24 May 2009


I brazenly tweeted something about messaging a couple of weeks ago. And, probably rightly, Ian and Will called me out on it. Twitter's not necessarily the best discussion medium and I know this is one of those me-versus-the-world things, so I'll do my best to stumble through an explanation why in this post. Be warned, it probably gets a bit worthy. I sort of have a problem with the word "messaging". There's something about it that makes me want to brush my teeth after I've said it. But I feel perfectly fine about "message" or something much more prosaic and amateurish like "copy" or "the words". I'm not saying those are necessarily viable alternatives or anything. They just sit easier with me. There's a couple of (related?) levels to this I think. The first is purely semantic. Messaging sounds like it was grown in a petri dish somewhere, contrived and grafted onto a piece of visual communication. It's one of those marketing neologisms that just feels too abstracted for my liking. It's not like you'd find one human being passing on "a messaging" to another. It's not The Messaging by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. That would be weird. Whereas message seems a bit more genuine, in a weird kind of way. And the others have a touch of naivety about them. They just feel more human. Of course, whether you call it messaging or a message, it's the same thing. I'm not kidding myself. It's still from a brand to a person, in order to stimulate a purchase or use, or to attempt to ensure loyalty. The only difference is charm, I suppose. Like when planners talk like people and not like a cliche of themselves. Which is the neatest way I can find to bring me on to the other level. Messaging feels a bit like it belongs in the more we speak/you listen, disruptive world of advertising. Not to say the whole disruption thing doesn't still exist. Of course it does, it always will to some greater or lesser extent - it's just that we're better off aiming to engage as well as disrupt. Because there's lots of ways of having a dialogue or other interaction with brands. You don't need me to tell you what they are. But I've still sat at a table in meetings where people say things like, "Then users do a behaviour." Which, while it doesn't entirely preclude conversation, doesn't really feel in the spirit of a value exchange. If you're a brand seeking to join in a conversation I think it benefits you to think as human as possible. You just understand the interestingness or usefulness you bring to people better that way. It doesn't mean your brand is human...but it does mean it's something like aspiring to the quality of a fictional character. For me, if your brand is trying to be as human as possible, the language you use in the planning and making of your product/service/comms really matters, because it reveals how you see your relationship with your consumers. And a trace of that, no matter how small, will be visible in all your public touchpoints. So to think one way and try to talk another doesn't really work. Well, that's how I feel anyway. Down with messaging. Long live the message. Because if The Specials had recorded a song called A Messaging To You Rudy, it would have been rubbish. *shuffles off sheepishly*

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