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Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

In the world of marketing we are tasked with presenting people, companies, products and concepts in a way that supports or reinforces an overarching message. Cynical people would call this “spin” while others might call it focusing language to align your message with a desired perception.

Regardless of your point of view about the value marketing provides, you would have to agree that conveyance of a message, any message, is dependent upon using the right words.

If you are in a hotel room and the bed is on fire, you are not going to call the front desk and tell them that you feel a little warm. You are going to yell “Fire!” and then you’re going to get out of the place.

Marketing is nothing more than a refinement of that concept.

Where marketing folks get into trouble is through the use of language to misrepresent truth by using confusing or approximating language.  An example of this would be “capacity optimization” used in reference to the seating arrangements on a commercial aircraft.

“Capacity Optimization” sounds innocuous enough. Who could possibly object to an airline optimizing passenger seating?

The answer is almost every passenger. That’s because in reality capacity optimization is achieved by pushing the seat rows closer together. This reduces the space between rows, meaning less leg room and knees scrunched up against the seat in front of you. For the airline it means five to seven more paying passengers onboard every flight. For the passengers it means discomfort, immobility and deep vein thrombosis.

Capacity optimized aircraft may appeal to stock holders but not to customers. Airlines know this but still they will compound the error by inflating the deception to include some perceived value delivered. They may advertise: Our planes are capacity optimized to assure your flight will feature the lowest fares in the business!  Yeah, right.

We see this in B2B marketing as well. This morning I read an article about the benefits of outsourcing. The writer was proudly throwing around a new word I gather of his own invention. The word was “Right-sourcing” which obviously has none of the negative baggage found with words like, outsourced, off-shored or plant closure.

The use of this type of word is beyond me. Does anyone really think these saccharine sounding terms signify anything other than deception?  Out sourcing is a fact of life. It is, on occasion, a business necessity. That does not mean workers; their families and whole towns don’t pay a terrible price when it comes to pass.

Let us not insult them by trying to dress that up as something that is actually good for them like finishing your vegetables or going to the dentist.

Losing a job sucks. A town losing a major employer is a tragedy. If you are in a position to make those kinds of decisions and affect people that profoundly, you should remember that.

June 2013
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