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Comment: Why clear communication is a pillar of marketing

by Karin Hausmann

Strategic marketing leader Karin Hausmann looks at why you need to communicate clearly to get messages across to your audience.

Cell vs Mobile

“Can I please get a SIM card for my cell phone”, I asked the friendly man behind the counter at Sainsbury’s in Camden. It was 2008, I just moved to the UK. “Excuse me?”, he responded looking very confused. I repeated my request a few times and after him pointing at all sorts of stuff behind the counter – from scratch cards to tobacco – I left empty-handed and wondered about going back to good old letter writing as my main means for communication. What I didn’t know then was that the friendly man was also not from the UK and a non-native speaker, apparently without having had the pleasure of binge-watching US sitcoms in US English…like I did.


Using the right language, words and terminology is important when trying to convey a message to your audience. And conveying a message – of your company, brand, or product – is one of the pillars of marketing. Nothing is permanent, the world around us is shifting constantly and the terms we used yesterday will have a different meaning tomorrow. It is one of the jobs of marketing to stay on top of these changes, because not doing that can get you and your brand in trouble. In the best-case scenario using the wrong language will mean that your audience has no idea what you are talking about; in the worst case you’ll might get sued, or just annoy them. A subject line talking about how the event “will spread good vibes” might have been great in 2018 but nobody wants to spread anything since February 2020. I am sure some of you will have also witnessed the very unfortunate – but I am sure not ill-spirited – use of language by Adidas after the Boston Marathon. And there are many brands that got language translations extremely wrong. There is not a lot of Coca Cola’s Real Magic in “Bite the Wax Tadpole”.


Keeping on top of how to best speak to your customers is hard and time intense, especially in the world of event marketing where some non-negotiable deadline is always looming. In addition, these delegate and visitor targets are not hitting themselves, priorities are often changing, budgets need to be re-forecasted and show guides signed off. The first things usually to come off the to-do list are activities that don’t immediately deliver a return on investment. And speaking to your customers will never be a quick fix to a problem, I know. But do anything you can to not let this slip off your priority list. Block out – at least – one hour each week to read industry news, speak to a knowledgeable media partner or a friendly customer. Plan your questions – it’s not just about asking them what you’d ask them anyway in the post-show survey. Have they seen your latest marketing campaign? If yes, what did they think about it? Was your message spot on or was something missing? What words would they use to describe their business/job function/priorities… and so on. Tim Ferris is so right when he says that “The way that you become world-class is…by asking the good questions.”

I went back to the same Sainsbury’s the next day, knowing what I needed and how to ask for it. I also picked up a scratch card and won £20. Not sure what the lesson here is. Maybe sometimes you need to take a big bite from that wax tadpole in order to do better next time.



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