Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Business English in Today's Advertising World

If there's one thing English-speaking market folks love to talk about, it's cutting through the clutter. What exactly does this mean? It means: finding a way to get one's message through to the customer. The "clutter" refers to all the other stuff out there that gets in your way. In other words, just as you're trying to reach your potential customer with YOUR very important message, there are thousands of others out there also trying to talk to your customer. Their advertisments and their marketing messages are creating this "clutter."

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled "Notice me: Cutting Through the Marketing Clutter." Let's take a look at the first paragraph, with a focus on the business expressions in blue:

Even as customers are constantly bombarded with advertising messages, they are getting progressively better at tuning out the endless stream of come-ons. Companies then typically up the ante and try to out-shout their competitors to draw attention. All of which just leads to more shouting, and everybody is drowned out.


bombarded - like many business English terms, this one comes to us from the military. In war, bombarding a town means destroying it by firing heavily on it. Here, the expression means firing lots of advertisements at customers (advertising heavily to them). Just as today's consumer is bombarded by advertisements, he or she is also bombarded by SPAM, or unwanted emails.

to tune out - to ignore; to stop listening to

come-ons - offers, often misleading ones (the kind that promise you a free trip somewhere sunny or a free iPOD for doing just one little thing...).

up the ante - to do more than before; to take further action to try to achieve something; to do more than one's competitors

out-shout - to get your message across by advertising more aggressively - literally, to speak louder than one's competitors. This is a fun expression because it rhymes.

drowned out - not being heard because too many people (or companies) are talking at the same time. This is what happens when everybody is yelling at the same time - or when all companies are barking at you that you must buy their product. At some point, all the messages just become a lot of noise!

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