Two words I want to set on fire

Marketing begins with words. The ones you choose really do matter so it’s worth running them through a few stress tests.

Many times when you peel away extraneous words and thoughts – the modifiers, the vague, the unsubstantiated – there’s little left.

When that happens, you’ve lost any hope of engaging your reader, who is really your prospect or your customer. They are not with you. They can’t hear what you’re saying because you haven’t said anything.  

It is with this guidance and sentiment that I want to examine two words in the real estate marketing vernacular: innovation and integrity.

I’m sorry. I know we all love these words. We rely on them. I use them too.

But face it, we lean on them too much. We expect them to carry more than their weight. They are overused, misused, abused. They promote fuzzy thinking and block differentiation.

Let’s take a closer look.


We all like to think that our company or product is innovative. Sure. But let’s split hairs for a moment. When you use this word in your marketing, what are you really saying – or not saying?

This word leaves a lot open to interpretation. I have two kids, so innovation to me means a device that will magically get them up and ready for school every day without challenges, setbacks or complaints.

Or, show me something that will shop for food and cook a meal that’s nutritionally acceptable yet loved with enthusiasm by all small mouths at the table.

Now that’s innovation.

Your solution to a problem I don’t have is not innovation.

Your statement about being innovative is not innovation.

Your passion to upend the status quo – while admirable – is not innovation.

When you use this term in your marketing, are you sure that your audience gets exactly what you mean? Are you sure you know exactly what you mean?

Study some of your casual conversations with friends and family for a week and make a note of when and how people use this word innovation. My guess is never.

I can’t recall a time I’ve ever heard someone tell me the reason they bought something was due to its “innovation” or “innovative” qualities. People don’t even use the word when talking about their iPhones – a pocket-sized computer that enables them to communicate across the planet within seconds.

A better approach would be to dig into the specifics of what you believe makes your company or product innovative. Use the word as a jumping off point to go deeper and get more specific. Specificity is your friend when it comes to writing copy.

Innovation isn’t.


I have a love-hate relationship with the word integrity. I love that so many of our clients value this trait and are proud to say it’s part of their culture and describes their approach. A real estate company should have integrity. Every company should have integrity.

And that’s kind of the problem. It’s a little too much like boasting you’ve never intentionally ripped off a customer. Isn’t that an expected experience anyway?

Integrity is also a fuzzy word on its own. Ask someone to draw integrity. What would that look like? It, too, lacks specificity.

Take it a step further, though, and think in terms of what’s beyond the because why… You have integrity … because why?

We have integrity because we value doing the right thing. We have integrity because we’ve always hired the right people. We have integrity because we answer the phone on a Sunday evening and drop everything to make sure your deal doesn’t fall apart.

You see how this list starts to paint a clearer image in your head about the company behind it?  

Innovation and integrity are great values to have. But they really stink as words in your marketing copy most of the time. As a person whose job is to create and carry words around the industry, I beg you to think more deeply about these two in particular.

Your innovative integrity depends on it!