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  • Oscar Park

Why all the brand jargon?



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It’s time to talk about a topic that often gets swept under the rug in our industry: the chaotic state of branding terminology. Why does our field lack a unified language, which inadvertently leaves clients lost in linguistic limbo?


In the world of branding and marketing, clarity should be our best friend. Instead, it seems we’ve headed towards a linguistic free-for-all. Why do we maintain this state of confusion? Well, it’s not a grand conspiracy but rather a consequence of our ever-shifting industry.


Our industry exists in a state of constant innovation. New strategies, approaches, and buzzwords emerge like mushrooms after rain. While this dynamism forms new trends and pushes culture and business forward, it also results in a jumbled mess of terms that lack standardisation. What one agency defines as ’brand essence’, another might call ‘brand DNA’. This terminological Tower of Babel makes communication unnecessarily (or for the cynic out there ‘purposefully’)  convoluted.


Let's draw a parallel with the historical use of Latin in churches. Latin acted as a tool to control information. Only the clergy, armed with the knowledge of this exclusive language, could unlock the secrets embedded in sacred texts. The church and state could then control what the general population thought and ultimately did. Our industry's jargon, while less deliberate and malign, operates using a similar principle. It creates a linguistic barrier, turning our profession into a club where only the initiated hold the keys to comprehension.


For client-agency interactions, this terminological chaos can lead to more than just raised eyebrows. It's easy to imagine a meeting where terms like ‘values’ and ‘principles’ are used, and each person has their own, idiosyncratic take on their meaning. You can see how anyone would struggle to make sense of this or feel able to make informed decisions. Add in multiple agencies using their own terminology and the problem quickly multiplies. 


The use of industry jargon isn't inherently malicious, but it does shift the power dynamic. As the ones wielding the words, we unintentionally, or otherwise, position ourselves as the gatekeepers of understanding. Hopefully we’re not baffling clients on purpose; it's a side effect of the ever-changing language we've developed to describe our ever-changing craft.


So, welcome to the era of ‘jargonese’, the lingua non franca of our industry. Buzzwords, acronyms and trendy phrases are thrown into the mix, creating a code only those in the know can crack. While this might seem like a natural evolution of our professional lexicon, we must be mindful of the risks.


In client meetings and presentations, the use of jargonese can inadvertently alienate our partners. It transforms us from collaborators into interpreters, forcing clients to navigate the maze of industry terminology just to comprehend what we're proposing.


In conclusion, the lack of standardised definitions in our industry is a hurdle we need to acknowledge and address. As designers and strategists, our mission is to communicate effectively, not mystify. Instead of contributing to the chaos, let's champion a language that's clear, transparent and inclusive. The value we bring to the table lies in our ability to demystify branding, making it accessible and understandable for our clients. So, let's start communicating clearly and ensure our clients aren't left in the dark.


We’ve been thinking about this a lot at Osch. Throughout our projects, we make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to definitions and purposefully build this understanding into our approach. We're also creating a series of blogs and glossary documents to demystify brand terminology. If you'd like to be kept in the loop, sign up to our newsletter.

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