Blog in 10 2016.
When we were watching the US presidential debates last week (no, don’t get us started), we spotted something: Donald Trump is great at naming. Bear with us.
Right through his campaign, he’s managed to ‘brand’ his opponents with what he wants us to think about them. And he’s done two things we often recommend to our clients: first, he’s found a recognisably Trumpy pattern; and second, he’s stuck to it, using them again and again.
Brands can do this trick too. Ikea’s names are beautifully, well, Ikeaish. They don’t tell you much about the products, but if you see Fjellse, Nornäs or Oppland on a big, brown cardboard box, who else is it going to be?
Apple have iPod, iPad, iTunes and so on. Now, that system’s actually not that unique (look at BBC iPlayer) or interesting, but they’ve stuck to it so relentlessly that the pattern has muscled its way into our collective subconscious.
So, make your naming system work this hard. It’s powerful. It’s tremendously powerful, believe me.
Having a strong, trusted brand is at the top of many marketers’ priorities. But what happens when your whole industry is struggling with an image problem?
Banks are still trying to repair trust after the 2008 crisis. Consultancy PwC identify ‘rebuilding trust’ as the number one megatrend for the financial services industry. And others echo that concern.
In his column How Can Bankers Recover Our Trust?, leadership consultant Steve Denning points to a vast gulf in customer satisfaction between companies like Amazon and old-school banks. And he, like Keith Mestrich, president and CEO of Amalgamated Bank, says greater transparency is one way to rebuild customer confidence.
What many banks don’t realise, is that transparency isn’t just about what you say or disclose. It’s about how you say it, too.
In a study by Siegel+Gale not long after the financial crisis, 84 per cent of US consumers surveyed said they were more likely to trust a company that uses jargon-free, plain English. And 63 per cent felt that banks, mortgage lenders and Wall Street intentionally make things complicated to hide risks, or to keep people in the dark.
So why is it that, all these years later, most banks are still talking about ‘accrued interest’ or ‘affirmative covenants’?
Next time you’re working on customer communications, look out for those jargon culprits. (Often they’ll be acronyms that take a whole footnote to explain.) And keep asking yourself, ‘What does that really mean?’
So, instead of ‘accrued interest’ you might try: ‘interest you’ve earned but not yet been paid (also known as “accrued interest”)’.
Your customers won’t just prefer it. They might just trust you more, too.
*except for some of the language.
It’s 9.30am on a chilly Sunday morning in October. I’m negotiating my way across a gigantic car park with two very excited little people in tow. At last, we reach the gates of the Promised Land (or ‘Legoland’, as it’s otherwise known).
And the very first thing I see is this sign:
As a writer, it’s basically my job to spot things like this. But, as a customer, I was really taken aback by how unwelcome it made me feel. Of course, I’m not saying they shouldn’t search people, but there are nicer ways to warn people about it. (PREFERABLY NOT IN BLOCK CAPITALS.)
Pretty much any parent will tell you that Legoland doesn’t come cheap. I don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet or anything, but a little warmth wouldn’t go amiss. All it would take is something like: ‘Welcome to Legoland. We might need to search your bags on the way in for security. Have a great day’.
Mind the gap between the dragon and the platform
Maybe I need to get out more, but I also noticed that a lot of the ride announcements used that strangled bureaucrat-speak beloved of rail companies. They’d say things like, ‘Please remain seated until the vehicle has come to a complete standstill’.
Which bugged me for two reasons. Firstly, it’s no fun – and as such it’s totally off-brand. This sort of language just feels joyless, even if they try to disguise it by reading it out in a comedy, ‘OO-ARR!’ pirate voice.
And secondly, I had to keep translating it for my kids: ‘That means you have to stay sitting down until the submarine/train/dragon stops’. This is important safety information – why would you express it in a way that your audience (mostly young children) aren’t going to understand?
Pretty much everything else at Legoland is awesome, and I know I’m nitpicking here. But, at the end of the day, what they’re selling is an experience. And language is one of the building blocks (sorry) that make up that experience. An important one.