Very good reminder here about the way words get diluted, and then useless. In my early days in the PC industry all software was supposedly “user friendly.” And that phrase ended up mocking, humorous, a caricature of hype.
In this same vein, Steve McKee writes Five Words to Never Use in an Ad in BusinessWeek. And they aren’t what I would have thought, but, as soon as I think about it, he makes a great point.
The words? Well, for example, he finds the same underlying problem with “quality,” “value,” “service,” and “caring.”
The above four words all fail for essentially the same reasons. Not only are they overused, they’re based on variables that will be different for everyone. There’s a quality/value/service/caring continuum in each person’s mind for every purchase occasion, and it is a continually moving target.
And the fifth word, “integrity,” is one that you have or you don’t; and you don’t get by proclaiming it.
A company either has integrity or it doesn’t. It’s either honest or it isn’t. And most people give companies the benefit of the doubt in believing that they operate with integrity. When a company talks about integrity in its advertising it’s for one of two reasons, neither one of them good: They’re either trying to cover up some lack of integrity (which never works) or they’re implying they live by a higher standard than their competition. That’s impolite, to say the least. Every company needs to have integrity. No company needs to advertise it.