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Doublespeak and Semantics: The Importance of Clarity in a Connected World

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May 15, 2014

Doublespeak and Semantics: The Importance of Clarity in a Connected World

By Michael Guta, Contributing Writer

Marketers today have many resources at their disposal to entice consumers with the products and services they sell, but that was not always the case in the past. In the 1920s, Lucky Strike was the preferred cigarette brand made by the American Tobacco Company, and it advertised its product saying "20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating'." This instilled trust in the product, and consumers believed they were harmless because it was endorsed by doctors. Whether the cigarette companies knew their products harmed their customers back in the 1920s is a matter of debate, but the resources available to consumers today makes it very hard to use doublespeak and semantics to sell a product.

All I had to do was Google (News - Alert) the effects of cigarettes, and I received 50 million results in less than 30 seconds, and the first one was from the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) with a fact sheet of how many people cigarettes kill every year; more than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke). The Internet has empowered consumers by providing valuable information about virtually every product or service being offered in today's marketplace, leaving very little room for marketers to use deceptive tactics no matter how benign they think it is.

In an article on, contributor Ava Myers asks whether marketers should play with semantics, and her answer is obvious; she says "NO!" She goes on to say "stick to calling things as they truthfully are instead of coating with euphemisms and hope gullible prospects will bite."

That last statement is very true, but even in the connected world we live in today there are marketers that try to pull a fast one over consumers. While their goal probably doesn't have any long-term ambitions, they nevertheless forge ahead because not everyone is well informed, which could potentially deliver a hefty return on their investment before they are found out. Even though there are marketers that intentionally try to deceive their customers, an innocent mistake can prove to be costly. It is therefore very important to ensure every touch-point used for a marketing campaign has been thoroughly scrutinized with clarity that cannot be misconstrued for anything else.

As Myers says in her piece, using a word that doesn't accurately describe something is "lying," and if you lie, it will be on Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter, YouTube and other outlets before you sell a single item. Semantics and doublespeak distances the consumer from the truth, and while in the past we might have said "eventually the truth will come out," today that eventuality takes place in the blink of an eye.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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