A Monthly Meditation on Branding Language
From Your Favorite Copy Shop, Editorial Emergency
Issue 16 (May 30, 2008): Jive Talkin'
Opportunity knocks, but marketing jive is just flavorless knockwurst; the grinding out of this subpar sausage requires a meaty rejoinder. Also in this issue: Spell-check hazards in context, a few sips from the champagne flute to celebrate 40 years of Jethro Tull and another blushing batch of Not Our Clients blunders. Read on, opportunistically.
Dear Marketing Opportunist
Don't be jivey. It's the flipside of our "be authentic" credo. Yes, we're in marketing; yes, we're in advertising, but that doesn't mean we have to behave like used-car salesmen. Treating prospective clients like carnival marks – suckers born every minute – may result in quick sales, but it won't establish the enriching, enduring relationships that are the lifeblood of your business.
You see the jive talk all over the Internet, and not just in spam subject lines hawking male enhancement; even some of our copywriting brethren fancy themselves sideshow barkers. Here's a very special example we found without even trying, and believe us, it's not an isolated case:
"Little Known, Under The Radar Copywriting Short Cuts and Hidden Persuasion Principles REVEALED ... Any One Of These 'Win-Smart' Secrets Could Easily Make You $20,000 ... $50,000 ... Even $100,000 Richer, This Year Alone! ... But wait a minute ... Be one of the first to hop on board with this brand new edition, and I'll spot you the first $50. So instead of you paying the already low regular price of just $197, you walk away with everything we've talked about for the incredibly low investment of just $147! And that's not all ... Grab Your Copy Today And Get These 8 Big Extras Worth A Very Real $678!
This specimen is instructive because it bears several hallmarks of marketing jive:
Read the rest here.
When Spell-Check Attacks 2: The Cupertino Effect
In our last issue, we explored spell-check's potential to turn prose into nonsense when left, ahem, unchecked. Well, Ben Zimmer – the delightful new editor of Candlepower, the online magazine published by The Visual Thesaurus, and an Oxford University Press alumnus – has informed us that this chaotic phenomenon has a name: The Cupertino Effect.
Though it may sound like the title of a spy novel set in Silicon Valley, the phrase originated in the days of the earliest spell-checking software iterations. It seems the first dictionaries built into these engines spelled "cooperation" with a hyphen ("co-operation"), and the use of the unhyphenated form would prompt the suggestion "Cupertino" (the California town that's home to Apple Inc.). This led to a great many documents, several of them terribly official, that mentioned achievements owing to "an unprecedented level of Cupertino between governments" and whatnot. You can find Ben's witty OUPblog chronicle of this quirk here; we're very grateful to him for pointing it out and for graciously refraining from mentioning that he used almost exactly the same title several months before we did. He's good people. It also bears repeating that there's been a bit of Cupertino between us; you can find some of our articles on Candlepower, so forgive us if we wax rhapsodic about it.
Round & Shiny: This Is (and Was) Jethro Tull
When the U.K.'s highly eccentric young blues-rock quartet Jethro Tull cheekily posed for the cover photo of their 1968 debut in old-age makeup, they probably didn't have any idea they'd still be a touring band 40 years later, ultimately racking up some 60 million units sold. Of course, founder-frontman-flautist Ian Anderson is the only member on that disc who's still affiliated with Tull – and the group's sound has changed radically over the decades – but it's a testament to his singular sensibility that the Tull brand abides.
Read the rest here.
Not Our Clients: Unsavory Motor Trends Edition
This car dealership's unfortunate use of an apostrophe nearly caused us to veer off the road. Sadly, it appears their warranty doesn't cover copyediting.
If only we could send this sign to traffic school.
It's just another wreck on the misinformation superhighway we call Not Our Clients. Can't look away, can you? Have you spotted a worthy candidate for our gallery of shame? E-mail a snapshot of the outrage to
and we'll send you an iTunes gift certificate (your own personal Cupertino effect).