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What are you trying to say? 25 January, 2008

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.

With 2008 barely started, the Centre for Policy Studies released The 2008 Lexicon: A guide to contemporary Newspeak (free as a PDF). In just over 20 pages it provides an A to Z of the jargon that infests much of politics and political reporting today.

Reading through it, it’s impossible to ignore the parallels between Newspeak and marketing-speak (and particularly tech-speak). It’s not surprising when the two mutually inform and reinforce each other. The introduction sums up Newspeak as:

…a lethal blend of management-speak (strategic framework, benchmark, best practice), therapy-speak (holistic, empowerment, closure) and post-modernism (narrative, cultural shift, “truth”). The result, too often, is hollow obfuscation.

Much the same can be said for the language of modern marketing. Products and services have been replaced by solutions. Improvement by optimisation. Use by leverage.

The question is: does anyone actually believe this moves brands closer to their customers?

There’s a saying in NLP that points out that communication is not about what you put out but rather what the recipient takes in. If all they take in is words without meaning and communication without humanity, what does that say about the quality of the resulting relationship?

Beyond the relationship question, as the language becomes more constructed, more abstract, readers have to work harder at decoding it. This has the dual effect of falling foul of their ever more limited attention spans and of leaving customers with no real sense of what they are buying or why they should buy it.

This means that in trying to make products sound more than they are, the result is to make them less than they could be.



1. celia mulderrig - 15 April, 2008

This was an interesting post…or should I say “an empowering forward thinking holistic idea that could result in a cultural shift”.

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