If You’ve Ever Been Duped with Fine-Print (Or Been the Dup-er)…Read This!

If you’ve ever been teased or pranked – you know the feeling. It’s irritating to be duped. And while duped might be a bit strong, it carries the emotional punch necessary to explain what I’m talking about.

Occasionally I receive a mailer with a headline announcing something like a SPECIAL PRICE…etc.The layout and content do their job, grabbing my attention just as it was designed to do.


My careful (yet not so common for many) eye was drawn to the fine print beneath the SPECIAL PRICE offer indicating the rules-of-engagement, so to speak!

Now first of all, I understand the power of headlines – it’s what I do for crying-out-loud! I’m a copywriter! And next, I’m aware of the significance of a strong, compelling offer.

Beyond that…

Maybe it’s personal. And perhaps I’m being nit-picky. And possibly I’ve missed something as I consistently learn from master copywriters to hone my craft.

But I must ask: is fine-print necessary in marketing content?

Fine-print has been around for decades (if not longer) in marketing. The often comical equivalent in TV and radio ads are those fast talking auto commercials (don’t get me started on their absurdity – that’s another topic).

Seriously, if the voice over person runs out of breath explaining the deal restrictions before his/her 15 to 30 seconds are up…what’s that about?

In reality, effective headlines and related offers draw you in…tease you a bit…and compel you to take action. That’s great (even good) copywriting!

Why use fine-print? As if to say – “Oh, by the way you’ll need to do this and that…to qualify for our amazing deal…see, it’s written right here…let me fetch you a magnifying glass or find you a pair of reading glasses…I still hope you’ll take advantage of our special offer cause we’d love to have your business…” Are you serious?!

Consider this if/when you must use fine-print…

Sometimes you’re forced to use fine-print due to space limitations on a postcard mailer, for example. If so, make sure your copywriting states or restates the offer and doesn’t hide the facts from the reader.

Qualify the reader’s relationship to the SPECIAL OFFER right up front in an easy-to-read…can’t-miss headline (that’s where it matters most). Save the fine-print for take-it-or-leave-it clarifying content, directions, weblinks, instructions, etc., that naturally follow the headline/lead copy.

Be careful…don’t undermine your marketing integrity.

If you worked hard enough to come up with an offer that compels a response why not include that in your headline and lead instead of giving buyers the “oh-by-the-way” real-scoop in the fine print?

1) Don’t mislead hoping I’ll misread!

I do copywriting in the dental industry. For example, in that niche, if you’re promoting an “$89 TEETH WHITENING SPECIAL…” Tell them it’s for NEW PATIENTS in the offer headline.

What do you lose by including that fact there instead of something like the fine-print version that might read…

“For new patients only who have not had more than 15 cups of coffee, wine, or other tooth staining beverages in the last six months while vacationing in resorts south of the Gulf of Mexico including but not limited to the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, and Antigua…”

Invest the time to come up with an offer that compels and just tell them what it is. Then they can decide. After all, decision is their prerogative.

Which reminds…

2) Don’t decide for them by luring them in your door or teasing them into a phone call to obtain your offer only to leave them hanging when they find out they don’t qualify (because they didn’t read the “real-deal” in the fine print).

Now they feel stupid…and (if they’re not strong willed) obligated! Sort of helps you understand why many distrust advertising, doesn’t it?

I realize marketers (I am one) assume people are smart enough to read the fine print and to know the set up. But these days marketers should also assume something else…

Today’s consumers/buyers are engaged in social media where trust and authenticity rule!

They’re savvy enough to know when they’re being duped. And they’re equally capable of moving on to sellers/marketers who say it simply…clearly…and compellingly (in a first-glance-readable font) and let them make up their mind then and there!

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