Speaking the Same Different Language

by Emily Jasper on March 29, 2011

One of the most valuable things I am bringing with me to my MBA studies is that I look through the world with a Marketing lens. I am continually fascinated by my Economics class because it makes total sense product, pricing, promotion, and placement decisions would all be made based on supply and demand. Or that in Operations, you need to know how long it actually takes to make/deliver a product/service, not just how long you think it will take based off of a perfect time trial. People take coffee breaks, after all.

What happens when I take off my rosy Marketing glasses?

I realize suddenly that people within Marketing might be speaking different languages.

The other day we spent time talking about how branding is more than just a color or logo, but it’s the identity, personality, and reputation of a firm. It’s the promise of delivering excellence, and it’s the way brand ambassadors know each other as passionate enthusiasts of brands like Jeep or Apple, no matter what others say. Brands are memories, almost like fellow friends who follow you your whole life. I love the word “brand” because it seems like so much meaning can be packed into one tiny word.

I see branding as limitless because who you are (person, company, service, or product) is limitless.

When I spoke with another marketer, her opinion was that branding is practically like prison chains. It is binding, and there is no freedom to expand or evolve. She prefers to think of identities instead of brands. I imagine if we made a list of what made up my version of “brand” and her version of “identity,” we’d have pretty similar lists. Her bucket of association is just with a different word.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that even if we made almost identical lists, she was going to have nothing to do with “brand.” It was almost as if the handcuffs that created bounds for “brand” were the same ones binding her to her interpretation of “identity.” That’s when I realized that speaking different languages, even if the meanings are the same, can create more friction than we want in business. The belief in your own language is a powerful thing, and we imagine people who were taught the sky is green will be unflinchingly committed to green even after learning about blue (I assume).

If something as foundational as branding can lead to argument, where else are we missing each other because of the words? Saying what you mean is very difficult, and I have personal experience in becoming frustrated with people who have no idea that they aren’t saying what they mean. Because we weren’t blessed with the ability to read minds, we need to read definitions.

Think of a time when you were at odds with someone because of words or interpretation of words. What did you do to handle the situation? What would you have done differently?

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