I was taking my two-year-old son to nursery this morning and we saw a lovely big truck, on the side of which was emblazoned a picture of a window frame and the deathless line “joinery solutions”.
He looked up at me from his buggy and said, “Daddy, why doesn’t the man just say ‘Handmade hardwood window frames?’” (He’s very advanced for his age – that last piece of copy I wrote for you? – he did the first draft.)
And I had to think for a bit.
“Perhaps,” I said, “he’s worried that if he says that, people won’t take him seriously.”
“Yes, Daddy,” he said. “But now they don’t know what makes him special.”
“Well then,” I continued, a little nonplussed at this cross examination, “maybe he thinks ‘joinery solutions’ is a modern thing to say.”
“But that’s what everyone says now, Daddy. Thank goodness at nursery we have toast in the morning, not ‘thermal bread solutions’.”
He was right, of course. (I must give him a pay rise.)
You can do better than these
In just one week I have seen the following:
“Delivering solutions globally”
“Drinking water solutions”
“Customer relationship management solutions”
And best of all, by some considerable margin, in an advert for the lingerie section of a local department store:
This is what’s known in the copywriting business as me-too-itis. I must refer it to my good friend Dr Maslenski at the Syntactical Institute of Vienna for clinical investigation.
Customers don’t use this language
The funny thing is, nobody who actually BUYS any of this stuff actually gives an expletive solution for ‘solution’. Householders who want new wooden window frames generally call them just that.
And, having checked with a couple of my female acquaintances, I can confidently assert that women go shopping for a new bra—not a new bra solution.
So what’s going on? I suspect it has something to do with bored marketing executives wishing their products were more ‘exciting’ and trying to jazz them up by hitching them to the s-word.
Either that or imagining their customers will somehow feel cheated at being offered just a spade instead of an ‘excavation solution’.
This is just laziness. If you don’t think ‘spade’ is sufficient to sell spades, then do your research and be creative. Truly creative. Call it an ‘old-style, drop-forged spade with ash haft and non-blister grip’.
More people will buy it and you’ll make more money.
In fact, truck-sides are just about the worst medium to write for. Like posters (or billboards), the handles of petrol pumps and button ads on the web, you’ve hardly any space (relative to the size of type) but just as much to say as you do in a 4,000-word dm piece.
The results are usually a kind of “I give up”, underarm toss of a line, often involving ‘solutions’.
Occasionally, though, you see a gem. My favourites are:
“Eat more chips” – for a local potato grower (think about it)
“Jam, potatoes, custard” – for a cattle feed supplier (mmmm, almost good enough to eat)
“Cress makes a meal…nutricious and delicious” – for a watercress farm (true-ish, and you have to admire their chutzpah)
And my point is…
‘Solutions’ is just one of a whole class of words that get pressed into service as a substitute for creativity and hard work. Of course you want your products to get customers salivating (particularly if you’re selling a mixture of jam, potatoes and custard).
But that means thinking about what they’re really looking for. And yes, of course they want a solution to a problem of some kind, but what they DON’T want–or ever think of asking for–is a blah blah solution.