Taking the "mess" out of Messaging (part 1)
An email arrived in my Inbox not too long ago with the following subject line:
Design a Monetization Strategy to Enhance Strategic Goals While Protecting Core Assets
Hmmm…a strategy to enhance strategic goals. Alrighty.
The body of the email had more gems. It was an announcement email for a small conference. Here’s part of the header graphic.
“Untapped Reserves of Intangible Assets“???
Who speaks like that?
Perhaps patent lawyers or accountants speak that way. I don’t honestly know, but most people I know certainly do not.
What’s interesting about this conference is that I think I understand what they are trying to say, but the language they are using is so abstract that it’s rather funny.
One other funny line from the email, that has nothing to do with the conference topic, but which indicates a marketing writer running amok is this one:
Cutting Edge Sessions that Provide Comprehensive and Relevant Information!
As opposed to what? Dull sessions that provide incomplete and irrelevant information?
Now I’m not picking on this email specifically, but it’s a great example of what ails a significant part of B2B marketing.
For those of us who spend (at least part of) our time thinking about things like messaging and positioning, reading industry press releases, announcements and collateral (as well as that produced by our own companies), this kind of language is problematic to say the least.
Ever tried reading a company’s website to understand what they do? Here’s some text from a well known company’s website. Read it and see if you can guess who it is. The text is taken verbatim from their corporate overview page, with the only difference being that I’ve changed the name of the company to MegaCorp.
At MegaCorp customers come first and an integral part of our DNA is creating long-lasting customer partnerships and working with them to identify their needs and provide solutions that support their success. The concept of solutions being driven to address specific customer challenges has been with MegaCorp since its inception.
Wow, customers come first at this company. How unique. They identify customer needs and provide solutions that support customer success. And this is something they’ve done from day 1. Well, isn’t that special. OK…narrowed it down yet? Figured out who they are? No? I don’t blame you. Here’s another sentence from the same page:
Since then MegaCorp has shaped the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors and ecosystem partners and has become the worldwide leader in networking – transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.
A little better, we know they are focused on the Internet and are a leader in networking. You could probably make an educated guess by now. But what’s this about “creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees” etc. More mumbo-jumbo. They might as well be talking about this company!
So the company is Cisco. Click here to see the page. Surprised? I picked Cisco to illustrate that even a well known, successful and focused company can also speak about itself in abstract terms and generalities. But if you look around, you’ll find this kind of language all over the place. David Meerman Scott calls it “gobbledygook“. I simply call it bad messaging.
So here’s a couple of open questions.
- How did we get into this mess?
- What can we do to try and get out of it?
- Is it even possible to get out of this mess?
I’ll explore these questions in future posts, but before I do, I’d like to hear your thoughts on these questions and the issues you see in product and corporate messaging.
Also in this series: