Fast Company

Seven Words

No, not those seven words.

The seven words I’m talking about are just fine with the FCC but maybe deserve a little more scrutiny from the FDA.

We all know these words: green, organic, free-range, all-natural, low-cholesterol, biodegradable, and pure.

These are seven words we should never use to describe our brands. Although pure really shouldn’t be on the list. It’s such a noble-sounding word. King Arthur was pure. Dudley Do-Right was pure.

But our brands are not pure. They may be pure chemicals. They may be pure sugar (but probably not). More likely, they are pure nonsense.

The reason we should not use these seven words (and the list is certainly longer) isn’t just that it’s misleading, or even dishonest. It’s that nobody believes us (see Green Fatigue).

It’s as if we could just take the good old days of bolder and brighter and replace those words with greener and leaner and everything would be as it was before.

It’s as though we could just hand a few empty words to our fellow shoppers and everything will be okay again in our world.

George Carlin once said that words were just tools to conceal the truth. In fact, he used words to expose what he saw as the truth. George Carlin was a comedian and a gosh-darn funny one.

But what’s so funny about truthful words in branding?

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  • Mark Zorro

    Just to set my own non-blog record straight (personal choice not simply as public opinion), though I didn't quite appreciate Tom Stern's non-Carlinian approach to the "Seven Words" Tim Manner's ones do make sense to me because they, as he alludes to in his article, speaks to a Carlinian (George Carlin) truth, except in my interpretation it is about how we the consumer know that we are not blind to the obvious, but simply look at our own watch to keep time on what we attend to and so choose to ignore or pretend that the obvious doesn't exist. (I think Tim is saying that brand owners are assuming or need to wake up to this privilege that we the consumer hands over to branders). I therefore personally think the answer to why truth can become circumspect with branding lies in our own stomach and brain, not just simply because the consumer is becoming that much more suspicious by brand proliferation or via accumulation of brand nonsense (very few consumers have the time or inclination to nail the Cluetrain Manifesto on the brand marketers door). These (the brain and stomach) are the only two parts of our human body which reside within us as a knotty tangle. Not to suggest like Micheal Gershon does that the stomach is our second brain, but if it is a second brain, we (the consumer)don't make effective use of it either. I make a huge distinction between well coordinated professional branding, which only a few bright sparks really know how to really do well over a lifetime value relationship (love that kind of marketing jargon) and the branded existence or branded life (which I view with the same endearment I would have for, lets say, slavery and incarceration), which I have no time or place for (IMHO all pseudonyms are brands and most brands do represent nonsense and nonsense is such a personal thing that it is a shame that anyone would want try to keep on branding it). Whether truth remains a knotty tangle just like the human brain and stomach is shaped within us; what essentially matters isn't, as much, the long-term integrity of branding but the collective we (as consumers) to notice how we can consume with our stomachs that which we protest with our brain. It is therefore up to us "consumers" to determine how we straighten out our own lives (remember this is a consumer opining and not a brander thinking about how a consumer should opine) - but if we simply consume the brand while we are indifferent about the knotty tangles upstairs and downstairs within us, then we simply accept this knotty tangle (that George Carlin knew we can be) whenever we point our fingers at others as though we the brand that is the consumer is still virgin, saintly or G.Forbid ....PURE in some way (and not to mention organically green and overgrown in our consumer-orientated thinking). I guess therefore that the fault here lies not simply with branding, but principally with our own consumption of advertising, which is one of the two ugly sisters alongside Public Relations, where Cinderella story of "Branding" is called Marketing. The good thing about branding is when the shoe finally fits and it is we the consumer who personally socially endorse and commercially approve all these mythical narratives (non-commercial myths are called opinions and therefore require no branding).....M.