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My first career was in the restaurant industry. One thing we had to do was attend wine tastings held by the distributor so we could suggest new wines for the chain. Being only 22 years old, and not knowing a thing about wine I was totally out of my element. We had no pretty words to say. The other attendees usually had haughty remarks that indicated their high level of knowledge on this subject. My equally ignorant co-worker and I would make comments on the “legs” and say it was “oaky” without a clue as to what we meant.

And then we decided to make up one standard observation. For just one wine out of the bunch, I would taste it, cock my head and say “it’s oblique. Without being obtrusive.” My writer friends know that phrase means absolutely nothing. But invariably the other snooty guests would nod their heads enthusiastically in agreement. And we realized, nobody really knew anything about wine. We were just parroting pretty words that we thought might be appropriate to the wine, and the occasion.

As content marketing becomes more and more popular I’m seeing more and more variations on this “oblique without being obtrusive” comment within business writing. We’re “building bridges” and “creating journeys” and “transforming customer experiences” right and left. Unfortunately for the average customer or business buyer, these phrases just slide by in a blur. Don’t get me wrong; I’m as guilty as the next marketer in writing way too many of them. But seriously, it’s getting out of hand.

Brands seem to be getting better from a blog perspective but that may be due more to trying to get that green light from the Yoast plug-in, than from avoiding pretty words. It’s where the brand, product or service describes what they do where it gets kind of fuzzy. And unfortunately that’s where most companies need to deliver the straightest scoop of all.

Here are a few examples I found on corporate sites. (Pardon me for making fun of big agencies and consulting firms.) You tell me if you understand what they do or provide. I’ll try to provide my own translation:

  • Winning in an experience-led market means being hyper-focused on the customer and agile enough to offer new, connected experiences that flex to accommodate individual needs. (Accenture)
    • Translation: They’re saying that everybody wants something different and they’ll try to match it with some kind of services that makes people want to buy more stuff.
  • Deloitte’s Operations Transformation practice helps clients implement their corporate strategy, transform their core business and operations, prepare for growth, embrace the digital agenda, and maximize operational efficiency.
    • Translation: They basically know how to run your business way better than you do, and your business will die if you don’t hire them because people won’t buy more stuff.
  • Consumers demand a dialogue and expect an empowered role with the brands they interact with, and the communities they touch. (Edelman)
    • Translation: We’re afraid we have less influence than we used to so we’re trying to prove that public relations can still make people buy more stuff.
  • We are strategic partners matching dynamic, cutting-edge companies with innovators, creators and experts. (Can’t say, friend would stop talking to me.)
    • Translation: We’re a staffing firm but want to sound more glamorous so you’ll pay more for staff/buy more staff.

Personally, I’m really not sure I want an “experience.” I want to find out the answers to my questions quickly and easily to see if I want to buy that “stuff.” to determine if I want to buy. The self-directed buying cycle is taking over just about every brand, product or service provider’s sales funnel. And that type of consumerism demands direct, to the point information.

Have some great examples of pretty phrases in business marketing? Leave them in the comment section. Or try your hand at translating the comments above.