Yo, WTF is up with slang? Is it a legit way of using language? Or is it totes ridiculous?
Those are just some of the questions we’ve been pondering at Duncan/Day. The topic of slang came up in a meeting when one of us asked what in the world “on fleek” means. Of course, we went down a rabbit hole and came out the other side with more information than we had bargained for.
To understand where slang comes from and why it is so widely used, we first must define what slang actually is. Dictionary.com defines slang as, “very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language.” As you probably noticed, we used several examples in the absurd opening paragraph here.
But slang doesn’t have to be so over the top. It’s very likely that you use slang words and phrases in your every day life, even if you think you are a perfectly proper speaker. For example, many of us use the phrase, “What’s up?” to greet a friend or colleague. Of course, you’re not actually asking the other person to look up and literally tell you what they see.
However, a non-native English speaker who is new to the United States might misunderstand the common phrase. This is because slang is often used by people in the same group and not understood by people outside that group. You could say that slang is simply in-group ways of using language.
Think of the many social groups you belong to. I’m sure you can think of words that group uses that others would not understand. For example, people who use Reddit will know what “OP” and “TLDR” mean, but people outside of the online forum may not understand these acronyms. (OP = Original Poster/Post. TLDR = Too Long, Didn’t Read.) People from different countries, races, age groups and industries all have terms like this that are only used in their circles.
But where do these terms come from? Well, slang evolves the same way formal language does. It can be an acronym like LOL or it can be the shortening of a word, like legitimate to legit. Slang can be the combination of words, like sleazy and skanky combined to make skeezy. Alternatively, slang can be using a proper word in a completely new way. An example of this is using the word literally to describe something figurative.
Slang often pops up randomly and in one particular group. A term might become more popular as it is shared among similar groups. For example, 1930s jazz singers originally used the term gig. As more and more performers of different types began to use the word, it became part of the lexicon. As sometimes happens, gig has transformed from a slang term to a proper word.
Sometimes, however, slang does not move from group to group. Instead, it stays in one particular group and grows to be associated with that subculture for decades to come. A great example of this is the word groovy. Originally used by hippies in the 1960s, it is still associated with that culture today.
Other times, slang simply dies out. For example, a buzzer used to be a slang term for a police badge in the 1930s. Today, if you tried to use that word in that context, most people would have no idea what you were talking about.
Etymologists still have a lot more research to do before we completely understand how slang terms come about, why some stick, and why others fade out. But one thing’s for sure: slang, as a concept, is here to stay. People will always find new meanings in words and completely invent new words for eons to come. Foshizzle.
I was driving in my car, listening to the ‘90s Pop station on Pandora when suddenly I heard a familiar voice yell, “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW,” followed by the catchy beat of C + C Music Factory’s masterpiece, ‘Gonna Make You Sweat.’
In that instant, I was no longer a grown woman on her way to do her weekly grocery shopping. I was a little girl in her daddy’s living room dancing her heart out. My arms were flailing, my face was grinning and my dad was cheering. Everything was perfect and I had no worries.
You probably have triggers like that too. It’s the smell that immediately takes you to Grandma’s house. It’s the rock anthem that takes you to high school in the back seat of a muscle car. It’s nostalgia, and it is incredibly powerful.
The smallest stimulation can transport us and fill us with joy. It can reconnect us with lost loved ones, warm our hearts, and plant smiles on our faces. Nostalgia is raw emotion, so it’s no wonder we see it in marketing so often.
Where We See It
Brands from all sorts of industries are using nostalgia to connect with audiences. One great example is RadioShack’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial. Anyone who remembers the ‘80s with even an inkling of fondness would smile at this commercial. With Hulk Hogan making an appearance, how could you not?
More great examples include Autotrader.com’s funny Dukes of Hazard spot, the Reading Rainbow’s new Kickstarter campaign, and Burger King bringing back the chicken fries. There’s no doubt brands have caught up to the age of #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday.
Warm, Fuzzy Feelings
In the 17th century, Swiss doctors thought that nostalgia was a mental disorder caused by being around too many animals. Luckily, science has come a long way since then. We can be sure experiencing nostalgia is not a mental disorder, but rather a common occurrence that causes an array of positive emotions.
Recent research has shown that we tend to have look back fondly on events involving people we care for and/or were meaningful to us on a personal level. This is why our minds often look back on graduations, weddings and birthdays with such affection. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggers this fond feeling.
But researchers have found one potential trigger: loneliness. Most commonly, people are susceptible to nostalgia when they are experiencing feelings of isolation. So why would any brand want to be associated with nostalgia if it’s triggered by negativity?
Although unhappy feelings cause nostalgia, they are not the end result. When a lonely person is triggered by something that makes them feel nostalgic, they can experience increased mood, improved self-esteem, less stress, and an optimistic viewpoint. The brand that caused the nostalgia is then credited, either consciously or subconsciously, with turning that person’s frown upside down.
Social Sharing Supremacy
How many times have you seen a BuzzFeed article with a title like, “Only ‘90s Kids Will Get This” come up on your Facebook? Too many, right? That’s because people love sharing nostalgic posts.
In much the same way as brands want to be associated with positive emotions, people want to be known as the person who makes others feel happy. After all, when we post on social media, we are really just marketing ourselves.
This type of post also appeals to the need to belong. It’s a basic human desire to belong to a group. We want to share our experiences and feelings with like-minded people. What better way to facilitate that connection than to ask an entire generation, “Remember that time when that very cool thing happened to all of us? Wasn’t that awesome?” That’s what you’re doing when your brand goes retro in your marketing.
Whether it’s a crazy pop song or the smell of fresh baked cookies, there is something that can send your mind to a simpler time. One way to effectively market your brand is to find what takes your audience back and give it to them. If you have any questions about marketing and branding, give Duncan/Day a call. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more helpful hints!
Talk about the Kardashian family in almost any given group of people and you’re sure to be met with a few sighs and at least one big eye roll. Never has the mention of one surname caused so many groans. And yet, they remain wildly successful. How can this be?
Well, the Kardashians are more than a family; they are a brand. Kardashian is a brand that is recognized by people from all walks of life around the world. This success is no accident. It is the result of careful planning and flawless execution of that plan.
Whether we would like to admit it or not, there are a lot of lessons that marketers can learn from this famous family. Every brand would benefit from the notoriety these stars enjoy, including yours. Here are a few ways you can market like a Kardashian:
1. Have a Good Gimmick
It would seem that following the name “Kardashian” with anything other than another “K” word is impossible. If I had a nickel for every time this family has been called the Kardashian Klan, I might be rich enough to be their friend. It’s a gimmick, sure, but it works well.
Your brand doesn’t need alliteration everywhere, but it should have a shtick. What will people immediately associate with your brand’s name? There will always be something. If you don’t choose your association, other people will do it for you. So, find something that works with your brand and use it well.
2. Strut Your Stuff
From the “Break the Internet” magazine cover to Caitlyn Jenner’s recent reveal, the Kardashians really know how to flaunt what they’ve got. We aren’t saying you need a glamorous cover photo to be successful. However, it’s a good idea to know your strengths and show them off.
Kim’s physique is what made her famous, so she shows it off every chance she gets. Likewise, brands should feel empowered to flaunt their features. Are you the best in the business? Tell us about it. Do you have the most alluring technology available? Your audience wants to see it.
As my high school English teacher once said, “If you don’t toot your own horn, it doesn’t get tooted.”
3. Love Your People
Although she has a reputation for being self-centered, Kim Kardashian has a wonderful report with her fans. She interacts with them on Twitter and Instagram, gives them shout outs, and sometimes reposts their content. For example, Kim hosts Tumblr Tuesdays every week, in which she features a Tumblr fan she loves.
Can you imagine how excited that fan must feel? That person will be a Kim fan for life. Meanwhile, other fans hang around in hopes to be the next featured fan. Without creating a single piece of content, Kim becomes a well-loved influencer. If you want the kind of popularity she has, your brand absolutely must show love to its biggest fans.
4. Family Matters
The Kardashian family is a social media army. They promote, retweet and congratulate each other often. This tightness was even demonstrated when Caitlyn revealed herself on the cover of Vanity Fair. Although Caitlyn has officially split from the family, the kids all showed their support. They all got famous together and they intend to stay that way.
How can you apply this to your brand? One way is that you can encourage employees to share news about your company. Anything worthy of a press release is worthy of a Tweet. Also, you can set out to create a family of brands. Cross-promote with your friends and family with influential (and non-competitive) brands. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
5. Plan for Haters
Anybody with significant influence has haters. It’s a simple fact of life and math. If enough people know about you, it’s statistically improbable that they will all love you, even if your brand is the best ever. The trick is to know how to defend your reputation without putting anyone else off.
The Kardashians are well acquainted with nasty rumors and speculation. They are featured in tabloids perhaps more often than any other family. And yet, they always find a way to shut the negativity down. It’s because they are prepared. They know what kind of criticism they will receive and they have a plan in place.
Your brand can do the same. Understand what complaints you might receive and have a plan to deal with them. Everyone who speaks with customers should be trained on how to deal with unpleasant situations. Then, people will be less likely to make things worse when problems do arise.
Love them or hate them, there are many things you can learn from the Kardashian family. They have managed to become famous for being famous, and have sustained that success for quite a long time. By following some of their methods, you too can enjoy this type of prolonged marketing success.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including our marketing campaigns. If you’ve ever been to our great state, you’ve surely seen bumper stickers, shirts and other memorabilia with the words “Don’t Mess with Texas” stamped on them. Over nearly three decades, this quip has become a defining part of Texas culture.
People around the country know the phrase, especially after President George W. Bush used it a few times during his 2000 presidential run. What is less known is the origins of “Don’t Mess with Texas.” As it turns out, it all began as a stroke of marketing genius.
In 1985, Texas’ roads were littered with, well, litter. It was costing the state $20 million every year to clean the junk up. So they hired marketers Mike Blair and Tim McClure to devise an anti-littering campaign. What they ended up with was an undeniably successful and long-running campaign that would become part of our culture.
Like all successful marketers, Blair and McClure first defined their target audience and sought to understand them. They identified young males and “bubbas in pickup trucks” as the audience. In other words, they were after the stereotypical Texan. It was clear that sweet sayings such as “Keep America Beautiful” were not going to cut it. They needed something with more attitude.
After a difficult pitch to the client, “Don’t Mess with Texas” became the official slogan of the state’s anti-littering campaign. And it has remained the go-to slogan ever since. The success of this campaign can easily be attributed to the fact it aims to change Texans’ behavior while strengthening their attitudes.
Blair said of the campaign, “It was almost as much about the attitude of Texas and Texans at the time, tough-talking, no-nonsense, go-about-our-business, get-things-done kind of attitude that has always been associated with Texans.”
The lesson is clear: know your audience and know them well. It’s not enough to know the demographics of your intended audience. You have to know what drives them and what they love.
If nothing else, Texans are driven by state pride and we love being Texan. Appealing to those sensibilities, Blair and McClure made littering a very un-Texan thing to do. The campaign has not just been successful in its pop culture status; it has actually helped clean up the highways and streets.
Of course, litter remains a problem. The campaign’s official website, www.dontmesswithtexas.org, claims that if every Texan picked up just two pieces of litter every month, we would have completely clean roads in just one year. So, don’t mess with Texas, y’all.
Haters gonna hate, but Taylor Swift is a marketing genius. Whether you like her music or not, it’s hard to deny this fact. At just 25 years old, she has created a brand with more influence than most marketers dream of having. Better yet, she did it on her terms and remains in complete control of that brand.
The most recent demonstration of her marketing prowess came to us in the form of her ‘Bad Blood’ music video. The pop star leveraged her overwhelming social media influence to create buzz and excitement around the video’s release. No matter what you are marketing or who your target audience is, there are a few things we can all learn from Taylor Swift.
1. Create Anticipation Correctly
10 whole days before the Bad Blood music video was set to release, T-swift began posting teaser images that were styled as movie posters to her social accounts. Each new poster revealed another major celebrity that would be in the video, a great photo of them and a cool code name.
Bad Blood promotion poster
And that was it. She revealed almost nothing else about the video. Each new poster created more buzz, hype and – most importantly – questions.
How could she fit so many celebrities in one video? What’s the storyline? Who are the good guys? We need to know, Taylor!
That’s how you create suspense without being annoying. Give them enough to wet their appetites, and then leave them with interesting questions. You can make this technique work for your brand too.
2. Make the Right Friends
Sometimes it’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know. Networking to create lasting relationships is an important part of almost any career. Leveraging those relationships to help your brand can be tricky, but it is effective when done tastefully.
Many of the women featured in the Bad Blood music video are Swift’s famous friends. Each leading lady lent her own talents to the video and seemed to have a lot of fun making it. Swift even said that each actress got to name their own character, which gives the whole thing an authentic vibe.
Two of the celebrities featured, Mariska Hargitay and Ellen Pompeo, are women Swift admires. In fact, Swift named her two cats after these actresses’ famous television characters, Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey. Connecting with people she idolizes and bringing them into her project was also a very smart way to market to different audiences. Which brings us to our next lesson.
3. Cross-Promote to Reach New Audiences
Bringing Hargitay and Pompeo into the video was a good move, and not just because it gave Swift a chance to work with actresses she adores. Both of these women have different audience bases than Swift, whose target audience tends to skew quite young.
But the cross-promotion didn’t stop there. You may have noticed on the poster that the video premiered at the Billboard Music Awards. Honestly, this was a smart move on Billboard’s part, as more people have probably heard of Taylor Swift than this particular award show. However, both parties in this partnership are winners because they both reached a wider audience by linking up.
4. Use Catchy Taglines and Hashtags
“Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes,” was already a hugely popular slogan for Taylor Swift fans before this video was released. Swift, being the marketing genius that she is, leveraged this by making it the tagline of the video. The best part is that this little line can easily get the whole song stuck in your head. It’s catchy, unique and fun to say – everything a tagline should be.
Of course, no good social media campaign is complete without a hashtag. In this case, Swift used #BadBloodMusicVideo in every post regarding the video. As with any effective hashtag, this one is clear and concise.
5. Deliver on Your Promises
The best marketing in the world won’t hold up for long if the end product is much worse than people expected. Think about sub-par movies with amazing trailers. Audiences go into the movie thinking it will be awesome and leave feeling completely underwhelmed. This is what makes managing expectations so important.
Luckily, the Bad Blood music video exceeded expectations. Fans were treated to the visual spectacle they were hoping for. The video broke Vevo’s record for most views in 24 hours and social media was all a buzz about it.
Do you agree that Taylor Swift is a marketing genius? Or do you think she’s all fluff? Let us know.
For more marketing insight, contact Duncan/Day. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or give us a call any time.