Make it Real, Not Rote

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July 31, 2014
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Three times on my last flight, the pilot and the flight attendants invited me “to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.”

Wait – they know we’re on a plane, right? Have they seen what the cabin looks like? Why do they keep “inviting” me to do things that can’t be done on a commercial airliner? A more honest line – “We know it’s a full flight and we’re going to try to get you there on time so you can enjoy your day” – would have done a better job of establishing the brand connection they were probably trying to make. The rote announcement just made me think they were out of touch.

A few days later, at an insanely busy taqueria, I asked the harried waitress for a few extra tortillas. “My pleasure,” she said without any trace of actual pleasure. “Soon as I can,” would have been more real. But waitressing is a tough job, so you gotta let that slide.

Then, because it was tax time, I got a form letter from a charity that I support. “I want to personally thank you for your donation,” the executive director wrote. Really? Was he planning to stop by the house? Because that’s the only way he could thank me personally.

There’s really nothing terrible about these three pieces of language. They’re imprecise and inauthentic, yes. But they’re also just habits we fall into, like saying “fine” when someone asks how we’re doing. Without a little boilerplate, we’d never make it through the day.

Still, if you really want to connect, you have to develop an ear for rote usages like these and replace them with something real. The standard is, if you say it, make sure you mean it.

In the rush of everyday life, that’s not always attainable. In marketing and branding, it’s a must. Think about it.

And have a nice day.

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