Descriptive Marketing


by Kenny Hyder

Drive SlowA friend of mine is a writer/editor for a com­pany that publishes refe­rence books and research mate­rials. Des­pite my upmost res­pect for her as a wri­ter, we often get into deba­tes about gram­mar and whether or not com­monly used phra­ses are pro­per English. She favors what you would call a desc­rip­tive phi­lo­sophy of the English lan­guage. In her words:

In a desc­rip­tive phi­lo­sophy of English, the lan­guage is desc­ri­bed as it is used rather than how cer­tain autho­ri­ties presc­ribe it should be. In a presc­rip­tive phi­lo­sophy, the rules dic­tate the lan­guage. For exam­ple, our gene­ra­tion often says: “I’m gonna” rather than: “I’m going to” — a presc­rip­tive gram­ma­rian would deem this inco­rrect, whe­reas a desc­rip­tive gram­ma­rian would not asc­ribe any right or wrong to its usage but rather would accept the lan­guage as it is spo­ken and adhere to the belief that lan­guage lar­gely dic­ta­tes the rules.

Whether or not she is right or wrong about this and other argu­ments is an ongoing debate — howe­ver, I believe that the idea of presc­rip­tive vs. desc­rip­tive phi­lo­sophies has rami­fi­ca­tions in other areas as well. In my world this means marketing.

Mar­ke­ting, whether online or off, ought to be thought of as desc­rip­tive in this same sense. Your mar­ke­ting should be defi­ned by the needs and oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sen­ted from your cus­to­mer base.

Chev­ro­let vs. Chevy

Chevrolet ChevyRecently, Chev­ro­let told its emplo­yees that they were to no lon­ger to use the word “Chevy” in an attempt to con­so­li­date their brand. I am not going to even try to unders­tand their thin­king on this deci­sion. All I can come up with is “WTF?”

Not only has Chev­ro­let been using “Chevy” to brand them­sel­ves for years, “Chevy” is a part of its cus­to­mers’ ver­na­cu­lar. I can’t remem­ber the last time I heard someone refer to their Chevy as a “Chev­ro­let.” It just doesn’t feel right. From a num­ber of stand­points, a case can easily be made for Chev­ro­let to employ the use of “Chevy” as strong bran­ding tool:

  • It has less sylla­bles and is easier to pro­nounce and spell
  • It’s a nick­name, which often indi­ca­tes a term of endearment
  • It has been hea­vily satu­ra­ted into pop-culture, inc­lu­ding various songs

Someone obviously caught on to these things back in 1957 when they star­ted incor­po­ra­ting “Chevy” bran­ding into their tele­vi­sion adver­ti­se­ment cam­paigns, and the two names have been synony­mous ever since.

Presc­rip­tion for Failure

PrescriptionSomeone clearly for­got to remind the cor­po­rate exe­cu­ti­ves at Chev­ro­let of the old idiom “If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.” Rather than con­ti­nuing to run with “Chevy” and capi­ta­li­zing on the fami­liar and trus­ted brand that its cus­to­mers have embra­ced, the com­pany is choo­sing to presc­ribe a mar­ke­ting stra­tegy that is con­trary to its own suc­cess. This is a clear and obvious mis­take on Chevy’s part because they are trying to con­form to a rule they think ought to exist.

When there are no phy­si­cal, legal, or moral rami­fi­ca­tions to brea­king a rule, why would anyone choose to con­ti­nue to adhere? Espe­cially when abi­ding by that rule means serious detri­ment to your reve­nue stream, repu­ta­tion, or any other mea­sure of success?

Rules Are Meant to be Broken

No ShootingWhile there are not neces­sa­rily rules that dic­tate the do’s and don’ts of mar­ke­ting, there does seem to be a corre­la­tion of tac­tics and methods used.  The con­cept of  “desc­rip­tive mar­ke­ting” would say that we ought to use any method or tac­tic that makes it easier or bet­ter for us to mar­ket our products/services, rather than follo­wing a set method that has been pre­de­fi­ned. While this makes sense in theory, I don’t always see it put to use in prac­tice. I see peo­ple blindly follow rules set out by Goo­gle, not kno­wing the real con­se­quen­ces or rewards of brea­king them. Peo­ple follo­wing a “code of con­duct” online, because “spam­ming” is bad and anno­ying — but what if it made you more money? Dro­ves of rea­ders follow the advice of blog­gers they’ve never even met rather than doing their own tes­ting, prod­ding, and pro­blem sol­ving. If we are fine with using the phrase “I’m gonna” because it faci­li­ta­tes our speech, even though it may be presc­rip­ti­vely inco­rrect, what limits us from pushing the enve­lope in our work, lives, and other areas?

Ima­gine what your con­ver­sa­tions would look like without desc­rip­tive collo­quia­lisms; now con­ver­sely, ima­gine how big your hori­zons could be broa­de­ned if you began to think desc­rip­ti­vely about your mar­ke­ting, bran­ding, and vision cas­ting. Maybe it’s time to start thin­king dif­fe­rently. I know I’m gonna.

Photo Cre­dit: the_munificent_sasquatch, z5, vote­prime

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