Stop. Being. So. Positive.
All Positive All the Time is Positively Boring
All Positive All the Time is Positively Boring


Disclaimer #1: I love The Beatles. I’ve worn out every album.
Disclaimer #2: I love the Stones too. I’ve worn out the first 75 albums or so.

If you sent me to a desert island with only one of these bands’ platters, I’d pack The Beatles discography (and my luggage fees would surely be lower).

Love is all you need

The Beatles: Good Day Sunshine… Sun King… Here Comes the Sun… “Take a sad song and make it better.” Peace. Love. The Beatles may have alluded to darker themes every now and then, but you have to admit they had a fairly sunny disposition.

The Stones: Paint it Black… Sympathy for the Devil… Their Satanic Majesties Request… “Yeah, a storm is threatening my very life today.” Rape. Murder. A few tender love songs may have sneaked into the Stones’ sets, but it would be fair to say the band painted with darker brush strokes.

War children, it’s just a shot away

You’re probably not paying close attention to The Stones anymore, but their new hit is called “Doom and Gloom.” Lovely.

Eight Days a Week…

I’m online reading headlines, searching for advice, inspiration, and success stories. And I find them. The sunny side is up and online in millions of articles and papers, and books, and videos, and interviews and… zzzzzzzz.

Ooh. Sorry. I must have dozed off on you. I was starting to bore myself. Happens all the time.

But I can’t get no… no satisfaction

I try and I try and I try.

Here’s the deal. I’m a professional marketing writer. I get happy when I’ve written some abrasive, ironic, devilish headline because I know it will stop readers in their tracks. It’ll get them to read. That’s my job description.

But my clients sometimes make my job harder. It’s seems when I’m going “na-na-na, I nailed it” they’re going “no-no-no, you missed. “It sounds negative.”

It seems my clients flush at fiery. They want friendly.

They want to compromise my statement, neutralize my stance and sanitize my dirty tricks. They want to make sure we don’t turn anyone off. I say, but if we do that we won’t turn anyone on either.

It’s positively boring to be positive all the time

I called Mick and Keith to corroborate my story, but they were at the bank cashing checks. So I did the next best thing. I went to one of the websites I read (and write for) and reviewed their top five stories of the past month as measured by page views.

Guess what I found? One Beatle. Four Stones. Check out phrases lifted from four of the top five stories:

  • “The Social Media Marketing Honeymoon is Over
  • “The Engagement Disconnect Between Consumes and Brands Rages On”
  • “Is Small Business Social Media a Waste of Time”
  • “Is Facebook Becoming Irrelevant?”

(Gasp.) These are very compelling headlines, but the list oozes negativity. And however engaging they may be, far too often clients shy away from these types of approaches. Safe feels better.

“Can you give it a positive spin?”

If I had a dime for every time my client asked me this question.

Here’s a slice of my day today (and most of my days). Short version:

My client’s hosting a “hackathon.” That is, internally, their mostly technically inclined workforce will be invited to blow off work for a day and participate in a free-form brainstorm, a think tank sort of thing. Google made this mainstream and gearheads everywhere (in California) are going gaga.

Anyhoooooooow… My task was to write a teaser email not to spill all the beans, but to plant a little seed, apparently a harmless one.

I wrote (as a subject line, mind you): “A Big Storm is Coming.”

When you open the email, which you will because [1] it’s from your boss and [2] you want to know what the the email is about, you learn this big storm is actually a company wide brainstorm session. Brilliant, I know.

It seems the marketing director doesn’t agree. I get this: “That ‘storm’ thing could be interpreted as negative.

My response: “Yep. That’s good. Everyone will read the email.”

Client counters: “Nope. It’s bad. We want everyone to be positive about the event. Could you give it a positive spin?”

My response (mentalized, but not verbalized): Spin this.

Tomorrow will be a nice day

Did you like that subhead? It’s very pleasant, I know. It’s no wonder you’re still reading (he said sarcastically). Ugh. You got me. It’s the lamest sentence I’ve ever written.

Tomorrow a crap storm shall strike

I guess that one sounds kind of negative. Why do I love it so much? We both know everyone will keep reading. So tell me, do the only good lines comprise good news? Is being upbeat the only way to get readership up?

Stop. Being. So. Positive. Or at least stop being so negative about not being positive.

I get to pick the last tune

The jukebox has two tunes in it. Never heard either. One’s called “Let it Be.” The other one is only different by a few letters. It sounds kind of dark and quite possibly negative. I can’t listen to both. I have just one quarter.

I’ve got to make a choice. I choose “Let it Bleed.”


Whaddaya’ say?  Are you ready to cut through the clutter and stop being so positive?


About the Author

Barry Feldman
Barry Feldman creates compelling content by telling stories. He's a freelance copywriter, creative director, content marketing consultant, and an alright guy. He specializes in persuasion and engagement and has authored the eBooks "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website" and "The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing" to help improve your online marketing. If you would like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative and his blog,  The Point.
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  • Doug Kessler

    Hear, Hear!
    Required reading for every marketer.

    If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the “it’s too negative” objection, I could buy a Lear Jet and crash it into the golf club of the guy who told people that negative headlines are bad.

    Unless you’re marketing to Mickey Mouse, negative headlines work.

  • I agree that negative headlines are more impactful, but I’ve also seen far too many negative headlines that don’t deliver. They’re just hype. I think that’s a bigger problem than being “too positive.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen blogs proclaiming “the death of blogging/social media/email/other valuable marketing channel”. Far too many.

    • Bryce,
      Man-oh-man, am I tired of “the death of…” headlines. In fact, when I see one, I need no further information on that writer. They’re blacklisted, I already know they don’t have a single original idea. I encourage you to do a post on “The death of ‘the death on'” articles. (Holy shit that was a punctuation nightmare.)Please, if I ever write a “death of” article, hunt me down and kill me. Then you’ll actually have a real death to write about.

  • If your looking for dark I would go with Black Sabbath. But that’s not really what your post was about was it Barry haha.

    Far too many people are afraid of controversy. It is much more interesting to take a stand, draw a line and invite people to stand with you or against you. Some marketers and writers use it very effectively to sell their products and their words and I would argue their raving fans are significantly more loyal than brands who use “happy happy joy joy” messaging all the time.

    There is a huge but here; there is a very fine line between an effective controversial / negative message and slipping into the disrespectful, insulting and trolling category.

    With blogs in particular the fans in these communities morph from raving to rabid and become a bit of a cult. That is crossing the Rubicon for me.

    For anyone under 18 unfamiliar with the Stones lyrics referencing the evil empire of  negative advertising.

    “When I’m watchin’ my TV

    And that man comes on to tell me

    How white my shirts can be

    But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke

    The same cigarettes as me

    I can’t get no, oh no no no

    Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

    I can’t get no satisfaction”


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