The words we use have never been more important. With consumer trust at an all-time low, and social causes playing a much larger role in buying decisions, brands need to use the right words to define their values, or risk losing their customers – or worse, inviting backlash.
The good news? Finding the right words is easy. All it takes is finding the genuine, human reason why you do what you do, and then acting and communicating in a way that is true to that purpose.
C’mon, let’s be honest…
Is your business really ‘innovative’? What completely new and original thing are you doing that the thousands of other businesses calling themselves innovative aren’t? Can you prove it?
If your answer to the above is no, please press ctrl+f on your keyboard, type in the word ‘innovative’, and delete every mention from your website. Same goes for words like ‘groundbreaking’, ‘strategic’, ‘specialised’ and any other lazy, overused adjective seen on every company profile.
Visit a competitor’s website and play Buzzword Bingo – it’s usually pretty easy to tick every box. Once you see how common these words actually are, you’ll see how they’re doing nothing to make your brand stand out.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes
So maybe your business isn’t exactly innovative, but there’s still a reason why you gravitated towards that word. Take a moment to reflect on the words you’re currently using, drill down into the reasons behind why you chose them – and then approach them from the reader’s perspective.
“Using groundbreaking technology, our specialised systems make life easier ”
What did you really mean when you said your technology was ‘groundbreaking’? A description like this only makes sense to you because you already understand the product better than anybody else. This is the curse of knowledge. Nobody else cares how groundbreaking your technology is, or how specialised the designers who made it are. They want to know why and how your technology is going to make their life easier – and they want to see proof. Try something like this instead:
“Track all of your everyday expenses on one simple platform.”
And for the proof? It can be as simple as including testimonials, or clear imagery of your amazing, easy-to-use product. Let’s take the Uber Eats website for example. It doesn’t say “our innovative peer-to-peer platform allows you to order meals directly from our website or app”. It just shows a clear picture, with a simple message outlining why someone might like to use it.
Finding the right language
These days, increased transparency means a strong brand is more than just a tagline. Your words need a strong foundation to rest upon – and that’s your internal culture. Choosing the right words to describe what you do starts by clearly defining your brand’s purpose, mission and values. Or put simply: the reason why you get up for work in the morning.
At Macquarie Business Banking’s 2018 Perspective event, Holly Ransom, CEO at Emergent, made a strong case for re-thinking corporate language. She emphasised the importance of trust in this ever-changing business landscape, dominated by millennials seeking authenticity.
Using ME Bank’s two-year brand journey as an example, Holly showed us how you can change business language from the inside out. These days, words like ‘integrity’ and ‘commitment’ aren’t going to cut it. So, ME Bank created something meaningful, something memorable to inspire their staff:
Of course, words need to be backed up by action. Because not doing what you’re saying is the simplest way to break trust. And telling your staff to ‘Love Monday’ is a lot easier than fostering a positive work environment in which your staff will actually love Mondays.
The best story you can tell about your business is the true story. And if the true story doesn’t inspire passion in you (or your employees) – your customers won’t buy it either.