Monday, October 29, 2007

Marketing speak, and how to avoid it

Something strange happens when you pull together a bunch of information about a product or service and sit down to try and write it up in a way that would pique the interest of a reader.

For some reason, you have this urge to over persuade. A simple 'this product does x, allowing you to do y and it will cost you z', becomes 'this revolutionary product x eliminates every barrier to y imaginable allowing you to do y at any time, anywhere in the world and costing you only z!'.

I was amazed at myself after re-reading some marketing material I had written that it sounded like this. And it wasn't even intentional (I wasn't trying to be too persuasive)!

Marketing speak creeps into our heads because that's all we hear. It's a vicious cycle. The more we hear it, the more we think it works, the more we use it. Here is a sample from a leading Business Intelligence company - this is posted on their website (company named removed to protect the innocent).

XXX is the first and only business intelligence (BI) platform to deliver a complete set of market-leading, end-to-end BI capabilities: best-in-class enterprise performance management (EPM), dashboards and visualization, reporting, query and analysis, and enterprise information management (EIM). XXX introduces significant innovations that deliver BI in new ways to a broad set of users.
It's 'complete, end-to-end, best-in-class, innovative, new and broadly useful'! As well as introducing us to THREE acronyms in one paragraph!

I was thinking how to reconstruct this to make it less vomit inducing and I came up with:
XXX is a business intelligence platform that delivers a complete set of enterprise tools - dashboards and visualizations, reporting, query and analysis, performance and information management. We deliver a best-in-class solution that's innovative and accessible to a broad set of users.
It's more understated, less direct and certainly less 'loud'. The copy that carries a quiet confidence? Maybe I am over thinking this a bit...

Then again, the original probably sells more stake knives. Someone is making a killing from stake knives. I'd love to know who that is.

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Tony said...

Reads like a SEO ploy to get the most bang for the buck. How many keywords can I fit into a few sentences???

Beecham said...

Appalling funny passage! What strikes me is not (only) that this company is over-selling itself or its product, working to be powerfully persuasive, but that it only barely assumes the form of prose sentences.

I've always assumed that this is an effect of insider jargon: there, connective tissue doesn't really matter; telegraphic style works. Important is presenting the requisite terms in the right grouping. And the more you can turn ideas and phrases into terms of art, it seems, the better: best-in-class, market-leading, acronyms. This example with its string of keywords also reminds me of the sort of ad that just identifies the product with a series of words (Agility, Intensity, High-Performance Management), not telling us how they are connected or what they are describing.

Your rewrite would sell the product better to me, not so much because it's more understated, but that it's just better prose.

paulsoldera(at) said...

I think it does smack of SEO type thinking. But you could really get the key words in there without sounding so... desperate.

Thanks for the comment beechman. Agree completely - and you analyze it a lot better than me!

sk said...

hilarious find. And like your game willingness to rewrite it. Don't want to defend it, because it is incomprehensible, but isn't it always more challenging to describe services like this, or any consulting-style service, in a competitive way? Maybe there should be a category of awards that recognizes clear and compelling descriptions in the service industry