Once again, the London Financial Times has announced its annual awards for management guff. Guff, also known as marketing-consultant-speak is probably best summed up in one word. Bullshit. Phrases such as paradigm-shifting, best in class, impactful and leveraging get bandied about in conference rooms everywhere. It's enough to disincentive even the most jaded consultant.
A few examples and excerpts:
– “We might have significant optionality.”
– “disestablish up to 100 positions” (I would much rather be fired than disestablished)
– “Experience Architect” (an actual job title on a business card)
There are also numerous examples of poorly mixed metaphors and the obligatory overused phrases that permeate the language. The elephant in the room. Throw someone under the bus. Failure is not an option.
What is it that makes people feel the need to abuse such a wonderful means of communication as the English language? As marketing communicators, we counsel our clients to be direct, clear and succinct in their choice of words. Otherwise, it is virtually impossible to develop strategic communication.
One of my favorite writers is Martin Amis, whose collection of non-fiction writings and essays is called The War Against Cliche. I've always taken the title as both rallying cry and litmus test for how we should treat corporate communication. Avoid the lazy and the trite. Strive for originality but not at the expense of clarity. It's a worthy mandate for both clients and designers, one that is applicable to the visual language as well as the written.