The English language is broken. I’ve been planning to blog on this topic for some time and as I was working on my next article for Designochology, I ran into it again.

Nearly every positioning assignment I work on presents challenges because of the misuse, or overuse of a particular word or phrase within the client’s market. It seems when it comes to marketing and advertising, the dictionary definition of a term is not good enough. We need to create our own definitions.

A couple quick examples:

Integration. For some companies, integration is an important issue. Whether it’s integrating various hardware platforms, service offerings or applications, it’s important for many companies that they provide an integrated solution. The problem comes when you research the marketplace and find that every company in that space that claims to provide an integrated solution has applied their own definition, one that coincidentally matches their own particular set of offerings. That’s fine, but it means that companies in that space cannot use integration to differentiate themselves. The term has been rendered meaningless.

Automatic. Another word that has been lost is “automatic”. My client may have the only truly automatic solution, but they can’t say that because for years, companies within that market have used the term, and every possible variation of the term, to define their own products. There are automatic, semi-automatic, highly automatic and really, really automatic solutions. So, even though my client’s product really is the first fully automatic solution, the word has lost its value.

Branding. And we’ve done it to ourselves too. The term “branding” probably has more unique definitions than another other word in the English language. Everybody does it and everybody has created their own definition. For the record, here’s mine. A brand is the collective perception of a company and/or product which is created as a result of every interaction that an individual has with that product and/or company.

Push/Pull Marketing. This is the one that just sent me over the edge. The article I’m writing is on Social Media, and how it fits into a company’s marketing plan. And just to be accurate, I thought I would look up the true definition of Push and Pull Marketing. So, with the help of Google, in no time I had 577,000 search results to choose from for a definition. I tried the first 10 and found 10 completely unique definitions. It’s going to take me a while to sort through the other 576,990 sites.