Let’s Get Real: Navigating a World of Meaningless Expressions

We loved this look into modern language by Dan Pallotta from his recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “I don’t understand what anyone is saying anymore.”

Another term that has lost its meaning is “Let’s exceed the customer’s expectations.” Employees who hear it just leave the pep rally, inhabit some kind of temporary dazed intensity, and then go back to doing things exactly the way they did before the speech. Customers almost universally never experience their expectations being met, much less exceeded. How can you exceed the customer’s expectations if you have no idea what those expectations are? I was at a Hilton a few weeks ago. They had taken this absurdity to its logical end. There was a huge sign in the lobby that said, “Our goal is to exceed the customer’s expectation.” The best way to start would be to take down that bullshit sign that just reminds me, as a customer, how cosmic the gap is between what businesses say and what they do. My expectation is not to have signs around that tell me you want to exceed my expectations.

When trying to connect to people meaningfully, brands need to abandon jargon, acronyms, empty blah-blah and meaningless expressions.

It reminds us of one of our tenets, “Intelligently oppose the expected.”

So much of brand language is totally expected–and either falls on deaf ears or leaves people baffled.

The “intelligent” opposition to this is to speak plainly saying exactly what you mean.

And if you don’t, expect people like Dan Pallotta to turn to you and say, “I don’t have any idea what you just said to me.”

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