All posts filed under: Language

Words always have a wider context

Perhaps you’ve seen this video about the power of words, perhaps not. The storyline itself may have been attributed to David Ogilvy, nevertheless, it is a powerful story that offers critical insights into how we should think about words and their influence in this age of storytelling. The clear intention is to demonstrate that changing the words in a context can change their impact significantly, even if the message and the intention of the message remains largely the same. “I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others,” wrote Professor Susan Smalley in a deeply thoughtful post titled The Power of Words. “…As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me.” Marketers should be equally aware of what they think they are saying and the …

Thank you for your interest …

Has the temptation to template ever been greater? As the volume of conversations between organisations and stakeholders continues to rise, so does the urge to have “ready-to-go” responses. Our interactions with organisations are increasingly governed it seems by autoresponders that look to slow down or divert real contact. Granted, there is too much traffic today for every query to be answered personally – but I can’t help feeling that an opportunity is being missed here; that the lack of personality in the interactions we do have has made them trite and meaningless. People feel fobbed off, even if that wasn’t the intention. When was the last time you listened to the patter that precedes you waiting in a call centre queue? How closely did you read the last rejection letter you got from a publisher? What did the voice message say when you called after hours? You don’t remember – because it doesn’t matter. You’ve heard it all before. And you’ll hear it all again … and again … and again. Too often, organisations miss …

Whose buying – and whose purchasing?

At first the question appears nonsensical. But only if you assume that buying and purchasing are synonyms. Most financial systems treat them as exactly that because, from their perspective, the result is the same. Income. But there is a difference – and being able to define and quantify that difference is important. Semantics doesn’t just split hairs. It splits customers. It isolates loyalties and behaviours. And in so doing, it potentially defines different actions. But it only does so for those prepared to look for the nuances. As big data hands marketers and decision makers more and more detail, the ability to read between the lines and find the nuances of behaviour in the numbers will be more important than ever. In this case, being able to tell the difference between your buyers (“the people who actively choose to buy from us”) and your purchasers (“the people who happen to have bought from us”) reveals two very different parties in terms of inclination. The first will be back. The second may not. Things become a …

Talking a culture through change

Change programs are so often about actions. So much so in fact that the dialogue that surrounds and informs those changes can be dismissed as “just talk”. Time and time again, in working on transformation projects, I have faced an uphill battle in trying to persuade decision makers to give their proposed changes the air-time that staff need to talk over and through what’s happening. But such talk is vital. Actions really do speak louder with words – and they do so because they allow people to come together and to work through what is happening. Change presented on a slidedeck is change imposed. Change discussed in forums over time, and with a built-up understanding of its implications and opportunities, is change absorbed and applied. Further than that though, language has a huge role to play in the bedding in of new ways of doing things. Language actually defines a culture because it is literally how people connect – changing it significantly shifts the parameters of, and the context for, what is defined, accepted and …

9 things you should know about branded language

1. Language is one of the most important definers of any brand. The language you choose, the language you don’t choose and the language you choose to replace are a reflection, and in some senses a definition, of your priorities. 2. Language underpins perspective: it not only reveals how an organisation feels about a matter, it also signals how that organisation might be expected to approach and resolve that matter in the future. 3. Language defines relationships. Your tone reflects how at ease you feel in your own brand skin. Formal brands use formal language, and that formality rubs off into their dealings. Relaxed brands use more informal, chatty language and help their customers feel at ease. If your tone and manner don’t reflect your values and your personality, your communications will always feel awkward. 4. Language is instinctual. You may need rules to start with – but in time you should know whether a communication is “on brand” or not from how it feels. The best brands have language that goes without saying. It …

How do you keep the magic? 7 ways big companies get it so wrong with long-term customers

By Mark Di Somma Everyone talks at length about customer engagement and the need to converse. The process is relatively straight-forward for high-street brands. They use the seasons, sales and releases to keep people coming back. There are timely prompts. But how do you keep customers engaged when they’re on a contract, for example, that may span several years or even a lifetime? A while back, my company Audacity was involved in a complex, multi-layered change programme to transit a telecommunications company’s customer communications from paper-based to digital. Over the course of many months, we grappled with all the issues you’d expect: what needed to be communicated; when; how; through what channels … But one of the biggest issues we identified and addressed was how to evolve the tone of the communications over time so that they brought people closer to the brand. We identified this as crucial to developing meaningful, valuable and of course profitable long-term relationships. Utilities, banks, telcos, car companies and insurance companies in particular seem to make seven crucial mistakes in …

Credentials as comfort food

How does the fact that I’m travelling on the world’s biggest airline change my travelling experience? Or the world’s biggest cruise liner? How does the fact that I’m working with the world’s biggest professional services firm change what I get from the lawyer, accountant, engineer etc assigned to me? What more do I get from buying a bottle from the world’s biggest winemaker? Or a toy from the world’s biggest department store? It makes no difference. And yet brands love to emphasise their size or the number of countries they operate in or the projects that they’ve been involved in. They think it provides reassurance. They think it gives them a storyline. It doesn’t. It gives them big numbers but in most cases, it says nothing at all. Credentials in my view are much over-used and much over-rated. They don’t add to the excitement that consumers feel. And, given the complexity of most corporate structures, it could be argued that they often don’t ameliorate the risk of dealing with many entities. Credentials might feel important …

Likeable brands: Debating the true value of Likes.

If brand owners are buying Likes on Facebook, what are they actually worth?, asks Alexis Dormandy in this recent article in The Telegraph. “Can we really value a ‘Like’ or a ‘Follow’ when so many of them are bought rather than earned?” Dormandy’s question goes to the heart of the marketing community’s ongoing fixation with volume and to the business world’s fascination with social metrics. With marketing managers under huge pressure to build and participate in scaled brand communities, perhaps it’s inevitable that fast-track approaches to ramp up fan bases have become more popular. There’s good, bad and ironical news in this. Let’s start with the good. Slowly a real value case for using social media seems to be emerging. In a recent post on the RICG blog, comScore’s Linda Abraham and Buddy Media’s Mike Lazerow reference research showing that a “share” on Facebook can lead to $2.10 in incremental sales, and drive up the average conversion rate to 10.2 percent per share. A key reason Abraham and Lazerow give to factor social media into …

What’s a brand strategist?

There are two answers. You can be exactly what the words describe. The person who decides what the branding is, what it represents, how it will work and how it will be communicated. It’s a key part of planning effective and inspiring communications. Or you can develop strategies for brands. You can be a person who works to make brands more valuable, distinctive, profitable and utterly aligned with the culture, the systems, and the distribution channels that must deliver what has been promised. That’s much more about the business. It focuses on making sure companies are utterly competitive through their brands. Each description involves very different interests, priorities, conversations … even clients. Just like in any role, a simple change in the words doesn’t just alter the meaning. It can actually shift the mandate. What do you do?

Is thinking a desk job?

Over at Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni asks :Where do you do your best thinking?” For me, it depends on the problem. And what I think and even how I think about something is directed by that. Here are my seven favourite approaches: 1. Sometimes it’s sitting somewhere quietly with a pencil and paper and just writing thought sequences down until something clicks. Usually that’s about rethinking the associations. Scrabble means charades with a touch of Pixar over a business model. 2. I read avidly for the same reason. It’s all about finding different lines of logic. Disrupting. That’s really good for new products or ideas where there is no precedent or if you need to put daylight between what normally happens and what will need to happen for the brand you’re working on. Read about a completely different situation, and then apply what you got from it. To find out more about this, read The Medici Effect. 3. Other times it’s a walk – to get sensory inputs such as eye contact, noises, colour, vistas. …