What’s wrong with a little ‘help’?

What’s wrong with a little ‘help’?

You may recognise the following exchange when discussing positioning or messaging for your organisation.

“How about we say we help our customers…”

“Yeah but help feels a bit plain, how about…”

You can insert the replacement words here – a grab bag of escalating verbs designed to show that while the others might just “help” you, you do so much more.

I am of course using “help” as a placeholder for all those simpler, plainer, more understandable words that marketers seem to fear as not being “differentiating” enough.

The words we use matter. They make promises we have to be able to keep, so when reaching for the superlative consider for a moment what they might mean, what promises are they making.

There is a language race going on. It seems to be driven by the idea that to create the biggest buzz you can’t be good you’ve got to be great, or super, or terrific, or amazing, or superfragilicioius.

And it sets the companies using it up for failure.

Because when my experience isn’t, when what is delivered isn’t (insert any hype word here) like you’ve told me it will be, I get disappointed. Even though I logically know it’s probably hype, that it’s not really going to be all that, there is that little part of me that wants it to be – because, after all, you told me it would be. You made a promise.

Perhaps we need to start thinking about things from a five-year-old’s point of view. Who hasn’t heard “but you promised…”?

Yes, we know life isn’t perfect and we all on occasion make promises we can’t keep. But there is a big difference between life getting in the way of genuine intent and the deliberate use of language that you don’t live up to.

Here’s an idea – give the words an asterisk: *We know it’s hype, you know it’s hype, so please don’t hold us to it.

So I’ll ask again, what’s wrong with a little help if that’s what you provide?

See you next week.

Michel Hogan is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. Follow Michel on Twitter.


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