Dr Jekyll and Mr Hype

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hype

It’s a common tale.

I have a set of things I believe and care about but feel like that isn’t enough to get attention in the marketplace. I need to differentiate. I need to stand out more. I need people to notice me.

It’s subtle at first. I can’t just be good, I have to be great. But then even that doesn’t feel like enough. I need to be awesome or maybe even extraordinary.

Then, before I know it, Mr Hype has taken me 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!

In the story that inspired the title the mild-mannered and trusted Mr Jekyll loses out to his altered self, in the end becoming the very thing he was trying to control.

A cautionary tale for organisations everywhere who think they can escape notice for touting something that they have no hope of doing. Not so much that they will transform and be able to do what they are saying – that rarely happens. More that the mirage and shimmer of the hype will blind and distract them from their more authentic selves until they don’t know what is real.

Hype is not a trifling matter. It means to swindle or trick. And even at its most benign it means to exaggerate or make questionable claims. And yet it’s something blithely used every day. Small 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 a harmless and passing thing which is just part and parcel in the role of selling and marketing.

My response to the cries of “but everyone does it” are always the same. Don’t cop out. 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. 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.

Mr Jekyll eventually ran out of the secret ingredient in his formula that kept his Hyde in check. And drink too often from the hype well and don’t be surprised when people only see that and choose not to care about your organisation or brand. No one likes to be swindled!

It takes a disciplined, aligned and focused organisation which truly understands what they care about to have the confidence to abstain from hype, to embrace their Jekyll and find ways to connect that with people who will value and embrace it.

See you next week with “The Sustenance of Unheroic Work”.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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