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Sarmistha Tarafder's Articles

Brand Marketing Words in the World of Tech Mayhem


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In a culture of visual and technological mobocracy, we have forgotten the power of words. Sad isn't it?

Yet, the greatest of the great were always aware of the strength of the words. And they harnessed it with superior charm and considerable acumen.

Most of us would agree that, Nelson Mandela is an icon of freedom and a powerhouse of forgiveness and statesmanship. However, did you know that, during his prison days, it was unlawful even to quote him (for the fear of massive uprising). And, here is why?

On 10th February, 1985, he was offered a release, if he renounced violence. And, he replied: "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts." (It stops you right on your track. Doesn't it?)

After his release, he said, “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are, and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

In this article, I have set forth not to denounce the science of visual communication (after all, there is no denying the fact that the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster) but to draw your attention to the clarity of your thought, your action and your goals. Clarity of mind gives rise to clear words. Clear words lay down the path of right action, leading to expected results. On the other hand, obscurity leads to deceit, disorder and dissatisfaction. It is the refuge to incompetence and shallow appearance. As, Oscar Wilde aptly says, “Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal.”

Here, I have ventured out to bring clarity to some powerful words that you may use to map our your marketing strategy. Mind you, strategy is different than a plan. Plan is what you execute. Whereas, strategy is "the translation of knowledge to practical life, the improvement of the original leading thought in accordance with continually changing situations.”  

PURPOSE empowers 'WHY' TO YOUR WORDS, so that YOU CAN live through the how. 

Clare Boothe Luce, the first American woman to hold a major ambassadorial post, once told President John F. Kennedy, "A great man is one sentence."

"Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph."

Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: ‘He preserved the union and freed the slaves.’ Franklin Roosevelt’s was: ‘He lifted us out of the great depression and helped us win a world war.’ Nelson Mandela's was: 'The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people.'

Purpose is not a philosophical abstraction that is nice to have. In fact, it is not even a moral conjecture. For all practical purposes, it is imperative that your business have one. Because, without it, you are bound to flounder. For starters, we have to understand that there are different kinds of purpose.

"Sometimes purpose is about values — who you are and what you stand for.

Other times, it is about value — what you do and how it benefits others."

Your job, as a marketer is to align "values with value" to find your company's core purpose and build your marketing and your product development around it. The more specific you can be in defining the character of your purpose, the more unique it will be.  

HOW Adidas STAYS innovative?

Purpose: 'Sport has the power to change lives.'

"We fully believe that sport has the power to change lives. Sport is therefore our very purpose. Everything we do is rooted in sport. And we also translate our competence in sport into streetwear and fashion because sport is also an attitude and a lifestyle."


Adidas has partnered with Parley and is turning trash into shoes, "shows that even waste that is harming the planet can be used to create something special." Embracing, the purpose to change lives, gives renewed reasons for Adidas to emphasize it's revolutionary product that is the result of superior manufacturing technique. It also galvanizes them as a power brand that is well poised to clean up our planet.
"This adidas x Parley running shoe is already iconic," said Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board member responsible for Global Brands. "It's a shoe for game changers. We can't wait to hear the stories of those who stand up, suggest creative solutions, take action and want to join us on our journey to clean up the oceans."


If you are reading this, chances are you are a part of the Silicon Valley startup culture. And, if you are, you are well aware of the startup jargon that everyone seems to be using without a well thought out purpose. “Content.” “Platforms.” “Synergy.” “End-to-end.” “Solutions.” "SAAS." "Cloud." — perhaps you resort to using one of such jargons, when asked, what does your company do. You might think that these words sound technical and grand. But, in reality they mean nothing and make it difficult for ordinary people to see how your product will benefit them. 


Ask it's founder, Michael Bergmann, the purpose of it's product. He will say, it is a "know how and synergy platform." But, what does that mean?

“A synergy platform means that many small businesses are on one platform and together they create value for them, because we can bundle their demand and they get better deals” he says. Still, what does that mean?


Yaron Ben-Zvi, the founder of Haven Life, whose background includes early stage financial services startups and a social media metrics company, was far from impressed by the state of the life insurance business. Haven Life Insurance wanted to talk to a younger audience, people who would be more likely to buy something strictly online and they wanted to radiate a brand perception that is easy, fast and honest. 

Even though the product functions on sophisticated platform, based on proprietary algorithm, they do not use technological jargon to make the sale. Instead, they get right to the emotional root, thus being tactical about the 'VALUE' and how it benefits others — a unique product that is completely online where you type in your information and you are essentially insured in 20 minutes. (Versus, the weeks it takes with other companies to get you started with your life insurance.)

Life insurance is one of the least rewarding products in the world. Built on technology, the purpose of this brand to highlight a 20 minute ritual and obtain immediate coverage that sets it apart from the big behemoths of the insurance industry.


"In an effort to either sound smart and attract investors, or to simply dress up an otherwise boring product, startups that rely too much on jargon end up alienating the users they want to attract."


"Purpose" is driving corporate responsibility and has become a foundation for responsible brands. For emerging brands, "Purpose" is the objective way to lay down your brand aspirations. In the age of visual abundance, it is easy to hide behind visual expression. Often times, as we have seen with numerous startups; the visual expression or the technical jargon doesn’t match their business objective, or it doesn’t match what was in their boss’s head. Often clients uses very clichéd words – optimistic, youthful, modern. But, theses are very generic terms and often, manifests itself in the design phase in very generic ways.

As a marketer or as a designer, power yourself with words. It should be the first tool in your kit that you go to. Because, people almost never seek out a product or a service for its meaningless jargon. They are looking for something that helps them better define or align with their identity.

 IN THE FINAL analysis

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Nelson Mandela was the master magician when it came to words and policy making — we are still trying to decipher the "Madiba Magic". He was a trailblazer in transforming the geo-political terrain of a country with a long history of racial violence and a brutal police force. And that transmutation was done almost entirely by leveraging the right words. He was on purpose to deliver a "rainbow nation" that would never again be seen as “the skunk of the world.”


Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies
Nelson Mandela: From Prisoner to President

Addiction to Meaningless Jargon