Choose Your Words

Hello! I am your friendly marketing person, here to talk to you about words. Specifically, marketing words, and more specifically, overused marketing words. Or phrases (we do not discriminate).

FULL DISCLOSURE: This is not a prescription, and you are not doing anything wrong! But it is my job to think about words and their meanings for you. And there are some words that I see all the time in the marketing world and beyond that have been used beyond their useable life. Like an old college sweatshirt. It is stained and frayed but you love it! But is it really the best commercial for your alma mater? It may be time to relegate the thing to your wear-to-bed pile and order a new one.

First up: “I have a passion for (fill in the blank with a career or vocation).”

At first, this construction seemed, well, passionate. Ardent, intense, certainly emotional. It was a signal word that said, We are no longer hiding our authentic selves behind bland statements. And this is a very positive trend! But we have long over-leaned on that particular word. One of a marketers dirty secrets is how often we hit the thesaurus. And thesaurus tells us that…perhaps we should have never leaned so hard on “passion” in the first place. Because the synonyms include “on fire,” “aroused,” and “immoral.” Would you say “I am incandescent about marketing?” Well, you shouldn’t.

However, we can “believe” in marketing. We can be “emphatic,” usually about something specific (“I am emphatic that marketing is a long-term process, not a project.”). Rather than reach for a word that everyone is using (and perhaps improperly), ask yourself the deepest truth you have learned about whatever you do, and express that.

“We are the best-kept secret in (industry/field)”

No one ever keeps a secret for a long time for a good reason. Ask anyone in your family. Secrets are kept to protect someone, or for selfish reasons. As with “passionate” above, “secret” is a word that has so many meanings that its usage can obscure the message.

Also, this sentiment prompts a question (well, from me anyway): who is doing your marketing? For many organizations or businesses, the answer is “no one.” Perhaps you are relying on word-of-mouth (another strange phrase, but for another day). Word-of-mouth IS the best kind of marketing: people act on advice given by people they trust. It is also your least controllable type of marketing. So try something else! Work to actively divulge your own secret.

This one is not actually a word or phrase, but you still need to think about what you are saying:

“Social media has ruined (fill in the blank).”

Social media has not ruined anything that already hasn’t been ruined by social people. Every new technological thing has been accused of wrecking the world, personal interaction, our children, the family, etc. Perhaps the wheel was seen as “a force for evil” because it make things “too easy.”

Here I want to stop and say I know that teens, especially female teens, are often brutally bullied on social media. When the technology is being used in a terrible way, it has to be dealt with immediately and definitively. But this is an issue of reversing misogyny, sexism, racism, etc. and not blaming the media for the message. And for every girl that has a horrible time on Instagram there is a girl who finds her much-needed community there.

Again, please say what you mean, not the convenient phrase you remember. “Social media can be used to promote unrealistic beauty standards.” YES! Here you have stated a clear problem as well as one of the factors that makes it a problem. “Families need to sit down to dinner together more.” AGAIN, YES! This is what you would like to see, not a generalization about an inherently neutral technology.

I hope I made you think about the words you use, or, to be specific, overuse. And be assured: this post is aimed at me more than anyone else.

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