Distinct words help elevate brands

Connect with readers by using words we know and trust

We’re all too familiar with those lists of banned words that circulate after every New Year. Taboo terms gagged for 2014 including selfie, twerking, hashtag, twittersphere, and the suffixes –addedon and –pocalyse.  Other words nixed from corporate speak include:

  • Innovative
  • Synergy
  • Solutions
  • Revolutionary
  • Iconic
  • Hi-tech
  • World-class

Words like these bark at readers, “We’re too lazy to come up with distinct terms that uniquely describe this brand.”

Case in point:

A certain global design consultancy describes its creative process this way:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Wow. A certain carmaker uses this phrase to describe its innovation:

“We have always been driven by bold imagination and focused, disciplined action to realize the power of those ideas. It is part of our DNA to realize technology’s potential for positive change and to share that vision with the world.”

Compare those two examples with this advertising language for an everyday product most of us use.

“You want a weed eater that can reach all the places your mower can’t, one that won’t damage the trees and shrubs on your property; that’s easy to start but safe enough for the 14-year-old neighbor kid to use.”

What’s so hard about that? Apparently, everything.

Terms like these actually create parity among competitors. If your product is advanced, I’ll call mine revolutionary. Last year’s “out of the box” is this year’s “unparalleled.” If every company is hi-tech, innovative, world class, cutting edge and unparalleled, doesn’t common sense conclude that none of them are?

Using banal words can insult a reader and put a brand at risk. Such empty terms commoditize a product and diminish its overall value.

So what is the substitute for corporate pseudo-speak? Perhaps the real problem exists, not in the language, but in the branding. Quell eliminates these nonsense words using its unique process called Unknot. Align. Market.®  Quell captures what makes a brand distinct and then creates a unique brand language that becomes the foundation for memorable story telling. The Quell Group insists on using words that are unmistakable to a brand, rather than falling into the trap of corporate clichés, bromides and overworked phrases that do nothing to elevate a brand. Our words create preference for a brand and separation from the pack.

Case in point:

When Apple launched its iPod, thousands of superlative terms could have been used to describe it, such as game changing, revolutionary, first-in-class, exceptional, extraordinary and unconventional.

But instead Apple chose four words and a number:  “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Simple. Credible. And undeniably unique.

Best of all, these are real words people use in everyday life, but crafted in a way that no one can mimic.

Part of a brand’s identity is its idiomatic language. While tone is equally important, building a glossary of terms is essential when building a strong brand. Many great examples come to mind. The following list of words can only belong to the Disney brand:

  • Magic
  • Kingdom
  • Fantasy
  • Dreams
  • Imagination

Kellogg owns such terms as sugar, frosted, crunch, snap, crackle and pop. KFC owns colonel, original, recipe, secret, bucket and crispy. No carmaker owns “safety” like Volvo, “engineered” like Porsche and “luxury” like Mercedes.

Like a cart before a horse, words without meaning have no power. The first step in talking about a brand is identifying what makes it unique. Once that niche is identified, it’s time to build a glossary of terms your brand can own. Just remember, golden, arches, coca and the prefix i- are already taken.



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