Why Brands Need to Mind Their Language

Marketers are often guilty of using meaningless terms and buzzwords – not just in the office (think “circle back” and “reach out”) but also when talking to consumers.

Brand research, too, often includes reference to phrases such as “forward-thinking”, “premium”, and “for people like me” – but what do these terms actually mean?

For marketers and research analysts, these expressions may seem straight-forward enough, but they can have an entirely different meaning to ordinary consumers.

Here at the7stars we recently conducted a research project in partnership with Trinity Mirror to better understand this disconnect.

Take the word premium, for example – marketers intend it to mean high-end or superior quality, but our research found that 35% of consumers are likely to consider a premium brand is one that they enjoy – Tetley’s tea bags were one such example. Consumers are also 19% more likely to think well-known is a trait of a premium brand. Pampers, for example was referenced in relation to being premium because it was popular amongst peers.

When it comes to the term “for people like me”, there appears to be little agreement even in media and marketing about who or what we are referring to. Some think of it in terms of demographics whereas others see it in terms of attitude.

Consumers feel equally confused by this ambiguous question – one respondent in our study described its meaning to them as “Relatable. An average British person, approachable” while another suggested it referred to “someone who belongs to a niche set of people outside the norm”.

As this phrase has varied interpretations, it’s clear that people need more guidance on who exactly brands are referring to when they say for people like me. It would be better for marketers and researchers to focus on specific and relevant aspects of context or identity – like someone my age, for example.

Another confusing term is “forward-thinking”. For marketers the phrase conjures up images of hi-tech and design-led brands – with marketing professionals 30% more likely to associate the term with being modern. For consumers, however, it is often interpreted quite literally. Trainline, for example, was considered to be forward-thinking because of the way it enables consumers to – quite literally – plan ahead.

There are also nuances by category; food and drink brands considered to be forward-thinking sold unique products, while news and media brands were considered forward-thinking if they were seen to be socially responsible.

Our research confirmed the importance of clarity in brand research and – on a wider scale – in any communication with consumers.

The interpretation of vague phrases can be wide ranging, and it’s important to remember that marketers may think different to the average Brit.

Ensuring that what is being asked is understood as intended comes down to removing jargon and being specific; clearly, there’s scope to be far more exact –across the industry – to ensure our research is accurate and our insights reliable.