Choose Your Word Carefully - Or Choose Noise.


Organizations today, before or amidst Covid-19 and the tragedy of George Floyd - have all struggled with words. And rightfully so. Words are important. They grant us clarity, provide comfort, agitate soul, assign value, achieve footholds. Words are powerful.

The number of organizations that currently exist, whether for-profit or non-profit, outnumber the available words worth planting a flag on, hence the growing list of available URL extensions that exist today.

Al Ries and Jack Trout, co-authors of the breakaway marketing classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, minced no words when it comes to word ownership. You MUST own a word in the mind of the audience you seek to connect with.

And while Donald Miller’s StoryBrand has evolved into the new marketing language of the day, the principles of word ownership and positioning have not lost their power or relevance.

I would argue, before you craft your story, own a word.

As mentioned in a prior post here, brands have a tendency to change their 'brand story' like they change their pants. Brand ADD is rampant.

HOWEVER, they can actually afford to, on occasion - change their ‘brand story’ ('brand pants’ if you will), by simply keeping their shirt on (think Steve Jobs and his black mock turtleneck) - they’ll still be remembered.

If your pants represent your story, your shirt represents the word you own in their mind.

For decades, Volvo owned ‘safety', until they stopped wearing the shirt.

Fedex owned 'overnight delivery', until they stopped wearing the shirt.

If 7-UP were to go back to assertively marketing themselves as the ‘Un-Cola’ you would see their sales spike. Because after people tire of cola (and now energy drinks) - what might they seek refuge from indulgence in? An un-cola. People swing to the extremes because they quite naturally - indulge. Binge. Etc., etc.

My word to 7-Up…”Put your shirt back on." No shirt. No sales. No service.

The thing is, if you own a word, you can tell a variety of different stories that support your master story as long as your audience stays the hero, and you represent a word and a story they want to own.

Seth Godin’s new language in the 90’s he was generous enough to gift us with was ‘The Idea Virus’. But even with creating ‘sneeze-worthy’ ideas and purple cows, neither of those analogies/metaphors could escape the need of owning a word in the mind.

If your brand doesn’t own a word for your hero to own with you, then you are likely telling stories that people might listen to if crafted well, yet, not ‘hear’, leaving no compulsion to share the ownership with you.

In a culture that struggles at staggering levels with ADD, thanks much to our addiction to notifications, we are a people hungry for stability. Owning a word in their mind, is like planting a flag on a hill in the midst of a bloody battlefield of noise.

Noise is not remembered. Become the ‘un-noise’. Own a word.

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