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Tag: language

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Postcards from Peru: Naming Gone so Wrong

Kelly L. Bray
Monday, May 21, 2012

I was delighted to see the flight attendants handing out snack packs, remembering the most delicious chocolate covered caramel on an earlier flight. Eagerly breaking the seal, I was met not only by the chocolate, but a most unfortunately named package of crackers.

Defining Reality – The Augmented Kind

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Last week, Santa Clara hosted the first global augmented reality event - gathering the developers, creative directors and engineers from around the world who are driving nascent “augmentation” technology into our immediate reality. If you said “Say what?” to that sentence, you will appreciate the following. In the first keynote of the conference, WIRED’s contributing editor Bruce Sterling defined a singular challenge for the assembled that had very little to do with technological wizardry and everything to do with communication: create and shape the language of this brave new world.

Re-Verb: Noisy Markets Demand a Brand Voice

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

As interesting and important as micro-blogging and other momentary, disposable bits of culture might be, I tend to be more interested in the larger patterns they can help reveal — not the chatter itself. Recently, the former has helped me tune into something intriguing: an emerging meme about brand voice.

Watch Your Language!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I know, sounds like a parent admonishing a child.  Well, in my case the “child” was a fashion magazine.

Panino, Panini? Who Cares?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Alright, I am about to step on really thin ice and will likely be accused of being just another snobby European. Here it goes: When will the linguistic globalization finally reach America? Did you know when you order a panini, you technically order a rolls? No, not a typo. Panini in Italian is plural for panino (a roll). I wish they charged you for rolls instead of one roll but they don’t know any better. Same with cappuccino. No, it’s not cappuccinos, Dio mio! See panino, and you will know the answer.

At Issue } essential reading

Coca-Cola's Super Bowl Controversy Shows the Risks of Going Total Market

David Morse
Feb 7, 2014

What possibly could be construed as offensive about "America the Beautiful" sung by a chorus of Americans? When they are singing in a language other than English. That was Coke's Super Bowl ad -- "American the Beautiful" sung in seven languages -- and it has stirred serious anger among conservative pundits and viewers, generating reactions including the hashtag #BoycottCoke, which trended on Twitter immediately after the game.

8 Simple Scientifically Proven Ways To Improve Your Writing

Belle Beth Cooper
Dec 18, 2013

How do you have the most impact online? Should your writing be short and sweet, or long and detailed?

B2B Website Pitfalls: What Is It That You Do Again?

Andrea Harris
Nov 20, 2013

Have you ever visited a B2B website and come away unsure of what the company actually does? If so, you are in good company. Many B2B websites are verbose, yet vague and confusing.

English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet

Megan Garber
Nov 19, 2013

Linguists are recognizing the delightful evolution of the word "because."

Inside The New Mainstream: How To Target Your Message Across Cultures

Cesar Melgoza
Jun 13, 2013

As the demographics of the American population continue to shift, marketers understand that the opportunities provided by the growing diversity of consumers in the United States are not what they used to be.

Y’all Vs. You All: Mapping The Linguistic Peculiarities Of American English

Zak Stone
Jun 6, 2013

These heat maps of the U.S. break down how people use language and pronounce words differently in different parts of the country: Soda vs. pop, sub vs. hero, water fountain vs. … bubbler?

Brands Should Get Consumers To Speak Their Language

John Nugent
Apr 17, 2013

We explored a couple of notable brands that have a language all their own and how they use it to define the space for their customers.

The Weird Thing About Facebook: Status Updates are the Most Memorable Writing You Do

Jennifer Miller
Feb 28, 2013

Three months from now, nobody will remember what you wrote in that email, but they’ll definitely recall your status update about your cat.

Why Good Writing Is Essential For Business

Christa Carone
Nov 21, 2012

There are many vehicles, outlets, and opportunities for great brand storytelling. To make the best use of them, companies need writers who understand narrative, style, and voice. And to do that, they need to support the good writers they employ and foster the development of good writing skills among others.

Need Branding That Transcends Cultures? Invent Your Own Language

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
Nov 9, 2012

A thoughtful identity gives a multinational disease research network a new way to communicate.

Better Copy Thanks to George Orwell

Phil Pinn
Oct 31, 2012

What could we learn from the masters of English about great communications? Is there a set of rules we could apply?

Grammar Grows Up

Ken Makovsky
Aug 21, 2012

We received a reprieve most of the time in colloquial English, but never in written English. Splitting infinitives is not just forgivable; it is, in fact, “a sacred duty.” Especially when not splitting the infinitive clouds the meaning of your communications.

How Language Shapes Your Organization

Kevin Allen
Jul 24, 2012

In the race to find culpability, what doesn't get talked about is the very climate that creates the conditions for people to behave badly and feel perfectly justified in their behavior. It is, in fact, the very same thing that creates an environment and provides the fuel for people to conversely do great, generous and far-reaching things. It boils down to cultural permission.

How Innovation Is More Poetry Than Science

Daniel W. Rasmus
Jul 19, 2012

Our future is as much threatened by the lack of imaginative connection making as it is from a dearth of engineers or mathematicians. Here are practical lessons from 35 years of writing poetry that can help individuals and teams deliver more innovative products, processes and services.

Bad Tech Etiquette To Avoid at Work

Angie Reed
May 29, 2012

Technology has simplified communications for most businesses, but the increased use of conference calls, video conferencing, and instant messaging has created a new list of off-putting behaviors that could land your business in an awkward situation. Here is a list of some pet peeves and how to avoid them.

The Flight From Conversation

Sherry Turkle
Apr 23, 2012

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right.

What's in a name?

Robert Passikoff
Apr 12, 2012

A Rose-Gold Alloy Mostly Made of Copper Wouldn't Smell As Sweet Coming From Anywhere But Tiffany's. Press releases trumpeting Tiffany’s posh “new jeweler’s metal,” coined and trademarked Rubedo (Latin for “red”), continues unabated. But many specialists have taken umbrage with both the “new” and the “metal” portions of Tiffany’s claim.

Companies Spend Money, Time on New Corporate Names

EJ Schultz
Apr 9, 2012

There are legitimate reasons why naming companies is a bit more challenging than it used to be. Marketers must contend with instant backlash from critics on social media and the global reality that one phrase in English might take on a completely different meaning overseas (see Kraft). And they must ensure the moniker is not already trademarked.

CMOs Must Be Linguists to Survive and Thrive

Bryan Thomas
Mar 15, 2012

The role of business linguist for the CMO is probably one of the more challenging aspects of the job. Translating marketing value and priority to other areas of the corporate enterprise, if done ineffectively or ignored, can lead to disaster.

Is Your Product Name Turning People Off?

Dorie Clark
Feb 13, 2012

Every company wants customers talking about their products. But before they can sing your praises on social media or evangelize to their friends, they need to remember your product’s name. It seems obvious, but many companies – especially in the technology sector – overlook this easy way to connect with their audience.

Where Did That Sentence-Ending Preposition Rule Come From?

Andy Bowers
Feb 6, 2012

We all learned you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. But from where did this alleged rule come? And why does it encumber us with such labored sentences as the one preceding this?

The 7 Iconic, Transparent, Empowering Business Buzzwords That Need To Die

Tim Phillips
Oct 28, 2011

When I started writing a blog to support my book, Talk Normal: Stop the Business Speak, Jargon, and Waffle, I had an inkling that many of the words I loathed were common in the offices where I was working. But this could be an illusion: once we’re bothered by something, we tend to notice it more. So it could be that the business buzzwords that make me cranky are no more significant than the guy who bumps my chair when he walks past--which, on second thought, isn’t a big deal, he’s been doing it for years. Not so, it seems.

In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture

Patricia Cohen
Dec 17, 2010

With little fanfare, Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities. The digital storehouse, which comprises words and short phrases as well as a year-by-year count of how often they appear, represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen.

A Whole New Name Game

Ianthe Jeanne Dugan
Dec 7, 2010

Hundreds of naming rights are up for sale nationwide at schools, parks, government buildings and boat launches, as money problems among cities and states create monuments such as Chicago's BP Bridge and AT&T Plaza.

Slogan Trademark News: Apple Trademarks There's an App for That

Oct 15, 2010

Apple has trademarked the phrase "There's an app for that," a slogan that has just abut entered common usage in reference to, well, just about anything.


Oct 14, 2010

For anyone who doubts that the texting revolution is upon us, consider this: The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day, according to the Nielsen Co., the media research firm. Adults are catching up. People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago, Nielsen says. Behind the texting explosion is a fundamental shift in how we view our mobile devices. That they are phones is increasingly beside the point.

How Our Brains are Wired to Read

Gord Hotchkiss
Aug 20, 2010

How do we read? How do we take the arbitrary, human-made code that is the written word and translate it into thoughts and images that mean something to our brain, an organ that had its basic wiring designed thousands of generations before the appearance of the first written word? What is going on in your skull right now as your eyes scan the black squiggly lines that make up this column?

In Advertising? Your Job Description's Changed

Aug 2, 2010

Do you work in a job that involves writing creative, managing clients, media planning and buying, or trafficking ads? Well, take a minute from your busy day to digest this news: Your job description's changed.

The Joy Luck Club Method to Brand Strategy

Denise Lee Yohn
Jul 16, 2010

I’ve finally gotten around to reading “The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings,” a book released quite awhile ago by Amy Tan, the author of best-selling novels like The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife. Tan includes many insights about story-telling and communication in general which I believe can be applied to developing brand strategies. One of such “musings” is “Five Writing Tips” — an edited version of a speech given as a commencement address at Simmons College, in Boston, in 2003. Although her remarks were intended to inspire a new generation to write and think differently, I found they also provide helpful guidelines for creating brand strategy.

Abbreviated Meaning

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jul 15, 2010

When did brevity become a synonym for clarity or truth? For most of human history, it was the exact opposite. What was brief was least important, as usually the format of a statement dictated the attention it deserved. Shortness was equated with incompleteness, which meant that things communicated quickly were more suspect and were considered less trustworthy (a rapid-fire sales pitch or the unknown threat of someone "of few words" being two examples). The common bias was that brevity could be the same as stupidity.

Survey Says… Monkey!

Jun 29, 2010

Launched in the distant dot-com era of 1999, SurveyMonkey has grown to be the self-proclaimed “world’s leading provider of web-based survey solutions.” Considering that there isn’t much competition — Zoomerang and the lovely bare-bones Google Docs come to mind — I imagine the claim is true, but we’re not here to debate the merits of facts stated in About Us pages. Last month SurveyMonkey introduced a new logo.

How Hanes & Dyson Are Winning By Naming The Problems They Solve

Rohit Bhargava
Jun 22, 2010

Getability is simply how easy an idea is for someone to immediately understand without a whole lot of explanation needed. When your marketing has getability, it means that it is simple, clear and memorable. This matters for good reason. Marketing that is complex or confusing rarely works. To help their getability, two brands in particular are using a technique that may be worth considering when promoting your product or service ... they are giving an ownable name to the problem they solve. The recent marketing from Dyson around their new Air Multiplier fan is one great example.

Not so Golden State Warriors

Jun 22, 2010

This is one of those occasions where — and let me show my cards early here — the rebranding effort is so poor it is hard to know where to begin. For those that may not follow the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Golden State Warriors have been in California, and more specifically in the Bay area, since moving out here in 1962 from Philadelphia. The current redesign marks the first rebranding effort by the team since 1997.

Esurance gets Dorky Techie Feely

Jun 16, 2010

Only slightly older than ten years old, founded in 1998, San Francisco-based Esurance is one of the leading direct-to-consumer auto insurance companies in the U.S. and one of the better known providers of such unappealing service. Until now, Esurance had been represented by a very generic sunset logo and personalized in the form of Erin Esurance, an animated, pink-haired superhero. Earlier this month, Esurance went through a complete transformation with a new identity and national campaign titled “Techie Feely,” both created by San Francisco-based Duncan/Channon.

The Social Media Style Guide: 8 Steps to Creating a Brand Persona

Jun 14, 2010

Everything the brand was intended to represent is no less important simply because new tools and services make it easier for anyone within the company to reach and connect with markets. The contents and purpose of a brand style guide still apply. In fact, the unification of a brand and what it both evokes and symbolizes is now paramount in this conversational medium to effectively attract, earn, and inspire customers and advocates.

Ball of Brand Confusion

Jun 14, 2010

The absurd move by General Motors to force the use of the name "Chevrolet," over the popular "Chevy" -- whether a PR stunt or not -- is growing evidence of the invisible cognitive force that keeps marketers confused and wavering. Want to know what that force is?

GM Backs Away From Chevy Memo

Jun 11, 2010

General Motors Co. on Thursday backed off a "poorly worded" internal memo that asked employees to refer to the brand only as "Chevrolet" in an effort to create consistency. GM says in a statement that it "in no way" is discouraging anybody from using the name Chevy. The internal memo was part of an effort to develop a consistent brand name as it tries to broaden its global presence.

Saving Chevrolet Means Sending ‘Chevy’ to Dump

Richard S. Chang
Jun 10, 2010

On Tuesday, G.M. sent a memo to Chevrolet employees at its Detroit headquarters, promoting the importance of “consistency” for the brand, which was the nation’s best-selling line of cars and trucks for more than half a century after World War II. And one way to present a consistent brand message, the memo suggested, is to stop saying “Chevy,” though the word is one of the world’s best-known, longest-lived product nicknames.

Mergers & Executions

Jun 10, 2010

BusinessWeek, a weekly periodical catering to the business community (go figure), was recently acquired by Bloomberg Media from their previous owner, McGraw-Hill. Financial pundits saw this as a quick route for Bloomberg, the successful, finance-oriented media outlet started by the mayor of New York, to a strong presence in print. More to the point, it was viewed as an opportunity to make Bloomberg, the unseen hand behind so many news feeds and stock tickers, more of a household name. And so it came to be. Their name now graces the living rooms and reception areas of millions of homes and businesses across the world, announcing its debut by turning a new page in BusinessWeek’s 80-year history.

History for Dollars

David Brooks
Jun 9, 2010

Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion. In an information economy, many people have the ability to produce a technical innovation: a new MP3 player. Very few people have the ability to create a great brand: the iPod. Branding involves the location and arousal of affection, and you can’t do it unless you are conversant in the language of romance.

More Men Getting Iced Every Day, Smirnoff Claims It Has Nothing To Do With Their Naming And Branding

Jun 9, 2010

Yesterday The New York Times picked up on the new drinking game called "icing." It's full name is "Bros Icing Bros." You can read the rules for yourself, suffice to say that this is a game aimed at the college age demographic and requires players to drink copious amounts of Smirnoff Ice, hence the name "icing." This game has spread out of the frat house to the world of Goldman Sachs and elsewhere. The word "Bros" and "Bro" has been given new life by this game.

But You're Not Saying Anything

Jun 4, 2010

And this is the problem with just about every lame speech, every overlooked memo, every worthless bit of boilerplate foisted on the world: you write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you're not really saying anything.

Best-Ever Advertising Taglines

Jun 1, 2010

Frances Gerety, a copywriter for the now-defunct agency, coined "A Diamond is Forever" in 1948 for Johannesburg, South Africa, diamond company DeBeers. That memorable tagline and 24 others were among the best-ever advertising taglines as rated by a group of 10 CMOs and advertising experts.

Give The Brand A Personality

Len Stein
May 27, 2010

With the meaning of a brand wide open to public interpretation and prone to hyperbole and misconception, corporate managers must thread a thicket of sticky challenges to successfully communicate brand mission, values and philosophy. Moreover, as brands become the publishers of their own unfolding stories, they need intelligent editors who can provide stakeholders with a stream of high-value content that is packed with utility, seeded with inspiration, and that is honestly empathetic. Anything less will not suffice in a world where consumers can simply click away or spin around and mount a web-wide counter-attack on brands that refuse to walk their talk.

Brand Naming: Consider the First Letter of the Name

May 19, 2010

Should you start your new name with an S or a C? Why not a J or a K? In other words, does the first letter of your product, service or company name really matter? – aside from the gambit of leading a directory category with an “AAA Plumbing”-style moniker. The following table is not purely scientific, but it shows how letters which begin “ordinary” words differ in frequency from those beginning brand names and trade names.

Starbucks Surprises With Natural Fusions Naming and Branding

May 18, 2010

I have already posted my thoughts on Starbucks' move to revamp and repurpose the Seattle's Best brand name. Their new initiative, however, has me scratching my head. They are offering us flavored coffee in the supermarkets via their "Natural Fusions" line, and, amazingly, the Starbucks brand name will be front and center.


Clinton Duncan
May 18, 2010

Brand Australia was conceived by the Federal Government of Australia as a four-year program to position Australia internationally as not just a pleasant place to holiday, barbeque shrimp and wrestle crocodiles, but also a nice enough place to perhaps invest a few dollars. And that’s the key to understanding the place this brand is intended to take; it does not replace the tourism brand created by FutureBrand, rather it sits above it as the overarching brand for global citizenship, culture, business and investment. Confusingly, that same tourism brand created by FutureBrand had been in use as the business to business brand under license by Austrade — the government agency responsible for promoting Australia and Australian businesses overseas. Therefore, it’s a before and after, whilst not being a before and after. Still with me?

Bleep or No Bleep, Bolder Words Blow In

May 14, 2010

How much more frank is the language used in everyday advertising getting? Look, or listen, no further than a print, online and radio campaign for that most prosaic of products, Frank’s RedHot sauce. The theme of the campaign is “I put that ——— on everything.” In print and online ads, the missing word is covered with a splat that makes it look as if a censor spilled some sauce on the page. In the radio commercials, a loud bleeping sound is heard over the word.

7 Scientific Ways to Promote Sharing on Facebook

May 10, 2010

In a social economy where attention is a precious commodity, the ability to strip a social object down to its essence to capture attention has less to do with compacting character counts and more to do with the art and science of packaging and presenting content so that it is immediately compelling, simple to grasp and appreciate and in turn, share across social graphs. For participants in the socialization of media, an ever-thinning attention span is forcing the rapid evolution of our ability to multitask – albeit at shallow depths. Cognition is thereby stimulated by relevance, simplicity, and in social networks, the objects and content screened and shared by peers.

AT&T Continues Freshening Naming and Branding

May 7, 2010

Apple has granted AT&T an extension of its iPhone exclusivity agreement in a "Faustian" bargain that sees AT&T providing "low-cost and truly unlimited data plans for the iPad." But the extension is only for six months, and then the service goes up for grabs again, much to the delight of Verizon, whose grab for the iPad was purportedly rejected. If it's in the stars, Verizon could be getting access to the iPhone in 2011.

Periodicals, Constituents & Comorbidities: How to Avoid Confusing your Customers with Lingo

May 6, 2010

Every industry has its own lingo. There are accepted words that everyone in the industry understands and that have become so pervasive that they become hard not to use in normal conversation. Librarians and bookstores call magazines periodicals. Politicians call people constituents and doctors or nurses call additional diseases or conditions you might have in addition to your main condition comorbidities. In each case, the industry has created words that make sense to those within it, but sound strange, complicated and even scary to those outside.

KFC Doubles Down with Crazy Chicken Burger Naming

Apr 14, 2010

We at Strategic Name Development® are fans of "serious" fast food naming. We created the Baconator. So it was with great interest that we noted the arrival of KFC's "Double Down," which substitutes fried chicken breast for the bread. Or, as one blogger puts it, "Bread? There's Fried Chicken For That." The name looks like it was torn from casinos at the Black Jack tables, and the product is also a gamble.

For Every Accountant Hired, Hire An Artist: PSFK Conference, Good Ideas In Storytelling

Apr 14, 2010

The first segment of talks at PSFK Conference NYC featured four approaches to inventive storytelling. Contemporary artist and graffiti legend Steve Powers talked about his creative journey and the process and thinking behind Love Letter – arguably the longest love story ever written: a 20 block long grafitti ballad painted across West Philadelphia’s rooftops and walls.

Trust Busting

Virginia Heffernan
Mar 28, 2010

A company shows anxiety on its face — that is, on its Web site, which has become the face of the modern corporation. Visit sites for recently troubled or confused enterprises, including Maclaren, Toyota, Playtex, Tylenol and, yes, John Edwards, and you’ll find a range of digital ways of dealing with distress.

Telling a Story on the Label

Mar 24, 2010

Here's a $20 bottle of soap. Functionally identical to a $3 bottle, so what's the $17 for? Let's assume the people buying it aren't stupid. What are they paying $17 for? A story. A feeling. A souvenir of a shopping expedition or perhaps just a little bit of joy in the shower every morning. Let's dissect.

Is Apple Defending Its Brand Into The Ground?

Mar 16, 2010

Last October, we reported on a brewing Apple trademark battle in Australia. Apple was suing Woolworth, an Australian supermarket, over its use of an apple for its brand logo. Apple claimed the logo would compete for market share and create confusion in the minds of consumers. Well, it seems Apple's trademark adventures Down Under continue. In a new ruling, the tech giant has been told that it has no exclusive use of its vaunted "i" prefix. More than just another trademark lawsuit loss, reports of questionable legal action on Apple's part is beginning to pile up and the brand that "thinks different" is beginning to look a lot like...*gasp*... 1990s Microsoft.

Bing’s Stefan Weitz: Where Is Search Going?

Feb 19, 2010

In my last column, I had the chance to chat with Bing Director Stefan Weitz about how Microsoft is approaching search as it sits today. But the question I asked that lead to the interview in the first place was “Where does search go from here?” Microsoft’s Bing team certainly has its own ideas of where search might be going and that’s what I’ll be covering in the continuation of my conversation with Stefan. Ultimately, I’m looking at how search can become more useful for users. Right now, there are two huge challenges that are boxing in search as a tool that’s truly useful in our day-to-day lives. The first is an input challenge. Language is notoriously ambiguous. In my last post, Stefan and I talked a little bit about the challenge of semantics and search. When I say “Jaguar,” what do I mean? Is it an animal, a NFL team, a car, an operating system, or some other obscure meaning that has crept into usage somewhere?

Ghost in the Machine

Feb 11, 2010

Toyota's latest crisis illustrates a problem that will continue to plague multinational businesses: what does "the brand" stand for when there's seeming limitless breadth, depth, and variability to corporate activity? 
In other words, crises haunt big companies like ghosts, and I'm surprised that there hasn't been more demand that we turn on the lights and look at what these machines and their brands really mean.

The Stadium-Naming Game

Feb 3, 2010

By now you're probably familiar with the tradition of sports stadiums selling their names to companies for cash. Sunday's Super Bowl will be played in a building that, over the years, has been named Pro Player Stadium (after a clothing line), Land Shark Stadium (after an entertainer's beer company) and Sun Life Stadium (after the Canadian financial-services firm that cut a deal last month). There's not much point in raging against the practice—most of the roughly 110 companies that have done this say there's more upside than downside. But here's a relatively obvious question you may not have considered: Which companies have associated themselves with the best teams?

Leading Brands And Being First In The Mind

Feb 1, 2010

Marketing people spend 95 percent of their time on brand maintenance when the real opportunities lie in brand creation. Look what the iPod has done for Apple Computer. In the first quarter of 2005, Apple sold 5.3 million iPods. This year alone, iPod sales should reach $5 billion. The iPod brand dominates its market segment, accounting for 91 percent of all MP3 players with disk drives. How do you create a brand like the iPod? It’s simple and at the same time difficult.

For Apple, iPad Said More than Intended

Jan 29, 2010

Apple has generated a lot of chatter with its new iPad tablet. But it may not be quite the conversation it wanted. Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products. People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that “iPad,” in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player.

There's no Money in Content Creation

Jan 26, 2010

The money continues to be on the promotion and now engagement phases of customer acquisition. White papers are a dime a dozen, so are loads of articles and posts patiently written with the audience in mind. Tell me the truth, you've been guilty of wanting to hire someone who can write crisp copy that sells, which is not the same as just writing copy, without wanting to pay them a premium for doing so. You are not alone.

The Keypad Solution

Jan 24, 2010

There is a long and noble history of trying to change the English language’s notoriously illogical system of spelling. The fact that through, rough, dough, plough, hiccough and trough all end with -ough, yet none of them sound the same as any of the others, is the sort of thing that has been vexing poets and learners of English for quite some time. Proponents of “fixing” this wayward orthography have included some of the most prominent names in American history. Benjamin Franklin suggested changing the alphabet, and Andrew Carnegie provided money for people to study the problem. President Theodore Roosevelt issued an edict in 1906 that gave the Government Printing Office a list of 300 words with new spellings: problem cases like artisan, kissed and woe were to be changed to artizan, kist and wo. Roosevelt was largely ignored by the G.P.O., and the matter was soon dropped. Although this issue has been extensively studied and argued over by these and other eminent thinkers, there has been an almost complete lack of success in effecting any substantial progress.

How To Launch An In-Language Internet Program

Jan 21, 2010

When our clients ask me whether an in-language Internet program is necessary to the success of their Spanish-language advertising campaign, I ask them if their marketing goals long- or short-term. If a client's goal is short-term testing of a product or service, an in-language Internet program is nice to have but not necessary, but if a client has long-term marketing goals that aim to build loyalty among Spanish-speaking consumers, then an active digital campaign is essential.

Unreal Time

Jan 4, 2010

The term “real time” has become such a part of English that we have forgotten how unreal it sounds. Earlier this month, Google announced it would be adding real-time information to its search results, and we already expect real-time information about all sorts of other things: traffic, weather, stock quotes, flight tracking - for some reason, we feel we need to know about all the boring hassles of our lives with split-second precision. But when we’re telling stories, when we’re sharing personal, emotional information, we rely on “unreal times.” We want times that relate to experiences, not to abstractions.

Geico Poses 'Rhetorical Questions'

Dec 30, 2009

Geico today broke a new campaign dubbed "Rhetorical Questions," which is the latest of at least four other concurrent campaigns for the auto insurance provider. The new effort, via The Martin Agency, spotlights the savings car owners get when they switch to Geico insurance. The four spots, however, don't feature any of the company's mascots like the Gecko, the Cavemen, or Kash. Instead, Geico tapped actor Mike McGlone (from The Brothers McMullen) to play a reporter who asks rhetorical questions, such as: "Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R?" and "Did The Waltons take way too long to say goodnight?"

Vonage Settlement Spurs Changes to Marketing Practices

Nov 17, 2009

After being accused of making it difficult, or nearly impossible, to cancel its service, Vonage reached a settlement with 32 states yesterday. Under the terms of the agreement, Vonage must pay $3 million, as well as change the language it uses in its marketing. The crux of the complaint (read here), was the lack of clarity surrounding the free services, trial periods and money-back guarantees Vonage offered. “Companies like Vonage have deliberately turned the whole notion of ‘customer service’ on its ear, so that consumers are even more frustrated and confused after they call the company than before,” said Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock in a statement. “That’s not good enough, and this settlement will hold Vonage to a higher standard—a standard of genuine customer satisfaction it should have been striving to meet without our intervention.”

Say What You Mean

Nov 10, 2009

I feel like there's a plague across the advertising and marketing industry (and maybe we're not the only ones). This isn't the first time I've mentioned this, but I think it's worth revisiting. We use words and phrases that are not commonly understood by the people we're communicating with. There seem to be two reasons why this happens.

2010 to Come in Plain and Fancy Versions

Nov 3, 2009

In less than two months, a new year will arrive, along with a new decade. Each year in the current decade has been spoken the long way, as in “two thousand nine,” rather than the short way, as in “twenty oh nine” (or even “twenty ought nine”). In 2010, however, another option will present itself, echoing how people referred to years starting in the second decade of the 20th century: “twenty ten,” just like “nineteen ten,” rather than “two thousand ten.” Most people will have a couple of months to consider how they will refer to next year — but not the automakers, because a model year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Text is the New Multimedia

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Nov 2, 2009

If video killed the radio star, wasn't video supposed to obliterate text? It hasn't. Not even close. Who would have thought that 2009 would witness instead the continued resurgence of the written word? The language was sometimes indeterminable, and the conversations often unrepeatable without a blush added to the shrug, but text has proven amazingly resilient as a communications medium. Words "work" on printed pages and mobile phone screens (i.e. cross-platform), find utility for marketing strategies old and new (you can use them to declare, or to converse), and prove convenient and adaptable for users young and old.

Selling Simplicity--Not Just Marketing It

Oct 30, 2009

Have you noticed that more and more companies are marketing "simplicity" as a reason to buy their products or services? For example, Philips Electronics advertises "Sense and simplicity" while Bank of America promotes "Clear, easy-to-understand products." Simplicity also is the subtle message that Schwab conveys when it says "Talk to Chuck" and that Fidelity suggests when it says just "Stay on the line."

Why 'Charlotte's Web' Suddenly Matters to Marketing

Ann Handley
Oct 29, 2009

The other day I got an email press release from a technology company crowing about a partnership with another organization. It read, in part: "We believe the alliance between xxx and yyy represents a synergistic win-win with significant value add for both solutions, allowing each to utilize and leverage their unique strengths in the market." Huh? If the news was worth covering, I couldn't tell, because the press release was stuffed to the seams with jargon-filled corporate-speak. I deleted the email almost immediately, sat back in my desk chair, and thought about EB White. EB White was, of course, the author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. But he was also the co-author, with William Strunk Jr., of The Elements of Style.

Telling Global Stories with a Local Tongue

Oct 29, 2009

Interesting article on global brands adapting to local culture in Market Leader by Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown. Nice one Nigel. First thing that hit me was that global brands beat local brands in the five categories researched across eight countries. The global brands were more often considered for purchase, and scored better on statements including 'easy to recognize', and having 'distinctive identities'. The two global brands which stood out were Coca-Cola and McDonald's. Interestingly, both of these were seen by a significant share of local consumers as being part of their own national cultures. So much for the image portrayed by doom-mongers in the press of these brands being multinational, American dictators.

When Great Design Becomes Its Own Language

Oct 15, 2009

The basic elements of a brand's visual language--type, color, photographic/illustration style and layout also establish a filter for making decisions on how to best "speak" from the heart. If all the basics are in sync, it will make choices like story, set design, talent, wardrobe, physical space, dialog and tone of voice easy to make.

The Compartmentalization Of Language

Oct 1, 2009

I was being interviewed as an expert by an ad agency the other day to help them with their client project and started to talk about how you would choose to text message certain pieces of information rather than make a call to say them. I’m not too sure if I gave agency the sound-bite they were looking for but it got me thinking a little about how we reserve the use of different platforms for different types of communication and it’s understanding this that might help us work out how to manage our information overload and even tackle texting while driving. In my interview I said that you’d never phone someone to say where you were going to be. You would text it because it’s a piece of information that wants to be consumed quickly and possibly referred to later. It will also definitely reach the respondent. A telephone call takes much more time to make, records nothing and there’s a good chance the person at the other end might not pick up.

A New Sustainable Language for Business

Melissa Davis
Sep 15, 2009

Every so often the vocabulary of business adopts new words that filter into the mainstream business psyche. For example, the language of brands and branding is now commonly used and understood across a range of sectors— from universities to social enterprises to small businesses. Over the past year or two, the new vocabulary has brought in “sustainability,” whether it is to talk about the environment or general business operations, about communities or the future. Google the term and you’ll see that “sustainability” has 28 million definitions—only a few million short of the 34 million entries for “branding." Words that become common business parlance can shift in meaning and, in doing so, become open to a multitude of interpretations.

What Do You Mean by "Really" Really?: that American Culture is Under Renovation?

Grant McCracken
Sep 9, 2009

It's fashionable to say "really?" in a new way. The old way of saying "really?" meant (roughly) Wow, that's interesting. Thanks! As in: "Did you know the Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team in Christendom? "Really!" The new way of saying "really?" means (roughly), "That's what you're going with? I wouldn't have made that choice. I wonder if you're an idiot." As in: "I'm thinking about moving to Connecticut." "Really." The first really is using spoken with the upward lilt of a question. The second really usually comes with an emphatic downturn in tone. (It's heavy with scorn.) I'm not sure when this new really arrived. Certainly, a tipping point came when Saturday Night Live began running "Really?!? with Seth and Amy." Phrases dream of this kind of exposure. To be blessed by Lorne Michaels. To be lifted out of the obscurity. "Really" went big time. But it's not enough to be elevated by Lorne Michaels. A phrase doesn't flourish unless it speaks to something in our culture. And that's the question: what does the sudden popularity of this little phrase tell us about ourselves?

Organizational Culture 101: A Practical How-To For Interaction

Sam Ladner
Sep 8, 2009

Organizations are tenuous phenomena; they can fall apart at any time. To navigate the landscape of organizational culture interaction designers need a set of practical tools, language & knowledge drawn from the world of cultural anthropology. It’s happened to all of us. We walk into what we think is a Web redesign project, only to find we have unwittingly ignited the fires of WW III in our client’s organization. What begins as a simple design project descends – quickly – into an intra-organizational battle, with the unprepared interaction designer caught in the crossfire. What is it about design projects that seem to attract such power struggles? Contrary to what you might think, being stuck in the middle of an internecine battle is actually an opportunity to effect meaningful change on your client’s organization.

A Tower Of Babel

Aug 11, 2009

Macrovision changed its name and brand positioning last month, and is now to be known as Rovi Corporation. The CEO's press release explaining the move is a veritable Tower of Babel of ambiguity, confusion, and doublespeak, so it's a good case history example of what you don't want to do when you do the branding thing.

Social Media Won't Work if You Aren't Social

Jul 27, 2009

Lately I've been paying closer attention to how people use social media. Not just their usage of the tools, but how they use the tools to interact with other people. What I'm noticing, and surprisingly this comes from the so-called 'experts' as well, is that many people can be decidedly anti-social in the way they use social media. I've seen company representatives get snippy and angry if they are challenged even mildly in blog comments. People on Twitter that speak in statements, that actually discourages interaction. Of course there's always no shortage of people that promote themselves and their companies, but never anyone else.

Magic Flute: Primal Find Sings of Music's Mystery

Jul 3, 2009

The discovery of the world's oldest musical instrument -- a 35,000-year-old flute made from a wing bone -- highlights a prehistoric moment when the mind learned to soar on flights of melody and rhythm.

How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think?

Lera Boroditsky
Jun 16, 2009

For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question.

Excuse Me, Do You Speak Klingon?

Jun 3, 2009

According to Arika Okrent's highly entertaining book "In the Land of Invented Languages," the two most popular invented languages in the delirious, 900-year history of such endeavors serve to tell us something about the possibilities and limitations of the whole idea. By invented languages, Okrent does not mean pig Latin or secret codes or the fragmentary gobbledygook often concocted to represent alien speech by fantasy authors. (I'm sorry, Lovecraftians, but "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl Cthulhu fhtagn" does not a language make.) She means a language with its own fully constructed vocabulary and grammar, which is potentially or hypothetically capable of replacing the flawed, irregular, piecemeal "natural" languages virtually all of us speak.

Wanted: Chief Culture Officer

May 18, 2009

A disappointed marketer of ABC Cola recently returned from a Middle East assignment. A colleague asked, "What happened? What went wrong?

Starbucks' Shift Reflected in Words

Andrea James
May 7, 2009

Last year marked several significant transitions for Seattle-based Starbucks. Howard Schultz returned to the role of chief executive officer, the company shuffled its leadership team, closed stores, introduced new products and shifted its focus from opening new stores to maintaining quality and customer loyalty. Though Starbucks was already in transition before the economic slump worsened, the recession intensified the need for corporate changes. Starbucks is an image company, one in which words matter. In 2009, executives described the coffee giant using a different set of terms than they used in 2007. The word clouds below show us how different.

Culture May Be Encoded in DNA

May 5, 2009

Knowledge is passed down directly from generation to generation in the animal kingdom as parents teach their children the things they will need to survive. But a new study has found that, even when the chain is broken, nature sometimes finds a way.

The Psychology of the Sale

Apr 22, 2009

I was doing my grocery shopping yesterday when I stumbled upon a discount that I assumed was a clerical mistake: some fancy olive oil had been reduced from $23 to $9. Needless to say, I immediately put a bottle in my cart, even though I didn't need another bottle of olive oil. But then, just a few minutes later, I began to wonder: why was the olive oil so drastically reduced in price? Is something wrong with it? What isn't Whole Foods telling me? That nagging suspicion - and I'm sure it was completely unfounded - was enough for me to put the bottle back on the shelf. It was too good a deal.

Chinese Learn English the Disney Way

Apr 20, 2009

Mickey Mouse has a new job in China: teaching kids how to speak English at new schools owned by Walt Disney Co. popping up in this bustling city.

Watch Your Language!

Apr 16, 2009

Slang is something most of us use every day without thinking, unless we avoid using it as a matter of principle -- which probably takes more conscious thought than using it does. "Slang is always with us," writes Michael Adams in his meticulous and shockingly readable "Slang: The People's Poetry."

5 Ways TurboTax Is Reinventing Tax Day With Social Media

Apr 13, 2009

If you are among the millions of Americans dreading the next few days until April 15th, you are not alone. Tax season is upon us and as every form of media conspires to remind you of the significance of Wednesday, whether you do your own taxes or not, you are likely feeling some pressure. In this midst of this 1099-imposed national rise in stress, TurboTax (a leading self-service software solution to do your own taxes) is finding their authenticity through social media and helping to reduce (if not to remove) the stress involved in these last few days of taxes.

Shakespeare Had Roses All Wrong

Apr 7, 2009

William Shakespeare may have said (through Juliet's lips): "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but [Lera] Boroditsky thinks Shakespeare was wrong. Words, and classifications of words in different languages, do matter, she thinks.

Facebook Offers Ad Targeting By Language, Location

Mar 12, 2009

Facebook sent out a message to advertisers Wednesday afternoon notifying them that there are two new features to target users with: language and target location radius.

From Books, New President Found Voice

Jan 19, 2009

Much has been made of Mr. Obama’s eloquence — his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.


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