By Siddharth Prasad
If an advertising writer were given the means and the freedom to go out and kill a few of the words that cause him the greatest distress, ‘Warm’ and ‘Caring’ would be the first to get gunned down. Bang, bang. Just like that; quick and clean and with no room for remorse.
And of course ‘Empower’ would be the next to die (maybe even the first, depending on which the writer spotted first). At this point, our ace assassin would probably pause to think a bit. And if I had his ear, I would surely exhort him to choose ‘Exclusive’ as his next target.
The marketing community’s pursuit of exclusivity is a constant pain in the posterior, especially for those at the delivery end. Unlike the first three, whose mere presence could turn any advertising brief into an unintelligible nightmare, ‘Exclusive’ usually attacks from the pages of branding briefs. And when it happens, there’s not much you can do except call the pantry for a pitcher of strong coffee and pick up a couple of thesauri.
A word can only have a finite number of synonyms, and ‘Select’, ‘Prime’ and ‘Special’ were taken ages ago. So were all the superlatives in the English lexicon. Nowadays, you have little option but to Frenchify the spellings of innocent English words (‘Speciale’ and ‘Grande’ and other ‘exotique’ concoctions). You’re allowed a little Italian too, but only for fashion, food or real estate. No German, Spanish or Dutch, unless the product is from Germany, Spain or Holland. And no Russian. Not even if the product is a vodka (I had Liftoff, Buggeroff and Danceyourassoff turned down just last week – too old-fashioned, I was told).
And it gets worse if you’re doing sub-brandings for services or CRM. Earlier, you could rely on the metal hierarchy. A customer would start as plain, move up to Silver and aspire for Gold. And a flash of gold when you opened your wallet at a restaurant was enough to impress most mortals. But soon plain wasn’t good enough for anyone, and all customers had to be started off as Silver. So anybody who wasn’t plankton automatically became Gold. And that brought in Platinum at the top. But that was last year.
Now that telecallers are offering me Platinum credit cards just for not hanging up on them, I know even Platinum has lost its sheen. The fat cats are all discreetly displaying Titanium now, and Silver is forlornly gathering up its belongings and looking at the bus timetable. And in the relentless march of exclusivity, heads of marketing have begun the search for the next metal.