Years ago I was fortunate to be able to work with one of the true gurus in the field of direct marketing copywriting – Herschell Gordon Lewis. A marketing genius, a horror-film writer! (he’s actually known for creating the “splatter film” sub-genre of horror, according to Wikipedia) – and a truly nice, nice man – he used a term that was new to me, but that I’ve always remembered.

Verisimilitude. It means, basically, “the appearance of reality.”

The application of the term for copywriters, of course, relates to the ability to write compelling copy that somehow moves the target audiences to do, think or believe something – all with the “appearance of reality” or verisimilitude.

I thought of that word recently while contemplating the label on my bottled water during a brief period of “worker’s block.” The brand of the water is SuperChill. The tagline: “Chill – a whole new way!”

And, therein lies the problem, IMO. The tagline, I think, is missing that critical element of verisimilitude. What’s new about bottled water? Nothing that I can discern. The bottle itself looks like any other bottle. The water inside tastes like any other water. Nothing on the packaging gives any indication about what might be different about this particular water.

There’s no verisimilitude. No appearance of reality.

My guess is that the copywriter was simply using a play on words – “to chill” as in “to relax.” I guess… But, boy, that’s quite a stretch.

In this case, I doubt that the tagline will either make or break the product. My husband probably bought it because it was the least expensive option. Bottled water is pretty much a commodity after all. But the point that tagline raises is valid, I think.

We have all come to accept a certain amount of puffery when it comes to ad copy. Still, credibility is key. Whenever you’re making a claim – in a tagline, in copy, whatever! – it needs to have at a minimum the appearance of truth – verisimilitude. That appearance of truth, backed up by customer experience, that proves the point is what leads to brand preference, positive word-of-mouth, sales – and repeat sales.

Verisimilitude. Without it – you’re just another bottle of water.

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