Category Archives: Hyperbole

If it’s improved, it aint new

I dislike the term New & Improved and I’m calling for it to be exiled from the common marketing vocabulary.

There are two main reasons:

1. The logical tangle. It seems to me that a thing cannot be both new AND improved. It has to be one or the other. If something is new then it simply cannot also be improved as nothing existed previously that could be improved upon. Equally, saying something is improved implies that something inferior previously existed and as a result it cannot be new.

2. It doesnt tell me anything. The phrase tells me only that the thing is New & (or) Improved. . And in fact, this really doesn’t tell me anything that might substantially influence my interest in doing whatever I’m supposed to with this product. If it’s new, what need is it filling? Why does it exist? If it’s improved, what was wrong with the previous model? How is it improved?  Take me on a journey. Help me recognize how this thing will impact my life.

I’ll conceed  a case could be made for exceptions that are both new and improved. Is the video ipod a new ipod or just an improved version of the old-fashioned audio-only ipod as it is still the same essential product (a portable digital media device produced by Apple)? What about a product with a set of features some of which are new and some of which are older ones that have been improved? Valid questions perhaps.

I can see why the phrase has hung around. "Newness" is a sought-after attribute. You have contributed something to the ecosystem and offered options or solutions where none existed. "Improvement" is a worthy and noble pursuit in both personal and commercial settings. It suggests innovation and a customer-centric focus (we are improving it so you can get more out of it, dear customer…). These are important and even necessary attributes and, if valid, worth highlighting.

But they cannot excuse lazy copywriting. Using New & Improved is a thin cover for a lack of imagination, insight and information. It doesn’t stimulate interest nor does it compel me to action. It is marcom white noise and is still used far too frequently.

Today I make the commitment never to use the phrase "new & improved" again (except cynically or in jest). I urge you do the same.

Updated: In the interests of being helpful and not just blustery, I like the "Re-" words for achieving the same thing as "new & improved". Reinvented, revitalized, reinvigorated and the like offer the same short and punchy tone that’s suitable for headlines, taglines and packaging. They also suggest the novelty and innovation that new & improved wants to convey.

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You Have To Tell Me Something To Sell Me Anything

Colin McKay over at Canuckflack continues meeting the high expectations we all have for his blogging output. This post, Marketing Tagline for Morons, puts an example of useless and confusing marketing rhetoric under the microscope and finds substance severely lacking.

Cribbed from Colin’s post:

“If electromagnetic waves can penetrate walls, imagine what they can do to your skin”

– spotted at a Clarins makeup counter at Macy’s

Umm – the same thing they do to walls – nothing?

What really got me about this was I had put my friends through a rant on the very same subject over the weekend. We were playing poker & using a set of corporate-sponsored cards. The cards were emblazoned with the company’s slogan: Delivering Sustainable Value.

That’s it. Oh, there was a logo & website URL as well. I naturally don’t remember what the URL is and have only a vague recollection of the company name. I’d imagine that recall (or lack thereof) is pretty common. The thing that stood out for me was the tagline. That may even have been what was intended.

The problem? The tagline is totally meaningless. How do they deliver value? Who judges it to be sustainable? Who is this valuable to or how does one determine its value? I can’t answer any of those questions…and if I can’t you haven’t told me anything. You’ve just assaulted me with utter drivel.

Bad Marketer. Bad.

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Lots of Fizz, not a lot of flavour

Hat-tip to Joe Thornley of ProPR for pointing out this clumsy example of self-inflating marketing/pr. Joe’s talking about the launch of Sprite Yard, a new social network/community from Coke. There are good points on the legitimacy of this as a social network and even better points about the hyperbole and audacious rhetoric used in this release.

Among the more egregious examples (which, to be fair, Joe already highlights):

Forget Myspace and Facebook. That’s old news. Now, there is Sprite’s exclusive network called the Sprite Yard.

Coca-Cola expects the Sprite Yard to set new benchmarks for consumer brand engagement

Measurement metrics have been built in so Coca-Cola can track, in real-time, which features consumers are using most to the direct impact on beverage sales. It enables Coca-Cola to react very quickly to what their market wants.

How do you look if you don’t grow to be bigger, more entrenched, than Facebook or MySpace? What if you don’t set new benchmarks for consumer brand engagement? Do you know what those benchmarks are? How about you share them with us so we can track how you’re doing too? What if you can’t react quickly to what the market wants (for the record, I know of very few nimble multi-billion dollar multi-national consumer goods companies)?

A big problem with this kind of hype is not so much that everyone’s going to think you’re a blow-hard (and quite likely loose interest as a result – though that is a problem), it’s more that you are now backed into a corner with nowhere to build up to if things go well and nowhere to hide if things go poorly.

Choose your words wisely. You’re settng expectations for how people (consumers, media, advertisers) will judge you.

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