The Darwin Social Noise Blog.

09/28/16

Brands: Top Phrasing Blunders

They’re so common that they almost go unnoticed—almost. Let’s be honest: corporate communications (websites, emails, social media, press releases, blogs, annual reports, etc.) are riddled with phrases and terms that are hard for most people to understand or don’t really say anything at all. Here’s a quick recap of the top brand phrasing blunders we’ve all made, in a moment of haste or distraction, at one time or another.

Happy Friday!

All kinds of businesses, from funeral homes to farm coops, have jumped on the bandwagon of wishing people a happy day for no apparent reason, on social media or in emails, but forget to capitalize on that high-impact, feel-good moment by associating it with what they’re doing or thinking—in other words, to make our message stand out.

Los gifs de gatitos sin motivo ya no hacen tanta gracia. Fotografía: esdiario.com / Kitty GIFs for no particular reason aren't funny anymore. Photo: esdiario.com
Los gifs de gatitos sin motivo ya no hacen tanta gracia. Fotografía: esdiario.com / Kitty GIFs for no particular reason aren’t funny anymore. Photo: esdiario.com

Vodafone’s #VDías are an example of how to do this right: they say good morning and use that greeting to encourage followers to get involved by sharing how they use the brand’s products or services each morning.

Follow us on social media!

One of the biggest bloopers on this list. Follow us why? If no one knows/says why the brand should be followed, chances are they won’t do it. Giving people a reason to click that extra button will probably make it more appealing.

 

Algo que sí seguiríamos.
Algo que sí seguiríamos. / Something we’d definitely follow.

If you were in Spain around 2011, you probably remember the headlines: the municipal employees of Jun Town Council started using a Twitter account to inform citizens of their activities and answer petitions from local residents. The best part is that this initiative is still going strong today. It exists for an obvious reason, and people know what it is.

Buy now!!!

Brands want to sell us things. That’s how they make a living, and we accept the rules of the game. Sometimes they even give us free products on their websites. But insistently telling us to buy NOW!!!!!! doesn’t always work. The sooner we realize this, the better for everyone.

Con una sonrisa se vende más que exigiendo.
Con una sonrisa se vende más que exigiendo. / A smile sells more than obnoxious commands.

Take a look at this link on Hawkers to see what really works.

How about you?

This question has become the convenient thing to tack on when we can’t come up with a good closing line. They’ve already tried it. How about you? Or, Maggie already has one. How about you? Or, Adam’s finally smiling, how about you?

Are they really asking us something? What’s the question?

Hay que saber preguntar pero también escuchar la respuesta. Fotografía: Twitter @salvameoficial
Hay que saber preguntar pero también escuchar la respuesta. Fotografía: Twitter @salvameoficial / Knowing how to ask a question is important, but so is knowing how to listen to the answer. Photo source: @salvameoficial

Ending an attention-grabbing message with this rhetorical question is like those people who say, “Hey, how are you?” and then continue on their way without waiting for a reply.

Hello world!

Unfortunately, not everyone is multilingual or has spent a year backpacking through Europe. Webster’s International Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary each claim to have some 470,000 entries; surely we can find something in there to say what we want to say without resorting to Spanish or French, if we’re writing for a broad English-speaking audience. Use the thesaurus if you’re stumped. Or, in a pinch, even MS Word’s synonym tool can come in handy.

 

Querer entender y no poder es frustrante. Fotografía: Twitter @petitpejarl
Querer entender y no poder es frustrante. Fotografía: Twitter @petitpejarl / Trying and failing to understand is frustrating. Photo: Twitter @petitpejarl

Use the tools your own language offers before making a faux pas.

Synergies

Words like this are a dime a dozen in the corporate world, but you won’t hear them on the subway. Competitiveness, added value, target, scope, governance… such terms are guaranteed to make people tune out, especially if you use them in an email subject line.

 

Si no se conecta con el mensaje, mantener la atención es complicado. Fotografía: Google search ‘terelu dormida’
Si no se conecta con el mensaje, mantener la atención es complicado. Fotografía: Google search ‘terelu dormida’ / If they can’t connect with the message, it’s hard to keep their attention. Photo: Google search ‘terelu dormida’

Uber, for instance, uses subject lines like this: Since we can’t all win the lottery… Here is a long list of inspirational examples.

Spread like wildfire

Or the future is here or white as snow or drown in a glass of water or sell a pig in a poke or break the ice or you bet your life or it cost an arm and a leg or roll out the red carpet or bite the dust or no mean feat or dot your i’s and cross your t’s or strapped for cash or act as if they owned the place or he’s a jolly old soul = ZZZZzzzzZZZZZzzzzzzzz.

Saber de antemano cómo va a terminar algo, resta fuerza al mensaje. Fotografía: telecinco.es
Saber de antemano cómo va a terminar algo, resta fuerza al mensaje. Fotografía: telecinco.es / If you know beforehand how something will end, the message loses its fizz. Photo: telecinco.es

*We have been so bold as to illustrate this overview using the fabulously expressive face of Spain’s beloved TV host, Terelu Campos, who has our deepest admiration. And for her expressiveness, we are eternally grateful <3

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