Expert gibberish in the advertising world

Hamburg / Darmstadt (dpa) – Is your old mattress worn out? Then a new sleep system will soon have to be found. Which of the fragrance solutions from the perfume factory do you like the most?

Do you prefer your breakfast cereals with or without probiotic dairy products? And do you still see synergies that can be leveraged in the digital ecosystem between smartphones, smart TVs and smart mobility?

Technology and managerial speech are spreading more and more in everyday life and in the working world. Technical and artificial words are intended to indicate scientific nature, generate trust, and impress current and future customers. But often, it seems, they obscure or trivialize what they purport to describe precisely. True to the motto: Then hopefully not too many consumers ask critically.

Corporate Language

Sometimes even some of those whose job it is, clients from business, see it that way and politics to create a memorable appearance. “We have to whistle back a little for one or the other,” says Armin Reins. The co-boss of the Hamburg agency Reinsclassen and his team are developing something like individual language signatures for companies and organizations.

It’s called “corporate language”. Reins now believes that in some areas of application it is overstretched. “Complicated clauses in particular are critical,” he says. “People usually want simple, honest messages.”

The effect of supposed expert gibberish can sometimes backfire. “With some cosmetic products, for example, I can understand why people feel like they are being fooled,” says Nina Janich. The linguistics professor at TU Darmstadt – long spokeswoman for the jury on the “Unword of the Year” – points to the jumble of biochemical technical terms. The industry risked irritating customers rather than educating them. Janich emphasizes, however, that PR copywriters now understand that they shouldn’t go too far. “My impression is that many say: It’s not just about modernity, but also about our messages being really understood.”

Invasion of plastic words

The “system” already mentioned is particularly popular at the moment. Complete room furnishings, but also the simple slatted frame and bed, were seen as sleeping systems. Today, good roofs – of course – are called roofing systems. A flavor manufacturer wants to “shape the future with fresh ideas and modern fragrance solutions”. At an automotive supplier, a whole offshoot of surface solutions takes care of the pleasant look and feel of the built-in materials. And the organization of company fleets is no longer leasing. It’s about? Of course: mobility solutions.

Uwe Pörksen already coined a name for such labels at the beginning of the 90 years: plastic words. The first computer boom created an abundance of technical-technocratic terms, the retired professor of language and literature from Freiburg recalls. “Progress, development, modernization – they were words of movement in which the movement was not created by actors, but was given from above.” There was hardly any room for peculiarities and peculiarities. Today, on the other hand, there is “no longer any limit to chatting through social networks,” said Poerksen. «We need accuracy. And facts must also be named as simple facts. ”

Colleague Janich also remarks“ a lot of such plastic words that you can’t get to grips with properly ”. In addition, there are visual representations, which on closer inspection are at best strange – mathematical functions with ambiguous assignment, graphs without axis labeling. In his own research, Janich called this “staged science”.

However, it also restricts: It always depends on which terms and contexts are considered. After all, you don’t throw artificial speech around with the same intensity everywhere. And: “Technology is developed by technicians. They have a different linguistic background, which in itself is of course substantial. ”

Unfortunately, a quantum leap is not that big

Advertising jargon is often meant positively. But it can become involuntarily weird, especially with crooked images borrowed from natural science. New developments that a device manufacturer wants to portray as groundbreaking, for example, often appear as an alleged quantum leap. The only unfortunate thing is that the “jump” of electrons in the atomic shell from one energy level to the next – the actual reference of the picture – is in reality almost unimaginably small. what she wants to express. Something similar happens when companies refer to something as “our DNA”. They mean: an unmistakable identity. But the hereditary molecule itself consists of the same building blocks, and it is only their billions of possible combinations that make up the individual the mechanization of painful austerity programs (consolidation, synergies) are supplemented with a kind of warmth of language. In many companies there are caretakers who discuss “coping strategies” for employees in structural change. Or the quiet manual work of all kinds of «manufactories» cushions the rather impersonal mass production.

Language has to create clarity

«Nothing is accidental in advertising,» emphasizes Praktiker Reins . One could definitely disarm a little. Why does the new parking aid Park Distance Contr ol be baptized? Why does a chic watch always turn into a chronometer and the textile into a design? “It just sounds bigger than it is,” he says. “It’s about telling a value-added story.” Clarity in the expression is the core of every successful order communication. In a paper, his agency counts incomprehensibility due to milieu, technical, foreign or scientific language as one of the most dangerous “disruptive factors” Reins demands that the topic be on the agenda there as well: “Just look at the language during the Corona crisis.” Vulnerable groups, volatile situations – then comes the vaccine. “The suspicion arises that a lot is whitewashed or even made deliberately incomprehensible in order to achieve a few aha effects.”

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