When we ask people in workshops which brand they think has the best words, an awful lot of them say First Direct. ‘They sound so friendly and nice and – y’know – direct,’ they say.
And we agree. First Direct’s tone of voice isn’t just distinctive for a financial services brand – it’s distinctive full stop. And what’s brilliant about it is that it gets right into the nooks and crannies – small print, disclaimers, Ts and Cs. (They have the best ever ‘translation’ for that stock phrase about recording calls for training purposes: ‘Because we want to make sure we’re doing a good job, we may monitor or record our calls. We hope you don’t mind.’)
Which is why we were a bit disappointed by this print ad we spotted in the Evening Standard the other day. ‘We’ll give you £100 when you join and £100 when you leave. Which is highly unlikely,’ it starts off, cheekily. Great. So far, so First Direct.
But then what happens? ‘If you do not pay in at least £1,000 a month into your 1st Account, you may have to pay a monthly fee of £10. There is no monthly fee for the first six months.’
Hmm – it’s all starting to sound a bit like bog-standard Ts and Cs.
Then: ‘This offer may be withdrawn at any time without notice.’ Oh dear. And that’s not even the small print. It’s the main body of the ad.
Let’s have a look at the small print, then. Again, it starts off well: ‘Still with us? Good for you.’ Then the brilliant ‘we hope you don’t mind’ line.
But then: ‘Applicants must be 18 or over. £100 offer is limited to one per customer or joint relationship. We reserve the right to decline to open an account.’ Not so friendly now.
Come on, First Direct. We love you. Don’t let us down.
Last week, our Neil wrote a blog about the gay marriage debate. He argued that people who weren’t very comfortable with the idea of gay marriage were more likely to avoid even using the word ‘gay’. And he challenged someone to see if there was any evidence to go with this hunch.
Well, it looks like there might be.
The House of Lords has been debating the gay marriage bill – or the ‘marriage (same sex couples)’ bill, to give it its proper name – over the last couple of days. Lords have been giving their speeches for or against the bill, and you can read them in full on the parliament website. I’ve been through some of those speeches, and here’s what I found.
In the first twelve ‘pro’ speeches, the Lords in favour use the word gay a total of 50 times.
And in the first twelve ‘anti’ speeches, they use it a total of five times.
Almost too perfect to be true, right? I laughed out loud when I counted them up, but them’s the breaks.
Now, of course this is far from conclusive. There are plenty of other speeches that I don’t have the time to look at, and the House of Lords isn’t the only place this is being discussed. But it is pretty telling, don’t you think?
The British Conservative party has got itself in a right old state about the idea of legalising gay marriage. I won’t get into that here (though you can guess what a muesli-eating, Guardian-reading liberal like me might think). But it did give me the idea for a brilliant Breakfast Experiment™ (copyright the always great Language Log).
We’ve often noted in our workshops that the more uncomfortable someone is with a subject, the more likely they are to use formal language to talk or write about it. So your HR department won’t say in a disciplinary letter, ‘we might sack you’; they’ll say ‘you may be liable for dismissal’. It is – we hypothesise – a distancing tactic.
So I’ve been listening to different politicians discussing gay marriage. And my hunch is that if you’re pro, you’re much more likely to use the words ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. The antis seem more prone to using ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’. But hey, it’s a busy week, and I don’t have time to do lots of listening to collect the data. Anyone got a spare day?
If I’m right though, it’d be an interesting little ‘tell’. If you think a politician’s toeing the party line, but not telling the whole truth about their real opinion, have a listen for which words they pick.
In an attempt to declutter my inbox, I’ve been unsubscribing from various newsletters I’d signed up for over the years. You know the drill: you squint at the small print at the bottom of their last email until you find the ‘unsubscribe’ link, then go to their website where you’ll find some variation on this message:
If you no longer wish to subscribe to our newsletter, fill in your email address/click on the link below/fill in our short questionnaire’ blah blah blah.
Click, click, unsubscribe, get email confirmation, delete.
Until I got to Firebox.com, where the ‘unsubscribe’ link took me here:
And you know what? I had second thoughts. For the first time in about two years, I clicked through to the website. And I chuckled at their banter. And I marvelled at the remarkable bargains. (‘Maybe I really do need Random Crap Crates?’)
In the end, I resisted their charms and unsubscribed anyway. And then I got the email to confirm it. Where everyone else said something along the lines of You have been successfully unsubscribed from X, this email was different.
It’s a bittersweet moment for us and we’ll treasure the memories, but as requested, we’ve unsubscribed you from the Firebox newsletter.
If you have changed your mind (puppy dog eyes) or if this was all just a big misunderstanding, you can easily resubscribe here.
I clicked on the link. What can I say? I’m a sucker for puppy dog eyes.