Business Has a Language Problem

Business Has a Language Problem

John Gruber points out the headline to Microsoft’s press release announcing Windows Phone 7 from a few days ago:

“Windows Phone 7: A Fresh Start for the Smartphone: The Phone Delivers a New User Experience by Integrating the Things Users Really Want to Do, Creating a Balance Between Getting Work Done and Having Fun”.

That’s title and sub-title.  It says quite a bit without saying much of anything, although to us marketing types know the intent is positive and well-meaning.

Then there’s the introductory quip from the release.

The goal for Microsoft’s latest smartphone is an ambitious one: to deliver a phone that truly integrates the things people really want to do, puts those things right in front of them, and either lets them get finished quickly or immerses them in the experience they were seeking.

This is worse.  I know it sounds perfectly suit-and-tie serious for shareholders and enterprise IT folks who will be asked to add WP7 to their smartphone whitelist, but this can be so much better.  Saying ‘deliver’ and ‘integrate’ and ‘immerses’ in the same sentence is way too wordsmithed to come out on the other side meaning much to potential customers, especially the tech-savvy and jaded smartphone crowd.

So many businesses don’t get this, but want to.  They want to connect with their customers, to have real conversations, to speak without needing that abstraction layer so many find necessary to lay atop normal speech.  In fact, if you ask a company marketing exec to explain an idea, they more often than not will do a great job verbally.  Ask the same exec to write down the idea, and out comes the B-school speak.  Why?  I don’t know, but it happens even when executives are actively trying to speak to their customers over social media — a conversational medium if there ever was one.

I don’t have the solution nailed down yet, but there is a problem.  And it’s a problem nobody wants to have — that’s the ironic thing.  Nobody says, ‘This paragraph is too crisp and clear.  Can we muck it up a bit with some business clichés?”

As Gruber notes, let’s go back to 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world.

Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.

Simple as that.  There’s nothing integrated, there’s no leveraging, nobody’s being immersed, and there’s absolutely zero alignment going on.  Here’s what we’re doing, here’s the product, and oh by the way it will do the talking from here on out.

Everyone wants that style, but so few get there.  And that’s a bummer, because it’s a fight worth fighting.


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