Importance of Language in Marketing

By Mash Bonigala (2786)

A Language is an innate ability only the humans among all the animals have. A language is verbal sounds used to express ideas. Most other animals have verbal sounds, too, but those sounds are limited and fixed. However, there are incidents where researchers have recorded a single bird giving out hundreds of calls with different notes each time, and a reindeer stag bugling with different notes, etc. Well, we are not fully equipped to understand the intricacies of the sounds of the other animals, but we can pretty well understand that a dog is angry and is about to bite by the different tone it uses in its series of barking!

The sounds used by humans are different, and there are sets of rules to put those sounds in a proper order to get the desired expressions depending on the situation.

Though there are other means of communication, such as sign language, chemical messaging which animals other than humans make better use of, color indications, and body language, etc., the verbal language has been the commonest and the most effective means of communication.

By the time a human baby is one year old, it starts to babble – tries to make sounds which are mostly meaningless to adults, but by the time it reaches the age of three, it begins to use specific sounds for specific purposes and there is no stopping, and it is surprising to know the number of sounds they use within those couple of years.

It is estimated that though there are hundreds and thousands of words in any given language, an average person uses 500 words at the most in everyday life.

Kinds of languages:

There are 5 to 7 thousand spoken-languages in the present world of which only 2-3 hundred are with written forms.

Kinds (types) within a language:

Every language has different kinds or types within itself. The differences within a language depend on the speakers and the purpose and situation. A professor, for instance, uses academic language when lecturing a class of graduates, using words like ‘demise’ for ‘died’, and the same professor uses an informal or conversational language with very little or no technical words when he is at lunch with the same class of graduates, using ‘died’ for ‘died’, and the same professor uses very informal or even slang language, sometimes putting in words like ‘crap’, ‘damn’, ‘heck’, etc. when he is with his close friends at a poker game, using ‘the bugger kicked the bucket’ for ‘he died’.

Therefore, language, depending on its usage, can be called ‘archaic’, ‘poetic’, ‘academic’, ‘formal – high-brow, mediocre and lowbrow’, ‘informal’, ‘slang’, ‘indecent or foul or filthy language in which mostly bad or vulgar words are used’.

The other differences called ‘dialect’, ‘accent’ and ‘creoles’ are sub-kinds which mostly depend on regional and racial differences. A visiting professor using academic language in his lecture may have a dialect and an accent entirely different from those of the class of graduates attending that lecture.

An apt example can be ‘cuppa’ which in Southern England is used for ‘a cup of’ may be unfamiliar, though not unknown, a word in the Northern part.

And there are other kinds that children in a particular environment using, for example, young school-going children use a set of vocabulary when they are on their own, and a group of street urchins uses another set of words all the time.

These sets of vocabulary are temporary and they go to disuse as the children grow up, and the fascinating thing is that the next generation of children uses sets of their own; they never reuse the words their peers used! Another complicated kind or type is ‘argot’ or ‘cant’, a kind of unwritten code language, used by thieves, smugglers, pirates, and gangsters, in order to keep their conversations from being understood by others even when they overhear them.

The other kinds are languages used by engineers and technicians, doctors and other medical personnel, newspapers & magazines, and business (marketing) people! It is not that they each use a different language but each of them uses different sets of words (vocabulary/terminology) in the same language.

Newspaper language, in written form, is basically different from the normal language, especially with the ‘headlines’. The headlines need to be short, yet very eye-catching, like, for example, for ‘a police detective was killed in a shootout’ the headlines say (rather scream) ‘SLEUTH SLAIN’.

Here again, there are differences: newspapers of high standards, newspapers for rural readership, newspapers for business, newspapers for gossip readers – tabloids, etc.

The language is different from one kind of paper to the other, not an entirely different language but different types within the same language. And the language of the newspaper also depends on the news item that has been covered.

For example, in an item related to a gang war, the vocabulary has a touch of slang to it, and in an item related to the Pope’s visit to the States has an entirely different set of words. An article discussing the Queen’s birthday is entirely different in its form and style from an article about a young actress who has recently divorced her fourth husband!

There may be some articles which are deliberately made slang, humorous (charade) or even filthy to be sarcastic or insulting to a particular person or a group of people. One such article (I personally feel that everybody who is interested in knowing how funny or vulgar the newspaper ‘headlines’ could be) is given below:

“Here’s a piece of advice. Never worry about what others may think of you as long as you are sure that you are doing the right thing. You’re not answerable to them but to God alone. I’ll tell you a story that shows how the media can say something else while telling the truth.

A pastor entered his donkey in a race. It won. He was so pleased that he entered it in a race again. It won again. The local paper read: “Pastor’s ass out front.” The bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity that he ordered the pastor not to enter his donkey in another race. The next day, the headline read: “Bishop scratches pastor’s ass.” This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the pastor to get rid of the donkey.

The pastor decided to give it to a nun. Next day’s headline read: “Nun has the best ass in town.” The bishop fainted.

He informed the nun that she would have to get rid of the donkey, so she sold it to a farmer for $ 10. The following day the paper read: “Nun sells ass for $ 10.” This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the nun to buy back the donkey and lead it to the plains where it could run wild. The next day the headline screamed: “Nun announces her ass is wild and free.” The bishop was buried the next day.” [‘ass’ = another word for ‘donkey’]

Language in marketing (business):

As with the language in the other fields, the language in marketing is also different from the common language. Though the business is run mostly on figures (numbers) on bank balance sheets, there is a need for the language in promoting the business in the form of advertisement (publicity).

Budget allocation for publicity is more crucial than for the production of goods, especially in the case of fast-moving consumer products, such as electronic goods – laptops, cell-phones, etc. – and the food items which change quite frequently as the technology develops.

A cell-phone brought into the market with certain new advanced features may become outdated within a few months because another cell-phone company is ready to bring in another model with much more advanced features into the market, and the present product must be made popular as quickly as possible because it is quite natural for the consumers to go for the latest models! The language used in such cases must be very tempting or luring, with a sense of urgency in it.

In today’s ‘internet age’, anything can be bought online. Not only the abstract goods but also the physical commodities can be ordered online! Every business establishment must have a full-fledged online service center to meet the demand of the online business transactions. In fact, there are markets, such as e-bay, for instance, which are based entirely on ‘online’ business transactions!

While so much business is going on online, there is obviously more need for more publicity on websites. Apart from the usual icons, models and color combination put into the design of the ‘logo’ and the other means of advertisement – jingles, movie slots on TV, hoardings – the language plays an important role in catching the eye of the customer and in explaining the qualities of the product and even more so when your website goes global.

In advertising the products or services of a business, the language used must be simple yet eye-catching, short yet elaborate enough to tell the customer what it is, and decent yet not too difficult for an ordinary customer to understand.

This is where the designer and the scriptwriter, copywriter, must show their utmost skill.

Starting from the ‘Tiger Balm’ for body pains, began in 1920’s in Singapore, which is supposed to be the first to have used pamphlets to educate its potential customers, to the modern Viagra, and from the traditional bakery cupcakes and cones to the latest pizza from Pizza Hut, every business needs to tell something about itself to its consumers in simple but effective language.

In the past, there used to be more space for the producer to publicize their product and more time for the advertising agency to make an effective design, and more time for the consumer to read and understand it. However, over the years, the cost of space, either in the newspapers, on radio, on TV or on hoardings (billboards), has increased enormously, and the consumer has less and less time to read and understand everything they see on the advertisement material of each of the products among an array of displays.

Another important point to take into consideration is the competition. In the past, there were only a few businesses producing the same product on large scale, and so there was a relatively less same-product rivalry.

These days, however, the same-product rivalry is very high. And though the schemes, features, benefits, price, etc. are more or less the same, no two companies must have the same logo or design or caption. Mind you, there are ‘copy-right’ legalities which, if breached, may ruin the entire business!

To overcome all these hurdles in a particular business, the publicity designer and the copywriter who uses the actual language must be thorough with what’s what and who’s who in the business world.

Most of the time the language used in publicity is simple and short without following the traditional grammar rules, like that of the newspaper headlines. Some clever copywriters, use the puns and other figures of speech to make their captions more attractive. There has been the practice of changing the spelling of a word to suit the context. The “Kwality Ice cream” is the best example.

Their name is their ‘quality’!

Without having to say it in so many words the brand name says that it is the best quality ice cream; the other examples could be ‘lite’ for “light” and ‘brite’ for “bright”! Another well-exploited word is any word with the letter ‘X’ in it which several designers and copywriters squeezed dry.

In the advertisement field, grammar rules have very little regard; they are not only bent but also broken mercilessly whenever a chance has arisen. The McDonald’s, for example, has this ‘I’m lovin’ it’ caption to mean ‘I like it very much’ or ‘I begin to like it much’.

According to the traditional grammar rules, verbs of perception, such as love, hate, feel, smell, etc. are not to be used in progressive form (continuous tense), but McDonald’s have used it and it has been a successful campaign; people love to listen to it.

Most of the captions for ads are in imperative mood: cautioning, requesting, suggesting, or declaring. Sensible copywriters are cautious not to make the caption give the sense of ‘ordering’ which may not be appreciated by sensitive customers.

Another important aspect is the ‘target’ customers. Not all products or services are for all ages and genders.

The designer and the copywriter must have ages and sexes of the customers they are making the ad for in mind all the time. While designing an ad for young people, the designer must make sure that the ad is full of thrills and enjoyment, and the language is out of the normal, breaking the traditional usage deliberately, and showing everything loud – loud lighting, loud music, loud colors… in other words, everything must be “Kool”, not ‘cool’, mind you.

While designing an ad for senior citizens, on the contrary, everything must be soft, quiet, reassuring, stable, comfortable and cool in the real sense to the eye, ear, and mind; and for children, the ad must be brightly colored but not ‘loud’, and it must also be appealing to the adults, the parents, because they are the ones that are going to buy the things for their children.

Though these points seem to be common and well-known to everybody, how and when to use them in the ‘logo’ or ‘web designing’ is the question that depends mostly on the creativity of the designer and the copywriter. The magic words ‘free’, ‘zero-risk’, ‘safe’, ‘sensational’, ‘easy’, ‘new’, etc. are short, simple and direct, and sure to impress the viewers, but have been over-exploited.

Here we have some amusing logo samples from ‘SpellBrand’, one of the foremost international logo designers, in which we see the deft command of the brand language in logo designing:

in the “Oshkosh” Nebraska ad the word ‘Capitol’ is used to mean the ‘center’ relating it to America without having to say it directly; in “The Mortgage Home’ the caption ‘mortgages made easy’ makes it really easy for the client to understand what it is; in the “Training Works” the three words – develop, inspire, achieve – fills the viewer with some instant confidence; in the “Bright Methods”, the caption ‘softening your skills’ gives us a sense of our wild skills being tamed and directed to some productivity.

The caption ‘don’t worry; eat happy’ in the “happy go foods” (the grammar rule is broken – eat happily – it is done so to rhyme happy with ‘worry’) the diet-conscious customer is unconsciously assured that eating the ‘happy go foods’ is harmless.

In the “digital express” the designer has exploited the letter X to make the design attractive and the caption ‘buy today… ship today’, makes it clear that the process of delivery is begun the same day as the order is placed; the four word caption ‘focus, analyze, strategies, plan’ in “Phillip Miller Trial Consulting” has said what this establishment does if you consult them on legal matters.

The simple caption ‘get color… get noticed’ in “Get noticed printing” has manipulated the word ‘noticed’ in the name of the establishment and the caption, saying that they print your product ad material in color which makes your product get noticed; “Just send a song” is a classic example of an ad for youth who love music – with the simple music notes mingled with the hearts, and the caption ‘when words are just not enough’ coos out a romantic connotation.

The lengthy caption ‘gifts for your pets and the people who love them’ in the “suburban zoo”, however, may not be a very idle one as it is too long for a caption, (the establishment may have chosen it, though); and the caption ‘have IT your way’ in “Seilon” ad is another classic example of how the words can be manipulated – the copy writer used IT (information technology) in the common saying for ‘having anything the way one likes it (that thing) to be’, but used them in capital letters to highlight the point!

And at brand agencies across the world, one can experience much more of such subtleties being handled in such a way to make one realize that not only the colorful design but also the language can be used to not only sell but also tickle the customers’ interests, tastes, and senses!!