Simple Guarantees Work Best

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The issue of simplicity vs. complexity is, well, complicated. In business, simplicity and brevity are usually greatly preferred, but in marketing trying to get your message into a few words sometimes doesn’t work as well as longer text. For example, some of the most effective direct sales letters are lengthy, running many pages long. Longer product descriptions can outperform short ones. An interesting little test conducted by FutureNow and described by Anne Holland shows that when it comes to guarantees, simple may be best.


A test of guarantee text at the end of an online order form compared the performance of these two guarantees:

“You may cancel at any time.”

vs. this personalized version with additional reassurances:

“John, your satisfaction is fully guaranteed. If VetFriends is not what you had in mind, feel free to cancel at any time – we are here to serve you.”

The short copy converted 14.5% better than the longer copy.

Before you start hacking your copy to bits, be aware that the usual disclaimer about these results being based on a specific offer to a specific audience apply. Always test variables using your offer and your target customers.

Despite that disclaimer, I think there is a general neuromarketing principle at work here. We’ve seen that long, hard to read text extends the apparent effort and time for an activity (see Convince with Simple Fonts). I think in this case, it’s likely that the small, dense block of text in the longer offer subliminally suggested to readers that cancellation might be a hassle. The six-word guarantee, on the other hand, communicated that cancellation would be speedy and simple.

How NOT to offer a guarantee

The opposite of the simple guarantee is what accompanies many products: dense paragraphs of text describing the exact circumstances under which a guarantee or warranty can be invoked, an enumeration of what isn’t covered, a description of the process for obtaining a refund, repair, or replacement, etc. The print on these is almost always tiny, and the language is often peppered with legalese. Viewing one of those, the consumer will likely think, “I hope I like this and it works, because getting satisfaction from this guarantee will be a nightmare.”

If the circumstances of your product or service permit it, keep your guarantee simple. Do you have an example of a guarantee or warranty that you think really works?

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