The Power – and Importance of – Verisimilitude

When I first learned the skill of copywriting several years ago I was fortunate enough to learn from one of the masters – Herschell Gordon Lewis. He had a concept that has stuck with me since then, partly because I like the word and partly because I like what the word means from a marketing standpoint. Verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude means “like the truth,” or as Lewis framed it “providing the appearance of truth.” It’s what copywriters strive to do, of course. And, in fact, if we don’t convey “the truth” our brand is likely to suffer.

The appearance of truth can relate to the product or service attributes we espouse, of course, but truth is conveyed in other ways as well. I was thinking about this recently because of an email I received from a retail marketer. The subject line said:

“A reward for being our most loyal patrons.”

That subject line did not have the appearance of truth. In fact, I had only made one prior purchase from this particular retailer. If I was among their “most loyal patrons” they must be about to go out of business!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against receiving special offers and am frequently enticed to make unnecessary purchases online because of these offers! And, although I’m well aware that advertising copy is often filled with claims that may push the bounds of verisimilitude, it does seem that if marketers are hoping to engage with their customers they should do it based on an accurate representation of the relationship.

Or maybe they just hit me on an off day…

What do you think? Have you received a communication from a marketer that failed to pass the verisimilitude test? If so, how did that lack of the “appearance of truth” affect your perception of that marketer?


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