Don’t be blinded by your hype

Describing what you care about without descending into hyperbole is hard because fear sits underneath the words people use. Fear that my thing is not good enough, sexy enough, bold enough, game-changing enough. And we’re good at using language to mask our fear.

Hype is subtle at first. Just give the language a bit of a push, so good becomes great. Until great feels underwhelming, and from there it’s a short trip on to awesome and up to extraordinary.

Then, before I know it, the hype has taken over. Adjectives and adverbs abound and multiply. Superlatives litter my language, and I’m saying all manner of things that I can’t deliver – but they sound fantabulous!

The shimmer of the hype will blind and distract organisations until they don’t know what is real and what is a mirage. The seduction is a cautionary tale for organisations everywhere who think they can avoid making promises they can’t keep.

Hype is not a trifling matter. It means to deceive or trick. Even at its most benign, it means to exaggerate or make questionable claims. Yet it’s something blithely used every day. It is no wonder the net impact is a growing cynicism and mistrust by customers, employees and other stakeholders alike.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched it play out too many times to think of it as harmless – just part and parcel in the role of selling, marketing or otherwise telling your story.

And while it might seem like everyone does it, so we have to, my response is always the same — be the one who doesn’t. Look deeper. Ask better questions. Find what you care about and do it. Then talk about that.

Hype is lazy. Anyone can make exaggerated claims but it’s easy to engage in language inflation to create the impression of something more. To make up claims that have no relationship to the promises you can keep.

It takes a disciplined, aligned and focused organisation who truly understands what they care about to have the confidence to abstain from hype and find ways to connect with people who will value and embrace it. And those are the organisations who end up with a robust, resilient brand result.

See you next week.

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