The 1 Communications Mistake Brands Need To Fix In 2022

This just in:After 24 months and persistent difficulties pronouncing and spelling its latest “Omicron” variant, COVID announced today that it is re-branding itself as COVID +. Users still get the same COVID symptoms, but without the worry of memorizing the Greek numerical system.

We have hit the red zone on Corporate Monkey See, Monkey Do. Too many brands have never met a stodgy string of words they can’t repeat endlessly.

The result? Less brand distinction and voice, and more consumer fatigue.

According to Patrick Hanlon’s “Primal Branding” book, one of the seven pillars of successful brands is lexicon: “Every community has its own words understood by those in the community, but not by outsiders.” 

However, disrespecting those communities by using the same words as everybody else over and over again, a brand's tent poles begin to crumble.

Here are two blatant examples of “do whatever they’re doing” and my suggested alternatives:



“Plus” Is A Minus

When you ask for pepperoni on your pizza slice, you pay more for an extra topping, but it’s not called “pizza slice plus.” It’s called a pepperoni slice. You know exactly what it is.

Over the past two years, the proliferation of streaming services with “plus” in their title has become mind-numbing. In fact, in September 2020, Fast Company noted that there were approximately 437 such streaming services.

But what exactly is a “plus,” except a symbol at one end of a battery or a grade you get in elementary school?

I understand how easy it is to add a “plus” at the end of your company name. You don’t have to pay large sums of money for a name search. But when there are 436 other streamers with “plus” in their names, the word becomes meaningless.

Instead, be brave and follow the examples of Big Tech. Twitter Blue is the company’s subscription service. Facebook’s newsletter platform is called Bulletin. Google Hangouts is a video chat.

An Overabundance Of Caution

“Out of an abundance of caution,” the go-to phrase to break bad COVID news, needs to be retired. It must have been created in a stuffy dark wood-paneled boardroom packed with C-suite execs and lawyers who forgot how real human beings speak.

In 2019, the phrase “out of an abundance of caution” was mostly used about a Johnson & Johnson recall. Then came what appears to be its first use tying in with COVID: a Dillard University press release posted on January 7, 2020 about pausing its women’s basketball team. Three weeks later, it seems no spokesperson or journalist could come up with a different expression.

In the past 12 months alone, the phrase has exploded into every coronavirus prevention justification, showing up on Google 5,300,000 times.

How about dropping the “abundance” and showing more humanity? Try these:

“Since we want you, your families, and our personnel to stay healthy for a long time to come, we have decided to take the prudent step…”

“For everybody’s benefit, we are making this decision to look out for your health today so you can all be with us tomorrow.”

1 comment about "The 1 Communications Mistake Brands Need To Fix In 2022".
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  1. Tim McMahon from McMahon Marketing LLC, January 11, 2022 at 3:10 p.m.

    Good comments. Might I toss in a simpler solution. Don't use Omicron. I admit I do no know the naming protocol used for viruses by the CDC. But, they seemed to have skipped a couple of good options, like Zeta or if that "e" throws you,  how bout Kappa. The point is, to the average citizen, it's just a Greek letter, so pick an easy one to say.

    Secondly, "abundance of caution" is a term of art used (usually in crisis) as a signal that things aren't all that bad but we are being very cautious. It seems in the context of a two-year pandemic people are more inclined to respond to the bear minimum. Instead of "abundance of caution" it should be "in respect to the elderly and children we recommend ..."

    The CDC has been snakebit from the get-go.

    Make a decision. Make it easy to understand. Repeat it/ Repeat it. Repeat it.

    Living in New York post 9/11 the phrase "if you see something, say something" granted permission (actually responsiblity and empowerment) to any and all citizens. And, it worked.

    I'd be the CDC comm director and wouldn't charge a penny.At lease then you'd know even if the advice was bad they'd be getting their money's worth! :)

    Tim P McMahon

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