November 20, 2008
marketing evolves when language evolves
Almost all commercial copy increasingly sounds like something from the 1950’s when compared to the bazaar of the live web. The example I use is one very close to my heart — Arseblog, the super-popular blog about Arsenal FC [London’s largest pro soccer team].
While Arseblog offers insightful, balanced football analysis his colourful language is very much of the terraces — not the boardroom. For instance, here’s a description of the morning-after his return to Dublin, following a long stay in Barcelona :
“My brain is discombobulated and I have had to send Blogette off to her new school wearing my runners which are at least 4 sizes too big for her because all of our stuff is in a box coming from Spain. I now have no shoes at all but I am wearing her fleecey red dressing gown. So all of you who might have a hangover today at least be thankful you have some shoes. I have no shoes. I am like a bag lady in a red dressing gown without any bags.”
You would be forgiven for thinking that such rhetoric wouldn’t ingratiate him with the club, a famously conservative organisation. In fact, the opposite is true and the Arsenal Chairman, an old-Etonian, and Amy Lawrence, a journalist at The Observer, are both regulars on the blog’s Arsecast podcast.
[N.B. “Arse” is English slang for “Ass”, “Butt”, “Rear End”, “Bum” etc. Fun bit of wordplay etc.]
I’ve been saying this for a while: Art is Language. Marketing is Language. Art evolves Language, Language evolves Art. Same with Marketing. Your marketing will evolve once your language evolves.
My three big marketing successes, English Cut, Stormhoek and The Microsoft Blue Monster didn’t work because I had some clever, rocket-science metric for them to play with. They succeeded simply because I convinced all three parties to talk to their markets in ways they simply hadn’t been talked to before.
English Cut is probably my most lucid example. My friend, Thomas Mahon is one of the top bespoke tailors in the world, certainly one of the top on London’s Savile Row. His handmade suits fetch upwards of $5,000 if, and only if you can get on his waiting list for an appointment.
Instead of the usual high-end, mahogany-paneled, men’s fashion blether [“Imagine yourself draped in the luxury only a privileged few can aspire to yak yak yak… The highest standards of quality, tradition and service maintained since 1852 yak yak yak…”], what did he do? He started praising his competition. And he used informative, helpful, friendly, straight-talking language in the process:
Kilgour’s (formerly Kilgour French & Stanbury). I have a very soft spot for this firm, as their old cutter, George Roden offered me a job when I was very young and just starting out in the trade. An excellent pedigree in classic tailoring (Carey Grant was a favourite customer), but even though they keep one foot firmly in the past, they’re not frightened to move forward. This is shown in the new contemporary facelift their shopfront just had. They also have an excellent ready-to-wear collection.
And it worked. Sales went from a steady trickle to through-the-roof in less than a year.
Whether we’re talking about a large company like Dell, or a small cottage industry like English Cut, the first marketing question to ask is not what tools and strategies we want to use– the first question to ask is, “How do we wish to talk to people differently, than how we were talking to them before?“
Once you can answer that, the tools and strategies will quickly and easily reveal themselves.
Language. It’s all about Language. You want me help you with your marketing, you have to be willing to talk to me about Language. Exactly.
[Disclosure: Dell are clients of mine.]
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