As marketers scramble their reactions to pandemic, our vocabulary has become rather monotone. Messaging that rushes in to win consumer awareness, often trips over itself. We should put our marketing language through quarantine first. Barely 30 days into the crisis we are collectively facing, a handful of words have been used, and over-used ad nausea – present company not excepted!
Here are the words we have relied on too heavily in a microscopic period of time. They create repulsion through frequency, rather than the empathetic bonds they were intended to build. Additionally, the choice of words is very telling of our collective consciousness in the moment:
#1 Quarantine Word – Uncertainty:
Topping the list of words to avoid, “uncertainty” is certainly everywhere. Equally ubiquitous is the eagerness to provide a certain antidote. Whether it is meditations on hope, or webinars for financial planning, uncertainty is front-of-mind. Each offering promises relief from our uncertainty. Unfortunately, while we all can appreciate the sentiment of support, the impact is already getting lost in the repetition. Focusing on uncertainty also preys on the natural fear generated by wholesale change. Beating the drum only makes it louder. It’s great to know we are not alone in our doubt and fear, but real certainty occurs when we focus on solution, instead of our dread.
#2 Quarantine Word – Pivot:
Everywhere we turn, organizations are finding creative ways to do business differently. Some have entirely new products and offerings while others are finding alternate channels for delivery and distribution. New partnerships are bubbling up as well.
In all these situations, they are said to be “pivoting.” These dynamic organizations unquestionably deserve praise for their flexibility, and ability to adapt and thrive.
However, businesses should always be looking for opportunities to do this, regardless of circumstances.
So, congratulations! These organizations were forced into doing what they ought to do anyway. It once was called “innovative” back in – oh – February of 2020 – and apparently few organizations were as innovative as we once thought.
#3 Quarantine Word – Virtual:
From virtual events to virtual hugs, we are now describing our main solution for connecting during social distancing as if it were not real. Unreality is certainly one of the definitions of “virtual” (not physically existing as such, but made by software to appear to be so) but it is not the only definition of it.
Don’t try to tell me the conference call I just had with 11 people wasn’t real! It was very real. It was excruciatingly, no-excuse-for-being-late, who’s-that-lurker-on-the-phone-without-a-name, talk-over-one-another, kids and dogs in the background – real. And we got a lot of work done, real-time, faster than if we had had a “real” meeting.
“Virtual” everything was unique and cool for about a nanosecond. Then the shift to doing almost everything online became overwhelming, via its omnipresence. Lastly, it made many users question why it took so long to change.
So now connecting through technology is here, not as a pale substitute, but as a highly valid choice. That is not virtual. It is 100% real.
#4 Quarantine Word: A 3-Way Tie – Strange, Unprecedented, Unusual:
Let’s be clear: while no situation is ever exactly like any other, there have been various global experiences, such as bubonic plague and world wars, which have striking similarities to the societal tremors (terror of transmitted death, critical supply shortages, heroes risking their lives on the front lines, economic upheaval) we are experiencing. Let’s also be clear that many scientists and economists have been telling us for decades that this pandemic would eventually tear through the fabric of our society.
So, no. These times are no stranger, more unprecedented or unusual than any other time. You might still be in shock, denial or some other stage of grief over your previous existence. However, although we allowed ourselves to be caught unaware, bemoaning the strangeness, et al, just keeps us stewing in our victimhood. Get up, and get busy doing the next right thing.
As we recalibrate our existence, pay careful attention – not only to the words you are using, but also to what they imply. As marketers and influential leaders, we have a responsibility to remain vigilant. Language can sweep through the fabric of our society and infect our thinking just as swiftly, unexpectedly – and fatally – as any pandemic.