New words added to the English language

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for our language and its phenomenal array of words, so I was delighted to see two news items both reporting on the creation of new words today.

The first examined a whole host of new words invented (knowingly or not) by the most recent Apprentice departee; the second came from this morning’s Metro which reported some of the latest additions to the Collins English Dictionary.

I’m fairly certain that the Apprentice candidate’s creations won’t become widely accepted appendages to our national language, but with obscure words like “schooligan” and “Chindonesia” now formally recognised by Collins, you never know!

I doubt many PR or marketing professionals would dare to include such words in their copy at this point for fear of being rebuked by their clients so it does seems rather odd that Collins is prepared to give them space in its dictionary already. In my opinion, it will either be a very long time before they’re widely accepted and their meanings are understood by the masses – or they’ll simply fade away before they’ve taken off.

So, are these seemingly annual Collins announcements just a ploy to grab some headlines, or is it important for the progression of our language that these words become widely accepted as soon as possible? Are they key to our nation’s continuous development? The jury’s still out.

Businesses walking a fine line with social network exploitation

A former colleague of mine at Berkeley PR wrote a thought-provoking blog post this week about Gap’s logo redesign.

In case you haven’t heard; the fashion retailer recently trialled a new logo that was swiftly slated by social media users. I added a comment beneath the post:

It seems to me that the logo fiasco was actually a PR success for Gap. Whether you believe that “all publicity is good publicity” or not, it certainly got everyone talking about the clothes retailer and its strong, well-liked, established brand.

It also showed the world that this company is listening to its audience via social media. That’s a positive, forward-thinking message to be sharing with the market.

Not a bad result for such a naive branding error!

While my comment demonstrates that it initially seemed like Gap had made an honest mistake, people quickly began to wonder whether it was actually a sly move by the retailer designed to simply grab some headlines. The question on everyone’s lips became: is it a publicity stunt or a terribly misguided re-branding exercise? We may never know. It seems highly unlikely that the Gap team will come clean if it was a sham.

It has left me wondering, though, whether PR “stunts” will continue to succeed as people become savvier about how organisations can manipulate users on social networks. Could these kinds of exploit increasingly backfire, with companies being resented for employing such sly tactics?

It’s certainly food for thought.

Brand values: what’s it all really worth?

I had an interesting conversation last week about how much a brand is really worth.

Image source: Technorati

We were discussing discounts and how far different companies are prepared to drop their prices in order to entice new customers.

While many businesses believe that giving away freebies and hugely discounted items will ultimately result in a bigger customer base, others are of the opinion that as soon as a price has been discounted once customers will never want to pay the ticket value again. So, do big discounts de-value a brand, or are they just an unavoidable part of modern day marketing?

I’m sure it’s true that people don’t place as much value on anything that they’re given for free. Giveaways famously end up filling our bins but we’re determined to get the most out of everything that we feel we’ve paid a reasonable amount for.

It seems that every business needs to be able to find the right balance between setting prices that ensure the brand isn’t compromised and competing in this discount-driven market. How you do that, is up to you…

How do you use valuable information about your target audience?

Knowing who you’re trying to reach with the creation of marketing materials and messages is vital for success. Crafting these messages without a clear target in mind will usually leave you confused, frustrated and more than just a little discouraged when results don’t meet expectations.

Following a hugely successful celebrity appearance at work a couple of weeks ago, I’ve seen a number of stalls and stores in the centre capitalising on their new-found knowledge of a prime target audience: avid JLS fans. Branded jumpers have been given pride of place in window displays and the band’s 2011 calendars have suddenly been moved to prime spots at the front of shelves.

Once an audience like this has been identified, the sensible and smart thing to do is promote any wares that might be relevant as obviously and prominently as possible. Ignoring this kind of information would be a real waste, so I’m delighted to see that retailers are paying attention, making changes and identifying other opportunities to sell the stock that they now know should be flying off their shelves in the run up to Christmas.