Behind every brand, there’s a message. And, in that message, you can usually find choice buzz words that companies have carefully chosen in an effort to draw in consumers and stay current. By attaching their brands to catchy jargon or popular, new phrases, companies hope to stay top of mind and while promoting a positive image.
As noted on a recent CBS news segment, in the 1980’s, one of the most popular buzz words was ‘real.’ As Ronald Regan became president, people wanted to reflect a more rugged image and brands picked up on that very quickly. For instance, beef came out with a new slogan “real food for real people” while other companies like Winston’s cigarettes followed suit with an ad claiming “real people want real taste.” However, people’s enamor with the word ‘real’ was lost as reality shows gained hold of pop culture.
Later, in the 1990’s it was all about ‘extreme.’ There was extreme sports, extreme toothpaste from Aquafresh, and even extreme deodorant from Right Guard. What? It’s true. The movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle even made fun of the extreme phenomenon with the casting of some extreme sports punk antagonists. This buzz word fell from grace, however, once extreme plastic surgery came out, which had a certain ick factor to it that turned consumers off to the once popular buzz word.
Then, in the 2000’s ‘skinny’ became the buzz word of choice and still remains quite popular in today’s brand messaging. It began with skinny jeans in 2005 and caught on more widely as the fashion design gained traction. In 2008 Starbucks launched a skinny flavored latte and, now, we have everything from skinny water and Skinny Cow candy to skinny hair products from Paul Mitchell and Pepsi’s new skinny can design.
Beyond ‘skinny,’ though, what are the buzz words of today? Wikipedia has a list by category, but, according to advertising expert Barbara Lippert, brands are increasingly focusing on four main buzz words – social, smart, local and virtual. Also in the mix, especially for food products like Wheat Thins, Tostitos and Domino’s Pizza is the word “artisan,” which implies a carefully crafted product that took a lot of time and effort to produce. It’s a way to class up merchandise and maybe even charge a little bit more for it!
It’s always a challenge for companies to stay ahead of the curve and come out with a new word or phrase that will catch on versus appearing to just be jumping on the band wagon by adding buzz words. What’s more, buzz words can often aggravate consumers. If you start to hear the same words over and over again, it’s likely to get a bit repetitive and lose its meaning. Also, buzz words can sometimes cloud the benefits of the product or what’s actually being sold.
It’s a tricky balance, but there are certainly some brands that have mastered the craft. For instance, products like toothpaste, mouthwash or floss that use the word ‘whitening’ instantly stand out for me and influence my purchasing decision. Along those same lines, diet sodas, natural makeup or other long-lasting beauty products are winners in my book. What stands out for you? Are there other buzz words you’ve heard a lot lately or ones you think will catch on for the next wave of brand messaging?