grape-and-blue-raspberry slushy. He told me they change up the wording for the jar depending on the event they’re attending. When they go to a fair or youth-oriented event, it’s the “Education Fund” jar. A more adult-focused festival features the “Travel Fund” or “Retirement Fund” jar. He added that customers rarely tossed change into the “tip jar” — but once the wording was changed to be more focused, the staff found themselves needing to empty the jar numerous times during a day-long event.

When you know your audience, you can create wording that will speak to their own interests and create an instant — and valuable — connection.

Where have you seen such a good example of targeted wording? A “feeling tipsy?” tip jar at your favourite bar? A particularly well-worded banner or advertisement? Share your examples in the comments!

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