Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where Jules and Vincent are putting the hurt on Brett and his buddies? Of course you do. A particular moment of tension came when Jules was hammering him with questions regarding his familiarity with Marcellus Wallace. The only reply Brett could manage was sputtering, panicked repetition of the word “What?” Fed up, Jules pulls his pistol, points it at Brad’s face and commands him to “Say ‘What?’ again!” The implication being that if Brett did, he would be on the receiving end of Mr. 9 Millimeter (his ultimate fate anyway).
I cite this exchange because I understand how Jules feels upon hearing an especially annoying term again and again. In my case, it’s the use of meaningless market-speak. Brainstorms are rotten with expressions that sound significant, but upon further review mean absolutely nothing. My current favorite is “Best of Breed”, which seemed to be on the outs pre-recession. For some reason, it’s enjoying a comeback and I’m fighting it with every ounce of strength I can muster. What is this, the Westminster Kennel Club? You can’t tell me you’re the best at something and then use some nondescript term with the hope that I don’t scrutinize your assertion. What breed are you talking about? The product itself? Your company’s industry? The micro-niche you’re hoping to fill? Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Meaningless, over-wrought drivel.
We all appreciate the value of concision. We all strive for clarity. But good communication also requires some heavy lifting. Take some bandwidth to explain what it is you mean in plain English. You can’t throw up a smokescreen of corporate-bingo bs and hope we don’t press you for the details.
If your medium doesn’t allow for too much detail, then a key part of your message has to be inviting your audience to follow up for more info. That means prioritizing messaging for your websites, print ads, and collateral — which have a relatively small amount of space. That doesn’t mean devoting that precious real estate to terms so vacuous and vague that they fall apart under just a bit of scrutiny. Give us an essential point. Encourage us to contact or click deeper for more info. It’s okay to ask audiences to work a bit, especially if there’s an informational reward.
Apologies for the rant. I’m in a transitional period and I want to help you.