Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is this more than just semantics?

Thanks to my buddy Hash who helped me out with this.  I am giving a talk in March about the issues below.  Any other ideas would be more than welcome.

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In the business world today, we refer to the world our customers, brands and products live in, as a “market”.  Such clinical terms desensitise us to culture and products and services that really motivate people.

We replace “people” with “targets”, “culture” with “markets”, “communities” with “segmentations” and “desires” with “insights”.

The question I would like to investigate today is “Is this more than just semantics?”

If our goal is to understand what really matters, we should start by realising that as brands, we have to exist in peoples lives authentically and that means as a strategic marketing and brand building business, our own language and posture has to be of the world, not some foreign “speak” that only exists in business school classrooms, corporate cubicles and boardrooms today.

I would argue that our old language and definitions have changed, if not become redundant and we, as a business are slow to adapt, let alone lead and shape brands for our clients into the future.


Randall said...

do you mean this fellow? teehee. Big HOLLA from SF!

Carolyn Anna Hall said...

Thanks for that. All corrected now. Big HOLLA from Perth

Randall said...

ok now that I've read the entire entry (I am so undisciplined, sorry) nearly any term is better than the clunky Dr Strangelove terms 'Target' and 'Segmentations'. Good luck to anyone who can change them, I've always thought people mostly use these terms as a way to pat themselves on the back, and I'd expect the only accepted new terms would be a mere trendy evolution in brandspeak. Just sayin

myla said...

I think semantics plays a huge part in every aspect of our lives. With respect to work though, it plays a big part, I think, in the way we interpret directives, the way we ultimately feel about the jobs we do (no matter our station in life), and the way we interact with each other, absolutely. Word choices and concepts trickle down through any organization and have the power to inspire (or, the opposite).

One of the reasons my boss is so successful is, I believe, because he chooses empowering words with which to inspire his team, is always kind (almost to a fault, if there is such a thing), but he expects a level of commitment and a level of excellence from each of us. He has tasked each of us to provide our clients personalized service, that we be our authentic selves (everything is customized to the client's company, objectives and needs) and most of all -- really actually genuinely caring about our clients.

The thing I love most about working for him, is that he always sort of pushes us to be *that* much better. I love that.

He never demeans or uses demeaning word choices, and ultimately I think I end up working that much harder because I want him to be pleased with what I've done. If he were the opposite, I doubt I would work nearly as hard for him (or have stayed with him as long). I guess what I'm trying to say is that, at least to me, word choices are everything.

If I were thought of as a number, or a target, that would kind of bug me, because I'm more than that and should be valued as more than that. Everyone should imho.

Hope that helped!

Anneliese said...

We are people, separated into individuals with distinctive ideas and a desire to be different to all the others. When you put me in a "demographic" with people of my age, gender, race or income bracket I am usually offended. I'm horrified by what people deem good television or popular culture and can't understand why there isn't more beauty in the world.

I think I've said enough!

Randall said...

Loved this post and the responses by the way. After a couple days I realized my sentiments were a bit different than my original declaration, a rumination that caused me to verbalize things differently during a healthy chat with my career counselor (can't believe I just said that) with the payoff being her remark 'I've never laughed this much with a client'. Huh? Haha.

Nathan Bush said...

Completely agree Carolyn. I've got no doubt that these words along with other wankwords (some meetings want me to get my own cliche buzzer like the one that was used on the tv show The Fat). I think they end up being used not because they are more defining but for two other reasons.

1. People don't realise they are using jargon for no reason. It's become subconscious.
2. People want to out-smart their clients in order for them to feel like the client 'needs' them because they are 'experts' in the field.

As marketers/advertisers/communicators I often think we get it wrong in the first step when we are having conversations with the client. If you are attempting to be on a higher platform you won't get a flowing conversation or debate where you combine the client's consumer and product knowledge with your industry knowledge - which leads to poorer communication with the consumers!

I strongly believe that keeping it simple and direct leads to better results. And I did scan this comment for wankwords before posting and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't use any... I think.

Anonymous said...

From the wonderful Lee Johnson @ McCann in NYC:

My point is this

(a) You’re right. Marketers often do not see real people when they sell, they just read Nielsen numbers
(b) In their attempt to massify consumers they tend to look at common denominators, usually of what people are looking for

(c) Often the result is a look-alikeness of most marketing, especially car marketing.
(d) Occasionally breakthrough’s like Pond’s “real women” or the Tide stain campaign seems to suggest that the marketing people are approaching things from a different angle
(e) And I think the angle is a slow retreat to the humanity of selling and understanding people

a. People like Jim Stengle of P&G use(d) the term “conversations” for how they regard their communications with people
b. The fact of social media has mandated that brands actually talk to people instead of hiding behind slick advertising
c. Long tail marketing has meant more and more that brands are engaging consumer tribes is quite distinct ways
i. Phil Knight – yes that one who owns Nike – is the producer of an animated film called Caroline, and he built his marketing campaign almost exclusively by building word of mouth discussions
ii. Leggo has “employed” real users to help them design new Leggo systems
iii. The idea of the expert is being democratized away from white coat scientists to users
d. Ponds and Tide zeroed in not on how great their brand was, but on what people don’t like. There is a missing link between what brands want to say to “consumers” and the barriers “people” erect to avoid purchase or ignore marketers.
i. The more brands understand these missing links, the smarter their insights will actually resemble what goies on in people’s heads and not just in Nielsen figures
(f) And of course, as you mention, the Cultural context is a fundamental that brands often ignore.
a. I have certainly found that nowadays, brands that approach their consumers with the sobriety of leadership and honesty will play so much more powerfully that the usual shouts of claims that are more and more likely to be rejected.
b. We’ve just had eight years of a liar peddling claims. Culturally people really want an Obama to be a real leader.
c. Brands need to tap into this too