Bad language: How talking a good game is essential to your brand's growth

February 9, 2016
By John

It was a clever bit of PR from Simon Cowell when Cheryl then-Cole was dropped from being a judge on X Factor USA in 2011. It got the show in the papers, the media was talking about it constantly; it even got a lot of column inches for Simon Fuller’s rival American Idol which was rumoured to want Cole to replace Jennifer Lopez.

The truth was actually a little bit more embarrassing for all parties with Cole failing to win over Fox network’s influential reality show head honcho Mike Darnell. One consistent rumour that kept leaking at the time though, especially from the like of gossip blog TMZ, that nobody could understand her “thick” Geordie accent.

Sounds preposterous to us (the situation, not the Geordie accent); what’s there not to understand? It’s not that thick, is it? Surely anybody with an ounce of common sense would be able to understand the points she was trying to get across, she speaks English for goodness sake! There were other factors too, of course, leaving Cole “royally pissed off” after she was dropped.

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Only, amidst all of the outpouring of support for the nation’s sweetheart, Fox kind of had a point. Though we as a nation understand it the Geordie accent does undeniably have a lot of quirks, and perhaps American audiences wouldn’t associate it with Newcastle. Halima Shaker raises an interesting point during a chat with a linguistics professor:

“There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ way of speaking. But, people must be familiar with it.”

It’s a syn

And there lies the rub. Understanding and familiarity is key to this situation; the stark truth is that Cole’s accent mixed with her low profile ended up giving Fox the chills. And we’re using Cheryl’s example because it’s the perfect way to highlight a problem that often goes unnoticed in digital marketing campaigns. Syntax, dialects, the use of local language, cultural phrases, and speaking to audiences in ways that resonate with them.

It’s especially a problem in B2B communications, and becomes more obvious the larger and broader the campaign. Words and phrases keep creeping into campaigns that are waffle at best, hated with a passion at worst.

They’re the same words and phrases that typically crop on top 10 lists and drive people mad. They’re often labelled management speak, jargon, buzzwords… Funnily enough, clichés in themselves. Some of the most common include ‘going forward’, ‘synergy’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘push the envelope’, and many other phrases that make the average office worker want to poke themselves in the eye.

As maddening as they can be these phrases are a product of their environment and naturally creep into everyday life. Every industry has their own buzzwords; there’s a book called Romps, Tots and Boffins written by journalist Robert Hutton which highlights common phrases journalists use in most newspapers – called journalese – including ‘bonk’, ‘love rat’, and ‘bouncebackability’.

Never mind the bollocks

How talking a good game is essential to your brand identity - Membr fitness software

Don’t get us wrong – there is room for a good cliché, but preferably on those top 10 lists or down the pub (“I got the last round”). We’ve highlighted how important creative planning and social execution is to customer acquisition; a biddable social campaign can help B2B businesses target potential new customers in an incredibly effective manner, right down to their location and interests.

That’s the second time we’ve mentioned B2B so far. There’s a reason; the dialect dilemma is something that we’ve had to work incredibly hard on for a new client of ours that has asked for our help in helping their cloud-based gym management software go global. Membr’s a fantastic piece of software that streamlines gym administration, created right here in Manchester, that’s already been exported to South Africa and Orlando.

Membr wants to expand further across North America, and for us it highlights how important language, dialect, and syntax are in the marketing process. North America is a hotchpotch of different cultures and dialects across its many states, and it’s pivotal that we research each and every territory Membr wants to enter afresh to target the campaign as much as possible.

Not just for customer acquisition and to get more people to invest in Membr, but to show that they respect the territories they’re entering, the people they’re speaking to, and that the brand understands who they are and what they want. Basic brand identity.

It’s why using the right language is so important in marketing, with even a few words able to attract or put off the most targeted consumer group. Another example; in the UK, gyms advertise for gym managers, for instance, whereas in the US they hire ‘fitness technicians’. Getting the language right is essential for serious.

Word up brand identity

We can’t express how important using the right language is. There are scores of articles out there about how slightly changing some campaign wording caused clickthroughs to skyrocket. The Heritage Foundation, for instance, saw clickthroughs on a campaign increase 36.8 per cent simply by introducing more active language to a single sentence.

More important to remember than anything, though, is that despite the reach of the internet, word of mouth is still the most powerful thing on the planet. Underestimate your target audience with the wrong language and they’ll let others know all about it, sometimes in the cruellest way possible. The subreddit /r/fellowkids, for instance, is a site your campaign doesn’t want to be seen on…

The answer lies in how you research your market, target it, and present yourself to it to begin a conversation and show them that your intentions are good. Global campaigns like Membr take a bit more research, but the end results and benefits are the same – attracting the right people who can benefit from your product or service, and who will share the sentiment with like-minded individuals.

We’ve already mentioned how essential biddable can be here in reaching a refined, targeted audience. A well-strategised inbound marketing campaign run in conjunction can help get the message out there and attract your audience naturally, reaching out to them through social media, email marketing, search, and other creative ways to help grow your business online.

Done right, a content marketing campaign will provide you regular content to boost organic visibility, capture targeted lead information, analyse that data in unique ways to improve ROI, while entertaining and informing your audience. Read '3 tips every content marketing agency should follow' to learn more.

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