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Defining the Words That Define Us

  |  May 13, 2013   |  Comments

We may get seduced by 30-second commercials, display ads, and native advertising, but let's not forget that our ability to select the right words at the right time also has a great impact.

I've had the good fortune to write thousands and thousands of words for ClickZ and other publications about digital advertising. I've been doing it so long that I've seen the entire space move from media fad to force. Now I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write a monthly strategy column for ClickZ. In agreeing to do this I had a very specific objective in mind. My goal for this column is to discuss and debate the meanings behind some of the words used to define the space we inhabit in advertising.

So, here's how this will work. Every month I'll give you my take on defining a single word that has significant impact. If you have read some of my previous work, you already know I rely heavily on pop culture and sports references to make my point and this will be no different.

We occupy a fascinating space where "pictures are worth a thousand words" (or a billion dollars if you are Instagram) and "actions speak louder than words," yet words are our tool of the trade more often than not. Words inspire and motivate, they can harm and hurt, and they can take on different meanings depending on context. Take the word, "word," for example.

Merriam-Webster lists no less than eight different uses where the application in sequence changes the meaning of "word" from its root meaning to information or confrontational and other things in between. Brands have built iconic status on words. In some cases taking ordinary words and transforming them into something extraordinary.

"Just Do It."

"Breakfast of Champions."

"M'm! M'm! Good!"

I'd guess almost everyone recognizes those slogans from Nike, Wheaties, and Campbell's. Consider for a second the power of words. Campbell's defined its brand by building an association off an emotional and positive visceral reaction to interaction with its brand. In fact, the company uses sounds married to a single word, "good," to define itself.

So, while we all get seduced by 30-second commercials, rely heavily on display ads, and now embrace native advertising as well as social, let us not forget that our ability to select the right words at the right time will have as much impact as anything else we do. This is true not only in the work put into market but the interactions with employees and everyone else. In an increasingly limited bandwidth world where social media and mobile communication encourages fewer and fewer characters, our judicious use of words becomes all the more critical.

As Socrates once said, "The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms."

Or put into the modern day poet Christopher Wallace's words, "Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can't you see. Sometimes your words just hypnotize me."

My hope is this becomes interactive. What words do you think we should discuss and define? Post your comments on the ClickZ site or send a tweet to @C2Next.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.



Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next.

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