Lowest Prices of the Season*
*and by that we mean “until the next time we say ‘Lowest Prices of the Season.’”
Ever ask yourself what all these stores mean when they advertise “lowest prices of the season” or “biggest sale of the season?”
What constitutes a “season” in retail ad-speak? And are all these different stores, competitors in many cases, in agreement as to when the “season” begins and ends?
Let’s call it what it is: a weasel word. A term of equivocation, used in place of a proposition that can be easily measured and tested. Weasel words help their users avoid having to make a direct and meaningful commitment. The origin of the term stems from a weasel’s habit of sucking the egg out of a shell without breaking the shell to pieces, thereby leaving the casual observer with the impression that the egg is intact.
Examples of weasel words abound in the literature of advertising. Many years ago, when “like” was used as a comparative and not merely as a place holder, a substitute for “uhhh,” it became a popular weasel: wear this lipstick or perfume and you’ll feel like a supermodel. Buy this mattress and you’ll sleep like a baby. Or the granddaddy of them all, “Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should.”
Helps. Up to/as much as. Performance. Virtually. Service. Quality. Different. Special.
Why do advertisers insist on using weasels instead of making specific, propositional, verifiable statements?
Because consumers continue to fall for them. They may not actually be the lowest prices available on a given item–at another store, or online, or at another time in our store–but by golly, they’re the lowest prices of the season today at this store, so we’d better hurry in and buy now, before it’s too late.
We believe, “there’s never been a better time to buy.”
We believe, “never before and never again.”
And of course, when they’re gone, they’re gone, right?