Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

The Power of Words

The 2018 Word of the Year is ‘single-use’ (according to Collins Dictionary).

It refers to a product that is, “made to be used once only” and it is primarily used in association with plastic. The word has apparently seen a fourfold increase in usage since 2013.

‘Single-use’ beat words such as ‘floss’ (the dance move not the oral hygiene routine) and ‘plogging’ (the activity of picking up litter while jogging). Is that really a thing…?

At Insight Traction we have also been judging our word of the year. We looked at words that we have heard across the year. Words that we hadn’t really heard before. Words that got us to raise an eyebrow when we heard them in a meeting (and a bit more when we had left the meeting).

Our word of the year is “decomplexify”. It is a word. It does get used. But, it shouldn’t.

‘Decomplexify’ essentially means simplify. So, why not just say simplify? It’s great irony – talking about simplifying and then using the most complicated word you can find to describe it.

Our advice = never use this word.

Why are we talking about this? Well, in our industry words and language are really important. Words set the tone for your communication. For instance, a company that uses words such as ‘decomplexify” instead of ‘simplify’ is bound to use complicated language elsewhere.

This means that your internal language will be more complicated than it should be. It means that your external language will be more complicated (e.g. manufacturer to retailer) than it should be. It means that your communication to shoppers will be more complicated than it should be.

It is easy to say you need to have simple communication. It is harder to actually do it. So, we thought we’d share our Golden Rules for saying things in a simple way. Hopefully they help.

Use short words. Don’t use a long word when you can use a short word. The human brain likes things to be easy. The shorter the words the easier they are to read. This is true for a shopper walking down an aisle. It is true for someone scanning a presentation. When Winston Churchill reviewed his speeches he used to cross out long words and replace them with short words. Clever people don’t need to use clever words.

Use words that are easy to understand. Don’t use words, or jargon, that you need to have technical knowledge to understand. It is easily understandable for people who work on a category day in, day out. But, much less so if you are less familiar with the category. Most shoppers are less familiar with the category. An account manager may be less familiar. A distributor may be less familiar. You shouldn’t need a dictionary to understand the words.

Use everyday language. Don’t use words that only a few people use when you could use words that everybody uses. Most people who buy wine are not wine experts. Most people who buy Tea are not Tea experts. Most people who buy Skincare are not Skincare experts. Yet, a lot of communication seems to assume they are. The big challenge for most brands is to turn expertise into everyday language. Words that all of us use.

Say less. Don’t use twenty words when you could use ten. Don’t use ten when you could use five. Often, the more you try to explain things – in a strategy document, on a pack, on a promotional barker, the less clear things become. What you don’t say is as important as what you do say. Nivea Men Crème is a great example of this. There are six words on the pack (1) Nivea (2) Men (3) Crème (4) Face (5) Body (6) Hands. In six short words they cover what the product is, who it is for, where to use it.

Be consistent. If you are talking about the same thing use the same words to describe it. Trump didn’t have different ways of saying “Make America Great Again”. He kept saying those four words. Every time we hear something new we have to think. So, the more familiar things are, the easier they are for us to process. You might get bored of saying the same things. Your audience won’t. In fact, it gives them the best chance of remembering it.

Complicated is easy. Simple is hard. But simple is worth the effort.

If only to ensure that nobody uses the word ‘decomplexify’ ever again.

On a separate note, our latest article for The Grocer magazine: “Learning from B&M” is published tomorrow. You can also view it on our website…

This is our last blog of 2018. Have a great Xmas & New Year. Speak to you in January.