Buzz Phrase Marketing

I’ve never been a great fan of buzz phrase marketing any more than I’m a fan of buzz phrase conversation.  Buzz phrases are created with good intention and then quickly erode to become cover words for something completely different.  As I worked on my Idiomation blog these past few days, it struck me how the meaning of the holiday season has become inundated of late with well-meaning but eroded buzz phrases such as:

That makes for five marketing buzz phrases in the space of six days … all of them important to someone and yet, all of them struggling to maintain a positive identity in the marketplace.  Is it any wonder that I’m wondering how long it will be before we see the appearance of White Wednesday somewhere along the line in years to come?

The problem with buzz phrase marketing is that the intended meaning is lost along the way, and because of this, buzz phrase marketing is all bark and no real bite when all is said and done.   In trying to be all things to all people, more than a few businesses have lost their heart and soul.  Take for example a news article published  on December 18, 2007 in Ad Week where Eleftheria Parpis wrote this in an article entitled, “Crocs Brand Finds Its Comfort Zone.”

Michael Goldberg, chief marketing officer at Zimmerman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the agency would position Crocs not as a fashion brand, but as a company that is “anti-everything bad.”

The marketing concept for Crocs according to its chief marketing officer was to brand the company as “anti-everything bad” … an impossible goal to achieve since what’s good and what’s bad requires a value judgment and not everyone shares the same values.  While it’s laudable to stand up and say what your brand stands for, it’s unreasonable to think that it can be anti-everything bad or pro-everything good.

Take the time to identify what you want your brand to represent and then create marketing that supports that brand identity.  Yes, it’s important to pay attention to “special” days throughout the year, but there are ways to stand out without being lost in the crowd of people jumping on various “special” days in typical fashion.

A great example of positive branding that makes a brand stand out is this Christmas video for John Lewis:

We all agree that Christmas is one of those “special” days and pretty much every product and service works hard at capturing some of those holiday shopping dollars every year.  What John Lewis did was to step away from the word Christmas and bring attention to its hashtag for the 2013 holiday season:  #bearandhare.    When you click through to their website from the video, you’re greeted with all sorts of lovely surprises all of which are Christmas related and yet none of which leave visitors with the feeling that they’re in the midst of a marketing moment.  You can even follow the bear and the hare on Twitter by looking for @JohnLewisBear and @JohnLewisHare, or you can follow them together by looking for @JL_BearAndHare.

What John Lewis has done is separate itself from the crowd that has focused on Brown Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.  What is has done with this story of bear and hare is to incorporate all that’s good about “special” days into a package that appeals to a broad cross-section of people.  Who doesn’t love a story of caring and compassion that celebrates giving and friendship, especially in a world that seems to be more and more removed from “feel good” campaigns such as this?  What John Lewis seems to understand is what so many seem to have forgotten and that is that every day is  Giving Tuesday.    It has taken something traditional and wrapped it up to make it new and wondrous again.

My point is that marketing — especially for entrepreneurs, small business, and independent artists in any domain — should focus on standing out from the crowd in positive ways.  Yes, acknowledge “special” days, but do so in a way that really makes them “special” to your target market because they’re the ones that keep you in business so you can continue marking “special” days in your own unique way.

Elyse Bruce

Disclaimer:  I chose to share the John Lewis campaign because it is well done with regards to how it reaches out to people, touches their hearts, and brings the spirit of Christmas to the forefront.  I don’t work with or for John Lewis, and I don’t know anyone who works with or for John Lewis.  This article should not be taken as an endorsement of John Lewis.  It also should not be taken as an endorsement of Crocs.

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