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It’s “just” a word, and “just” a brand

a look through your website, your brochures or resumes, your business correspondence. Look at promotional materials you have produced. Think carefuly about the words you chose. What do your language choices say about you?

I was in a branch of Marks & Spencer the other day and saw their new in-store promotional materials. If you’re not familiar with M&S, it’s a British chain of department stores, not unlike Sears in the US, or The Bay in Canada, but notable primarily for the fact that they only sell private label goods: there are no big consumer brands.

The posters and labels around the store had messages like "Just for us" (meaning the goods had been a special order), and "Just 9.99" (highlighting the low prices for everyday goods".

The problem with building a brand around the word "just" is that I can also hear a conversation along the lines of "Oh, I love that dress, where did you get it?" "This? Oh, it’s just M&S"

I’ll admit that as a trained NLPer, and a linguistics graduate to boot, I tend to be more sensitive to language than most people, but the fact is that words carry undertones  – the word "just" has a negative connotation of "and nothing more" – and we need to be careful how we use them. Take a look through your website, your brochures or resumes, your business correspondence. Look at promotional materials you have produced. Think carefuly about the words you chose. What do your language choices say about you? How rich is your vocabulary? How formal or chatty is your style? Do you favour long sentences or short ones? Could a twelve year old understand what you have to say, or a rocket scientist? Could a sentence be taken more than one way? Does your writing focus on the positive aspects of your service, or do you tend to talk about the negatives that you avoid? Do you even think any of this matters? (If you don’t, please feel free to call me or email!)

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