Although to advertise is to make ‘publicly and generally known’ according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, advertising is only a small part of marketing. Oftentimes, cookie cutter copywriting has been used to publicize information about products, followed by frequent fails and quiet brand deaths. It’s important to be creative with what is said because the intended audience has to be reached, and the message has to be conveyed to them with clarity. Frequently, we come across messages which are noisy and lack lucidity.

The Big Three

Peter Drucker said, ‘The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said.’

Listen to the producer of the product. Understand it. Study the intended audience. Know them well. If you are unsure, get some help in understanding the target audience.

Once the marketer understands what is to be conveyed and the audience it is to be conveyed to, we come to conveying it.

So people in marketing need to keep three important things in their minds and ask questions:

  1. Who are you conveying to

It’s very important to understand the audience of your product. Even Google uses the help of psychologists to understand the user. If you are deeply involved in the production of the product, there is a chance you know your audience well. Savvy marketing gurus have always emphasized using psychology as an aid in understanding consumer behavior. What makes your audience tick? How do they live? What do they like to do over the weekends? What do they spend their money on? Are they big spenders? What type of jobs do they hold? Are they cost conscious?

  1. What are you conveying

Frequently both business and marketing courses emphasize understanding human nature, with professors recommending a slew of psychology textbooks. With this understanding, marketers can decide on how to pitch the product. Is it an aspirational one vis. a vis. something they cannot live without? Sell it like a product which fills a need or should it be something that they want? Convey happiness on buying or a sense of possession? Should it be sold by its looks or its functionality?

  1. Have you got ways to see it is being conveyed right

Talk to the audience. Check the numbers – is the audience buying? Have dry runs. Use a test audience. Are they missing the message? Is there audience satisfaction?

Mind Your Language

Language can be the bedrock of communication, but it can also be that which brings everything apart. Sometimes it can be the actual words used, but more often it’s the idea conveyed by the words. Here are some ad faux pas which might help us understand how language can be misconstrued.

The trick is to keep the words simple. If the words you use are not well known, chances are that it might not be understood.

Convey the story. Don’t take your eyes of that important part. The Budweiser ad which used ‘Wassup?’ had non-words, but the writers told the story of friends watching a game together. That was never lost.

Being brief is not necessarily bad; if the words work, go ahead with it. Remember Nike’s ‘Just Do It’. Three words and a punctuation mark. And, yes, the famous swoosh.

If there is a call to action, use it at the right point. Don’t start with a ‘Buy now!’ followed by a long paragraph of words.

Engage. If your words are going to be boring or even if they lead you into a shut-out-the-words burrow, no one’s buying. It’s that simple.

DO NOT COPY. You might be inspired by another, but do not copy the other.

Keep it catchy. Sometimes the catchy words are not words – they are names! Coke’s campaign in Australia in the early 2000s had 150 most popular first names printed on cans. It was temporary. Fleeting. Pointless. Wasted even. But it caught people’s attention. A public campaign became personalized.

Weigh your words. The always ad from P&G, for menstrual products, used derogatory (until then) words ‘like a girl’ and turned it upside down to make it a triumphant call to convey the fact that both girls and boys can be fit. #likeagirl

Stay true. Two simple words ‘Think small’ from the Volkswagen group, in the big-car-on-their-minds America of the 1960s worked like a charm. It was a small car, and they stated it as it was. No frills. No masks. It was, what it was.

Extend the words and what they suggest out into the world. The ad for hair color Clairol, made people look at other people on the street wondering if their hair was colored. Time reports about how after coloring hair became popular because of this ad, the DMV in some states stopped asking for hair color.

Stay relevant in the usage of words. Don’t use archaic words and expressions, which the target audience will not understand. If the audience is young, use new phrases, but make sure it conveys exactly what you want to convey. No inadvertent double entendres. Check with people who might know before using it.

Keeping Up

Language keeps on morphing. It is natural. Slang changes. Slang becomes mainstream. Words from other languages and cultures slip in unobtrusively. Not just teens, but adults too contribute to new words and new forms of words. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, was what adults told folks who were emptying the bathtub after a weekly bath, where the youngest was washed last in rather grey water; but today as practices have changed, it is a metaphor. And sort of dated to boot.

People who are users of language in marketing have to keep up with the changes, and even when you know the latest, use the words judiciously for the intended audience. Stay sensitive and understand the cultural implications of using words. Keep your ears peeled – listen to the pulse of an ever-changing society which might be changing in how it reacts to words used for long, even as you write it.

Pitfalls of using language carelessly

There are dozens of examples of failed marketing moves because of poor choice of words or execution. Language is a double edged sword. It can convey and it can confuse. If you lose the attention of your target audience, getting it back is hard.

With rising costs for marketing, businesses cannot afford carelessness. Budgets are tight, for both time and money. If you are unsure, double check usage. If you are still not quite happy, change it. Err on the side of caution.

Work smart. Choose your words carefully – make sure you don’t have to eat them later!

About the Author:

Sophia is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor. She is a passionate educator and blogs about education on her personal blog. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When Sophia is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking.

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