In a meeting this week I witnessed some incredible dialogue. The words leverage, utilise, solution, collaboration, elasticity, high-level and bolt-on were all expertly weaved into one unnecessarily long sentence – at the end of which no point whatsoever was made. Some might say the speaker was truly talented being so verbose yet saying nothing at all. This line was deftly followed by empty dollops of jargon which included “ this is a journey”, ”the trail we’re blazing”, “lay of the land” and “online no-touch process”.
It was fascinating looking around the table at nodding heads – what were they nodding at? What did I miss? I’d like to think we were all in on the joke and that they too marvelled at this guy’s knack of sharing many clever-sounding noises without actually making one single point… but given the replies that mirrored this empty spiel, I’m not so sure.
This example is from the corporate world where the most versed Bullshit Bingo players operate, honing their skills and often climbing the ranks as a result. But it’s all around us. We’re surrounded by fluffy adverts, questionable straplines, vague promises, sketchy “selling” points, OTT client testimonials, flaky celebrity endorsements (seen the one about the “better legs and a better butt with every step”?)
My question is – whether being marketed to in a B2B or B2C situation – does any intelligent adult actually accept and respond to this tact, let alone part with money as a result? Do these rambling people actually talk like this at home, to their loved-ones, friends and family? In a business environment sadly it’s often part of a “please the king” game. In advertising I don’t wonder if it was a case of the client picking the duff option that was meant to make the agency’s sure-win option shine (oh how that account manager must’ve kicked themself). Or worse still the client and agency actually agreed their ad showcased “game-changing” copy.
The reason this verbose, lofty jargon irks me is two-fold. For starters using lots of words to ultimately say little or nothing reeks of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about and/or has something to hide. It also implies they think others are dumb enough to lap it up. Call me dubious, a cynic even, but a mere whiff of jargon and I’m out.
Ridding your own communications of crud isn’t easy though. The boardroom aside, over time it seeps in. I catch myself from time to time and wince as I’m aware of blurb creeping into my own conversation or copywriting.
The flip side of this is that there’s a breed of people like me hungry for clear, meaningful, BS-free communication. Bored of having promised it all, exposed to so many false advertising claims and incredulous slogans that now the people and businesses that simply say what they mean in their communications are like Manna. Gold dust even.
And that’s where the opportunity is. If you can tell me what your products or services can do for me, what’s different about them and can back it up, in a couple of sentences – I’m listening.
Article By Linsay Duncan