Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Talk Is Cheap

Smart as a Cloud
Rule: Just because you use the word "just" in front of a request, doesn't make the request any easier. Or cheaper.

Example 1: I just want a new website.

Example 2: Just eat this car.

Example 3: Just bring the troops home.

People seem to have a lot of unfounded faith in the magic of words, as if they are incantations to insure success (more on this later). Saying that you just want to be rich doesn't make you rich, any more than saying you just want to go to the moon will get you to the moon, much as the word "just" seems to shrink the scale of the task.

There are a lot of useless, magic words like this. Putting the adjective "creative" in front of something, doesn't make it creative. It just comes across as wishful thinking. In fact to use the word "creative" at all betrays the opposite, especially if you're using it to describe your own creation. If it's creative, it will be obvious--at least to people who know what creativity is. Garnishing it with the adjective doesn't do it.

Nor does the word "strategic" in front of a noun make it strategic. People in marketing love this word "strategic." It sounds so grown up and important and has that militarized, metaphorical feel to it (like "target" or "campaign"). But I've found that hardly anybody in marketing would know a strategy if it were chewing on their finger. If you define your role in a company as having responsibility for "strategy" it might mean you have no idea why they hired you and are wondering when they're going to catch on.

Another Talk-Is-Cheap example is the overuse of the word "success." Merely using the word "success" in speeches and on your website won't make you successful. In fact, without saying what you mean by the word "success" you only look like a fool to say it. How often, when poring over the brochures or sites of schools, do you come across the promise, "Our mission: to help your child achieve success." Notice how they never guarantee it--they only "help"--a defensible hedge. And notice they don't specify what they mean by "success." It's an old marketing gimmick to keep the promises vague. Success is when your tuition checks don't bounce.

Then there's that other overused word in marketing: "Smart."  Smart seems to apply as the amorphous quality of anything that essentially has no qualities. It's the Styrofoam of virtues. There's a very expensive, effects-heavy spot for IBM running now with good looking people saying that your computers are now "smart" because they can use Cloud Computing. They don't say why this is smart. They just use the word over and over and you're supposed to buy it. To tell you the truth, the whole idea of Cloud Computing in this environment of crummy WiFi, bad cellular networks, crashing servers, and cyber-hacking doesn't sound particularly smart at all. It sounds pretty reckless. And dumb.

That's all I wanted to say. I'll probably say it again, mostly because I like to rant, it's my blog, and talk is cheap.

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