I loved the comment my friend, James Cherkoff left in my last Dell-related post.
Almost all commercial copy increasingly sounds like something from the 1950’s when compared to the bazaar of the live web. The example I use is one very close to my heart – Arseblog, the super-popular blog about Arsenal FC [London’s largest pro soccer team].
While Arseblog offers insightful, balanced football analysis his colourful language is very much of the terraces – not the boardroom. For instance, here’s a description of the morning-after his return to Dublin, following a long stay in Barcelona :
“My brain is discombobulated and I have had to send Blogette off to her new school wearing my runners which are at least 4 sizes too big for her because all of our stuff is in a box coming from Spain. I now have no shoes at all but I am wearing her fleecey red dressing gown. So all of you who might have a hangover today at least be thankful you have some shoes. I have no shoes. I am like a bag lady in a red dressing gown without any bags.”
You would be forgiven for thinking that such rhetoric wouldn’t ingratiate him with the club, a famously conservative organisation. In fact, the opposite is true and the Arsenal Chairman, an old-Etonian, and Amy Lawrence, a journalist at The Observer, are both regulars on the blog’s Arsecast podcast.
[N.B. “Arse” is English slang for “Ass”, “Butt”, “Rear End”, “Bum” etc. Fun bit of wordplay etc.]
I’ve been saying this for a while: Art is Language. Marketing is Language. Art evolves Language, Language evolves Art. Same with Marketing. Your marketing will evolve once your language evolves.
My three big marketing successes, English Cut, Stormhoek and The Microsoft Blue Monster didn’t work because I had some clever, rocket-science metric for them to play with. They succeeded simply because I convinced all three parties to talk to their markets in ways they simply hadn’t been talked to before.
English Cut is probably my most lucid example. My friend, Thomas Mahon is one of the top bespoke tailors in the world, certainly one of the top on London’s Savile Row. His handmade suits fetch upwards of $5,000 if, and only if you can get on his waiting list for an appointment.
Instead of the usual high-end, mahogany-paneled, men’s fashion blether [“Imagine yourself draped in the luxury only a privileged few can aspire to yak yak yak… The highest standards of quality, tradition and service maintained since 1852 yak yak yak…”], what did he do? He started praising his competition. And he used informative, helpful, friendly, straight-talking language in the process:
Kilgour’s (formerly Kilgour French & Stanbury). I have a very soft spot for this firm, as their old cutter, George Roden offered me a job when I was very young and just starting out in the trade. An excellent pedigree in classic tailoring (Carey Grant was a favourite customer), but even though they keep one foot firmly in the past, they’re not frightened to move forward. This is shown in the new contemporary facelift their shopfront just had. They also have an excellent ready-to-wear collection.
And it worked. Sales went from a steady trickle to through-the-roof in less than a year.
Whether we’re talking about a large company like Dell, or a small cottage industry like English Cut, the first marketing question to ask is not what tools and strategies we want to use- the first question to ask is, “How do we wish to talk to people differently, than how we were talking to them before?”
Once you can answer that, the tools and strategies will quickly and easily reveal themselves.
Language. It’s all about Language. You want me help you with your marketing, you have to be willing to talk to me about Language. Exactly.
[Disclosure: Dell are clients of mine.]
Language. Exactly. Thanks, Hugh.
Hugh, watch *me* Hugh, watch *me* <---wondering. Classic Latin was for reading and writing, not gabbing. Seems that as soon as most put pen to paper, the ghost of high school teacher past takes over them. De-evolution is not a pretty picture.
Language matters. I’m convinced of that. I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my community association articles informal and direct, to make us more approachable. I’ve also been trying to cut the corporate speak from my paid work.
So far it’s working. Your blog and english cut have been excellent examples for me to learn from.
If I could be as entertaining as Arseblogger I’d really have it made. I hope your link brings Blogs 10,000 more readers. I get my Arsenal fix from him every morning and the Arsecast is my Friday highlight (and Fridays usually have a lot going for them!) Thanks for shining a light on his great work.
“A sentence uttered makes a world appear
Where all things happen as it says they do”
Oooh to, ooh to be, ooh to be a GOONER.
Hey Hugh, we’ll make a Gooner of you yet!
Hope all is well in The Lone Star 😉
Amo, Amas I am an Ass
It really isn’t about entertainment. Really. It’s about framing. Through talking, writing and thinking differently you reframe the market and rewire your customer relationships. If you don’t begin here, you’ll be running around in circles, ever faster.
I love it. Just love it.
Hugh, this is the kind of post that keeps me coming back. Like the personal stuff too, but this is the real meat.
Tools and processes in every line of work are secondary to the objective of getting the job done.
uh, linguistics finally kicking in! i worked on language use in marketing for my graduate thesis last year, pretty fun stuff.
most marketing language is onanism
I think that in 2009 being understood is the key business issue. Whether it’s being understood by staff, management or customers.
We don’t have the time or the attention span anymore to bother about language that does not engage us or deliver some kind on meaning. So simple, well structured language is the way of the future.
I’m personally hoping the “air guitarists” of digital jargon finally work this out. I get sick of going to meetings and at the end of one of these “lead break” you have no real idea of what was said.
Smart and insightful.