The dictionary defines superlatives as exaggerated expressions of praise, and the greatest degree of a given descriptor. When it comes to marketing, superlatives have been used to death.
And where there are superlatives, you know there are comparatives lurking in the background since superlatives rely on comparatives for their existence. After all, there’s no way to know what’s the best unless there’s at least one other similar product, service, or situation that’s considered inferior to that which is being presented as superior.
However, between the superlative and the comparative, there’s a third adjective known simply as the positive. The positive form of an adjective is the base form. It expresses a degree without comparison and without claiming the highest degree in a category.
I was at a restaurant recently where I noticed the branding on the ketchup, peppercorn, and sea salt containers. What I found of particular interest was that the labels were clear examples of positive, comparative, and superlative adjectives in advertising.
Notice the ketchup label. It states that the ketchup in the bottle is fancy tomato ketchup. One of my lunch companions laughed when I pointed out that the adjective could be describing either the tomatoes or the ketchup, then added that it could also be describing the container in which it was bottled (although that wasn’t likely as the container wasn’t very different from other tomato ketchup dispensing containers).
Now notice the sea salt container. It states that the sea salt is Mediterranean sea salt. In other words, it’s not your everyday basic sea salt. This sea salt has traveled a great distance to the shores of this continent. Compared to other sea salts, it’s understood that Mediterranean sea salt is supposedly better than other non-Mediterranean sea salt found on tables in restaurants around the world.
Now notice the peppercorn container. It states that the peppercorns are premium peppercorns. Anything that’s described as premium is not easily available and people are willing to pay a high price to have what’s described as premium. There is a high expectation placed on anything described as premium, and because of that, it’s thought to be the best of all similar items.
So there we sat with the positive adjective ketchup, the comparative adjective sea salt, and the superlative adjective peppercorns, and I began to wonder. Since adjectives are used to identify or quantify people and things, did the labeling mean that those who ate at this restaurant valued peppercorns over tomato ketchup?
In business, knowing and understanding your clientele is king. If you know what they value most, your marketing and promotion can build towards those values. Your customers are your customers because they trust that you will provide services and/or products that cater to what they value most.
Don’t let them down by providing less than what they value most while selling it as what they should value most. Listen to the marketplace and give them what they want, not what you think they want.
Even when you can give them something positive, put more effort into your service and/or product and give them something superlative. The value added to your service and/or product is well worth the effort.