Creative Review’s “Bold new identity”, as (most of) you realised, was a spoof but the convoluted terminology used to describe it was, largely, genuine…
The language used in the post was lifted from a variety of websites belonging to leading branding agencies. For example, Brand Union’s online case study for its work for the Chinese OCT group states that “The compelling truth uncovered has been articulated in this short phrase: Imaginators for providing quality living. The word ‘imaginators’ is an invented one, stumbled upon in our own brainstorming sessions – when the client kept referring to their ability and desire to innovate with our realization that they were a very imaginative organization.”
“Infonauts” (which is made up) was just substituted for “imaginators”.
The terms “brand muscles”, “premium cues”, “ideators”, “immersion expedition”, “accents denoting excellence and quality” all appear on branding agency websites while the other terms are widespread in marketing communications. The giant-size ® was prompted by an encounter with a brand manager who insisted on us using the symbol at the end of his brand name and at the same x-height as its characters.
The work of branding agencies can have genuine importance and value. Advising organisations on their internal structure, the way they perceive themselves and the way they express that internally to staff and to the outside world can make a vital contribution to their success. Any corporation, charity or public sector organisation needs to know what its aims are, what it stands for and how it wants the world to see it. Branding agencies, design studios and their ilk make that happen.
So why describe the mechanics of and work produced by this useful service in such tortuous, painful language? Why talk bollocks when you can talk sense?
Branding does not have a monopoly on the abuse of the English language – you only have to hear a politician wittering on about “stakeholders”, “cohorts” and “outcomes” to see that, or, indeed, read an architecture magazine. But the problem in branding is particularly acute. The press statements that accompany the launch of every new logo and corporate identity pass through layer upon layer of management and PR as the concept is justified internally and externally – the language employed is not entirely the fault of the designers. But it is doing their work an enormous disservice. How can we expect people to take an industry seriously if it insists in expressing itself in this absurd manner?
It smacks of a lack of confidence. If branding agencies were confident that their work was genuinely appreciated would they need to dress it up in such verbiage?
We have been accused of hypocrisy because we have quoted designers in the past who have employed such language in describing their work. That is to confuse straight reporting, which has a duty to be neutral and accurate, with comment. Just because we run a story on a project it doesn’t mean that we endorse that project nor that we approve of what its creators say about it. Nonetheless, particularly on the blog, we have to recognise that many people equate any kind of coverage beyond the outright negative with approval. And if we quote people spouting nonsense, no-one comes out of it with credit.
We hope this piece will prompt debate over brand agencies’ use of language in describing what they do. We will play our part by endeavouring not to let any future usage of the terminology cited here pass unnoticed.
Proper, intelligently applied branding work deserves to be taken seriously, but it won’t be if it continues to be expressed and explained in such verbiose, overblown language. And can we please put away the marbles too?