Does it really matter when words and phrases lose their meaning through overuse and overkill?

Well, it’s always a pity when style loses out to marketing hype and content writers feel the need to constantly search for superlatives to reinforce the message. But it’s more than a pity when important words or terms are deprived of their power and meaning. 

For example:the word strategy is overused

  • Strategy: is now often used to define what should be called a tactic, because it is seen to add weight to the marketing activity described.  It therefore becomes ever harder to identify and evaluate core brand policies and principles.
  • Brand Loyalty: which is frequently assumed when no consistent buying pattern has been established. The accolade of being a “valued customer” is bought far too cheaply!

Two recent thought provoking articles have raised the issue of what we would describe as “subtracting value in marketing.”

In his article for MarketingProfs titled “Five Classic Traits of Successful Strategies” John Bell begins by stating: “How often have you heard people say, "Our strategy is to become the biggest and the best?" This is not strategy. Strategy is not the "what." Strategy is the "how"—how will you become the biggest and the best?”

He continues by claiming that: “Good strategies help to define a company or a brand's point of difference. But that seldom happens without sacrifice, without giving up something to strengthen the chosen niche.”

Ignoring core principles

In his opinion, divergence from strategic focus is particularly marked when it comes to marketing on social networks:
“Social media is a new model in which brand positioning is not only misunderstood, it is ignored. 

When social media types talk strategy, they talk media strategy—who to target, how to reach the target, and how to maximize engagement. Engagement is critical, but not at the expense of sticking to brand/company's character and core positioning.”

OK, but our caveat here would be that there is a danger of reverting to a type of push marketing where core messaging kills the art of conversation. By doing so, you lose the opportunity to engage and build positive perceptions of a brand on a personal level. To avoid this, the creation of social content needs to be handled with skill.  

His five recommendations for great strategies are that they should:

  • Define the playing field
  • Tell you what not to do
  • Enhance expertise
  • Create long term stability
  • Guide short-term execution

Those are useful indicators for strategic thinking and the article is well worth a read.

Devaluing original meaningsusing terms accurately is important

Moving on to an opinion forming contribution to Marketing Week, Mark Ritson claims that “Marketers have forgotten the meaning of marketing’s most basic principles.”

There are similarities between this article and “Five Classic Traits of Successful Strategies” in that they both advocate the need for clear focus and definition. They also both indicate that this requires an element of sacrifice.

The author looks at three much used expressions employed in marketing:

  • Exclusive: Ritson claims that “An exclusive brand is not simply one that fancies itself as such or one that attempts to charge more than its rivals. To be truly exclusive a brand must only appeal to a tiny minority of the market and then steadfastly reject all others.” He cites Ferrari as an example. 

When defining the next term, his criteria are equally rigorous…

  • Differentiation: “Let’s be clear what differentiated means – it means to walk a completely different path that no other brand in your category understands, let alone can replicate.”

In our view, that is a theoretical position rather than a practical one. It’s hard to believe that competitors in your sector wouldn’t be able to grasp some understanding of strategies you were adopting and why. And if they didn’t, then surely potential customers might be equally bewildered?

In both these cases, he takes a hard line approach to defining marketing terms which in our view makes the focus too narrow. Nevertheless, we strongly approve of the motive, which we see as a bid to regain the true meanings of marketing concepts that have been progressively devalued through years of misuse.

With the last frequently used marketing term, he uses a brilliant example to capture the essence of:

  • Brand Loyalty: “My favourite (correct) definition of brand loyalty came from the former CEO and chairman of Heinz who once explained his idea of brand loyalty for his brand: “A shopper goes into a supermarket looking for some beans. There’s no Heinz. She comes out without any beans.” Could it be any simpler?”

Well, it is just about perfect, apart from the fact that men also shop in supermarkets and can be equally partial to baked beans!

BBI Brandboost believes that the website should be at the strategic heart of corporate communication. We also believe that quality, clarity and definition are imperative in content writing. 

Contact us on 01494 452600 or by email to discuss strategies and tactics for online marketing.