07 October 2008

Your Brand, In Plain English

I'm not a big fan of buzzwords. Why? They dilute brands more effectively than almost anything else. And I promise, these have all come from real corporate documents, though names have been withheld to protect the offenders.

The Compound Buzzword
This is what you get when you take a perfectly good normal word - like "organic" - and cram it into some business-related context because it sounds cool, often smashing it together with some other buzzword. Something like:

We create organic solution stacks to solve our clients' infrastructure issues.

You've now compounded the confusion by making up collections of words that independently may (or may not) mean something to your customer, but have lost all context.

The Noun-Into-A-Verb
Ever heard this one?

We've tasked our customer service team to meet your every need.

Beside the fact that this violates every grammar rule because it's just a made-up word, it sounds self-important. As if you're too good to just have customer service teams that are dedicated to meeting needs. They have to be "tasked" to do so. Ergh.

The Tech Upgrade
This practice uses technically-related terms and applies them to non-technical subjects.

Our mission statement outlines our read-only values: integrity, creativity, and collaboration.

In essence you're trying to say that those values can't or won't be compromised. So why not use a word designed for that purpose? Like, say, uncompromising?

The Mashup
It can be tempting to create a whole new word, hoping that someday, someone will know you coined that term. Most of the time, you just sound like you're trying too hard:

We keep our client meetings centergistic and focused on outcomes.

What do you think? Does this make you want to hire them, or does it make you wonder if their meetings will be equally difficult to interpret?

The Misnomer
Here we've got words that are either oxymorons - meaning that that by definition the two words are opposites - or words that are completely redundant and unnecessary. My favorite example of late:

We form collaborative partnerships to help you meet your goals.

I don't know about you, but I haven't met a partnership that wasn't - at least by the pure definition of "working together" - collaborative.

Ok, Amber....What's your point?
Ok. The above are kind of fun, and you may have gotten a chuckle out of it. (For even more laughs on the buzzword front, check out BuzzWhack.) But the truth is these kinds of offenses are rampant in the world of marketing, and even more so now in social media.

Everyone wants to be different, innovative, the first to the finish line. And in the process, we've left behind some very simple words to describe what we do.

A brand isn't about 20 point Scrabulous words (or Scrabble, for you analog folk). It's about clearly defining your brand in words that make it easy for your customers to explain it to someone else.

So next time you're writing copy for your website or putting together your pitch for a new client, skip the lingo, and don't try to be a hero. Use real words that real people use and understand, and they'll be much more likely to talk about you. If you have trouble explaining your brand in a sentence, you ought to spend some time distilling it down until you can.


Sometimes, simple really is better.


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7 comments:

Steve Woodruff said...

This post really distillifies what I've been saying for years: Don't neologize. Because you might not bridge the I/O comprehension gap.

Sonny Gill said...

Fun post Amber!

It's humorous to me as I unfortunately hear buzz words on a daily basis so I have first hand experience of how diluted a message can get by doing so.

Laughs aside, you nailed it with the last paragraph "real words" and "real people". It's about being a human and connecting with your readers, employees, whoever. We all have personalities so show it without grabbing your Webster's dictionary.

Beth Harte said...

Working in high-tech for almost 15 years, I could give you a stack of buzz words that would make you cringe (I am protecting the not-so-innocent);) How about some marketing goodies: 'we think outside the box' or 'let's create a straw man to help solve...' Ugh. How about we are just plain ol' creative folk?!

Great post, thanks for the reminder!

rickwolff said...

Besides, some neologisms, made-up words, can make you sound ignorant. Consider your favorite Bushism, such as "nucular," "misunderestimate" and (Will Farrell's) "strategery." Made-up words can sometimes give the impression the writer couldn't bother to use a dictionary or thesaurus.

Jason Falls said...

Excellent article and point. I would like to add that the next time I hear someone from an advertising or marketing firm say they have "proprietary software" I may just have to scream "bullshit" out loud. It's pompous and over-used. Enough already.

I once heard an ad guy say his firm had proprietary software to monitor blogs. I utter under my breath, "Yeah, it's called Technorati or Google Search. We've got it too."

Amber Naslund said...

@Steve you are too funny. Thanks for aligning your strategic imperatives to synergize with our constructs.

@Sonny Being real! Now there's a concept. :)

@Beth Sometimes I worry that we invent words to cover up the fact that we don't really have a clue what we're talking about.

@Rick excellent point. Making up words or misusing them completely undermines your intelligence, and makes you look as though you didn't have five minutes to find a better, simpler word. Strategery is still one of my favorites. :)

@Jason LOL! Yeah, proprietary anything is a good one. We all feel like being "the only" is important, when sometimes in the process, we miss being effective.

Matthew Chamberlin said...

Loved the post, but you left something out.

The goal should be to conveniently re-engineer front-end growth strategies with visionary "outside the box" thinking. Objectively facilitate corporate methodologies before principle-centered potentialities. Progressively initiate quality core competencies with 24/365 leadership.

Seriously, though, we are living through an age where simplicity is sometime sacrificed because somehow people think it's not good enough or cool enough. Good reminder.

07 October 2008

Your Brand, In Plain English

I'm not a big fan of buzzwords. Why? They dilute brands more effectively than almost anything else. And I promise, these have all come from real corporate documents, though names have been withheld to protect the offenders.

The Compound Buzzword
This is what you get when you take a perfectly good normal word - like "organic" - and cram it into some business-related context because it sounds cool, often smashing it together with some other buzzword. Something like:

We create organic solution stacks to solve our clients' infrastructure issues.

You've now compounded the confusion by making up collections of words that independently may (or may not) mean something to your customer, but have lost all context.

The Noun-Into-A-Verb
Ever heard this one?

We've tasked our customer service team to meet your every need.

Beside the fact that this violates every grammar rule because it's just a made-up word, it sounds self-important. As if you're too good to just have customer service teams that are dedicated to meeting needs. They have to be "tasked" to do so. Ergh.

The Tech Upgrade
This practice uses technically-related terms and applies them to non-technical subjects.

Our mission statement outlines our read-only values: integrity, creativity, and collaboration.

In essence you're trying to say that those values can't or won't be compromised. So why not use a word designed for that purpose? Like, say, uncompromising?

The Mashup
It can be tempting to create a whole new word, hoping that someday, someone will know you coined that term. Most of the time, you just sound like you're trying too hard:

We keep our client meetings centergistic and focused on outcomes.

What do you think? Does this make you want to hire them, or does it make you wonder if their meetings will be equally difficult to interpret?

The Misnomer
Here we've got words that are either oxymorons - meaning that that by definition the two words are opposites - or words that are completely redundant and unnecessary. My favorite example of late:

We form collaborative partnerships to help you meet your goals.

I don't know about you, but I haven't met a partnership that wasn't - at least by the pure definition of "working together" - collaborative.

Ok, Amber....What's your point?
Ok. The above are kind of fun, and you may have gotten a chuckle out of it. (For even more laughs on the buzzword front, check out BuzzWhack.) But the truth is these kinds of offenses are rampant in the world of marketing, and even more so now in social media.

Everyone wants to be different, innovative, the first to the finish line. And in the process, we've left behind some very simple words to describe what we do.

A brand isn't about 20 point Scrabulous words (or Scrabble, for you analog folk). It's about clearly defining your brand in words that make it easy for your customers to explain it to someone else.

So next time you're writing copy for your website or putting together your pitch for a new client, skip the lingo, and don't try to be a hero. Use real words that real people use and understand, and they'll be much more likely to talk about you. If you have trouble explaining your brand in a sentence, you ought to spend some time distilling it down until you can.


Sometimes, simple really is better.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

7 comments:

Steve Woodruff said...

This post really distillifies what I've been saying for years: Don't neologize. Because you might not bridge the I/O comprehension gap.

Sonny Gill said...

Fun post Amber!

It's humorous to me as I unfortunately hear buzz words on a daily basis so I have first hand experience of how diluted a message can get by doing so.

Laughs aside, you nailed it with the last paragraph "real words" and "real people". It's about being a human and connecting with your readers, employees, whoever. We all have personalities so show it without grabbing your Webster's dictionary.

Beth Harte said...

Working in high-tech for almost 15 years, I could give you a stack of buzz words that would make you cringe (I am protecting the not-so-innocent);) How about some marketing goodies: 'we think outside the box' or 'let's create a straw man to help solve...' Ugh. How about we are just plain ol' creative folk?!

Great post, thanks for the reminder!

rickwolff said...

Besides, some neologisms, made-up words, can make you sound ignorant. Consider your favorite Bushism, such as "nucular," "misunderestimate" and (Will Farrell's) "strategery." Made-up words can sometimes give the impression the writer couldn't bother to use a dictionary or thesaurus.

Jason Falls said...

Excellent article and point. I would like to add that the next time I hear someone from an advertising or marketing firm say they have "proprietary software" I may just have to scream "bullshit" out loud. It's pompous and over-used. Enough already.

I once heard an ad guy say his firm had proprietary software to monitor blogs. I utter under my breath, "Yeah, it's called Technorati or Google Search. We've got it too."

Amber Naslund said...

@Steve you are too funny. Thanks for aligning your strategic imperatives to synergize with our constructs.

@Sonny Being real! Now there's a concept. :)

@Beth Sometimes I worry that we invent words to cover up the fact that we don't really have a clue what we're talking about.

@Rick excellent point. Making up words or misusing them completely undermines your intelligence, and makes you look as though you didn't have five minutes to find a better, simpler word. Strategery is still one of my favorites. :)

@Jason LOL! Yeah, proprietary anything is a good one. We all feel like being "the only" is important, when sometimes in the process, we miss being effective.

Matthew Chamberlin said...

Loved the post, but you left something out.

The goal should be to conveniently re-engineer front-end growth strategies with visionary "outside the box" thinking. Objectively facilitate corporate methodologies before principle-centered potentialities. Progressively initiate quality core competencies with 24/365 leadership.

Seriously, though, we are living through an age where simplicity is sometime sacrificed because somehow people think it's not good enough or cool enough. Good reminder.

07 October 2008

Your Brand, In Plain English

I'm not a big fan of buzzwords. Why? They dilute brands more effectively than almost anything else. And I promise, these have all come from real corporate documents, though names have been withheld to protect the offenders.

The Compound Buzzword
This is what you get when you take a perfectly good normal word - like "organic" - and cram it into some business-related context because it sounds cool, often smashing it together with some other buzzword. Something like:

We create organic solution stacks to solve our clients' infrastructure issues.

You've now compounded the confusion by making up collections of words that independently may (or may not) mean something to your customer, but have lost all context.

The Noun-Into-A-Verb
Ever heard this one?

We've tasked our customer service team to meet your every need.

Beside the fact that this violates every grammar rule because it's just a made-up word, it sounds self-important. As if you're too good to just have customer service teams that are dedicated to meeting needs. They have to be "tasked" to do so. Ergh.

The Tech Upgrade
This practice uses technically-related terms and applies them to non-technical subjects.

Our mission statement outlines our read-only values: integrity, creativity, and collaboration.

In essence you're trying to say that those values can't or won't be compromised. So why not use a word designed for that purpose? Like, say, uncompromising?

The Mashup
It can be tempting to create a whole new word, hoping that someday, someone will know you coined that term. Most of the time, you just sound like you're trying too hard:

We keep our client meetings centergistic and focused on outcomes.

What do you think? Does this make you want to hire them, or does it make you wonder if their meetings will be equally difficult to interpret?

The Misnomer
Here we've got words that are either oxymorons - meaning that that by definition the two words are opposites - or words that are completely redundant and unnecessary. My favorite example of late:

We form collaborative partnerships to help you meet your goals.

I don't know about you, but I haven't met a partnership that wasn't - at least by the pure definition of "working together" - collaborative.

Ok, Amber....What's your point?
Ok. The above are kind of fun, and you may have gotten a chuckle out of it. (For even more laughs on the buzzword front, check out BuzzWhack.) But the truth is these kinds of offenses are rampant in the world of marketing, and even more so now in social media.

Everyone wants to be different, innovative, the first to the finish line. And in the process, we've left behind some very simple words to describe what we do.

A brand isn't about 20 point Scrabulous words (or Scrabble, for you analog folk). It's about clearly defining your brand in words that make it easy for your customers to explain it to someone else.

So next time you're writing copy for your website or putting together your pitch for a new client, skip the lingo, and don't try to be a hero. Use real words that real people use and understand, and they'll be much more likely to talk about you. If you have trouble explaining your brand in a sentence, you ought to spend some time distilling it down until you can.


Sometimes, simple really is better.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

7 comments:

Steve Woodruff said...

This post really distillifies what I've been saying for years: Don't neologize. Because you might not bridge the I/O comprehension gap.

Sonny Gill said...

Fun post Amber!

It's humorous to me as I unfortunately hear buzz words on a daily basis so I have first hand experience of how diluted a message can get by doing so.

Laughs aside, you nailed it with the last paragraph "real words" and "real people". It's about being a human and connecting with your readers, employees, whoever. We all have personalities so show it without grabbing your Webster's dictionary.

Beth Harte said...

Working in high-tech for almost 15 years, I could give you a stack of buzz words that would make you cringe (I am protecting the not-so-innocent);) How about some marketing goodies: 'we think outside the box' or 'let's create a straw man to help solve...' Ugh. How about we are just plain ol' creative folk?!

Great post, thanks for the reminder!

rickwolff said...

Besides, some neologisms, made-up words, can make you sound ignorant. Consider your favorite Bushism, such as "nucular," "misunderestimate" and (Will Farrell's) "strategery." Made-up words can sometimes give the impression the writer couldn't bother to use a dictionary or thesaurus.

Jason Falls said...

Excellent article and point. I would like to add that the next time I hear someone from an advertising or marketing firm say they have "proprietary software" I may just have to scream "bullshit" out loud. It's pompous and over-used. Enough already.

I once heard an ad guy say his firm had proprietary software to monitor blogs. I utter under my breath, "Yeah, it's called Technorati or Google Search. We've got it too."

Amber Naslund said...

@Steve you are too funny. Thanks for aligning your strategic imperatives to synergize with our constructs.

@Sonny Being real! Now there's a concept. :)

@Beth Sometimes I worry that we invent words to cover up the fact that we don't really have a clue what we're talking about.

@Rick excellent point. Making up words or misusing them completely undermines your intelligence, and makes you look as though you didn't have five minutes to find a better, simpler word. Strategery is still one of my favorites. :)

@Jason LOL! Yeah, proprietary anything is a good one. We all feel like being "the only" is important, when sometimes in the process, we miss being effective.

Matthew Chamberlin said...

Loved the post, but you left something out.

The goal should be to conveniently re-engineer front-end growth strategies with visionary "outside the box" thinking. Objectively facilitate corporate methodologies before principle-centered potentialities. Progressively initiate quality core competencies with 24/365 leadership.

Seriously, though, we are living through an age where simplicity is sometime sacrificed because somehow people think it's not good enough or cool enough. Good reminder.