The power of 'up to'

The biggest advertising strategy of the last twelve months (or more) has, I think, been the use of the phrase ‘up to’. It’s everywhere now in sales signs and adverts. ‘Up to 50% off!’, ‘Up to 70% off!’. You’d think that most people on seeing these signs must say to themselves ‘well, that doesn’t mean very much’ but retailers clearly don’t regard that as a problem. Based on how much it’s being used, companies in the U.K. seem to think it’s a sure winner for improving their sales. They’re confident that telling people that at least one of their five thousand items in stock will be 70% off in the upcoming sale, even though that single item has probably all the desirability and functionality of owning a deranged skunk, is an actual winning formula.


Are we missing something here? Are these companies, with their skilled and experienced staff, pointing us in a new direction? If using ‘up to’ is such a gold mine, should we be trying to use it in aspects of our own lives? Maybe the power of ‘up to’ can be used in our emotional relationships? Imagine the scene:
“Darling,”
“Yes?”
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you for some time now.”
“What is it?”
“It’s hard for me to say.”
“That’s okay.”
“I want to tell you that.... I’m up to in love with you.”
Really?”
“Yes.”
“That’s wonderful! I’m in... wait a second. What did you say?”
“I’m up to in love with you, my dearest.”
“But... what do you mean by ‘up to’?”
“Well, I’m up to in love with you. I have feelings for you that lie somewhere between, say, a mild interest in you all the way to passionate devotion. Isn’t that beautiful?”
“Yes, but, somewhere between mild interest?”
“Well, that’s the lowest level. It could be anywhere beyond that though. I can’t give a full statistical report but the chance of it being warm friendship, infatuation and, at the further end of the bell curve - romance - is pretty high. Shall I buy a ring?”

‘Up to’ isn’t the only diamond studded screwdriver in the advertisers’ toolboxes. I saw a recent advert by a huge telecomms company for their broadband service. It said the service was ‘up to 20Mb/s and had the most consistent service of any broadband supplier’. I was genuinely impressed. I thought it sounded excellent. After a few minutes thought, I changed my mind. I realised that the advert was ‘up to’ taken to a new level. Their service could easily be only twenty bits per second but it would be very consistently twenty bits per second. You could get a broadband service from them which gives you, say, a thumbnail sized image every five minutes and you’d know, with grinding certainty, that the service will continue at that speed for years.
But one of the biggest telecomms companies in the world is using that approach! A multi-billion dollar company stuffed with high achieving, brilliant graduates with PhD’s! (I’m guessing). Considering how highly we regard successful businessmen, shouldn’t we be looking for ways to use their tools in our own lives? Just as with ‘up to’, we could use the phrase ‘most consistent’ too. I could tell all my friends that I’ll be, at the most, super punctual and I’ll do that with great consistency. I’ll then happily turn up an hour late to everything, safe in the knowledge that they’ll always regard me as a quality friend.
When I think about it, I’m torn between using Sky or Alan Sugar as a mentor in establishing my relationships. Alan Sugar likes to hear his apprentices say they’ll give him ‘a thousand percent effort’, even though that’s physically impossible. Would that work in a marriage vow? I could have a future marriage vow that says ‘Will you, Adrian Ellis, take this woman for a range of wealth up to extremely rich, for up to rude good health, for up to the end of your life and be very consistent in whatever level you choose?’ Alternatively, I could go the Apprentice 1000% way; “Will you, Adrian Ellis, take this woman for a million years and never die and give her Manolo Blahnick shoes every day and matching yachts and fourteen orgasms per hour and a talking dog?’ Whichever one I’d choose, I’d be safe in the knowledge that I’ll be walking in the footsteps of highly paid executives.
Even if the marriage failed, I could probably use advertising strategies to review it in a glowing light. I heard a recent margarine spread advert that said that ‘if someone ate it while pursuing a very healthy lifestyle, their cholesterol would go down’. I could use the same approach when thinking about my ex. I could say ‘I remember a period of her life when she was with me when she got a better job and embraced yoga and found her long lost mother and got the Nobel Peace prize. It was one of the happiest times of her life.’ Such reminiscences would keep me warm in my dotage.

On the other hand, reading it through all again, I’ve changed my mind. If I did all that, I’ll be regarded as a complete arsehole and dumped by all my friends.

I wonder if that’ll happen to the ‘up to’ brigade too?