One of the terms you can’t seem to avoid these days is “sharing economy.”If you’re in the business or marketing world you probably can define this term with pinpoint accuracy, or at the very least you’ll mention Uber and AirBnB. You might assume that everybody has some general idea of what we mean when we say “the sharing economy” (echo echo echo). This is why I loved a recent report from Pew Research. The report is called, appropriately, “How Americans Define the Sharing Economy,” and the results may surprise you. Only 27% of those polled had even heard of the phrase. Out of that small group, 40% defined it roughly as, “Lots of folks pitch in to help each other or themselves.”
This got me to thinking about so many other terms that we commonly use now and whether they really need to exist. If only 27% of the people we reach understand what we’re talking about, is our communication really effective? Why do we have to have “economy” after so many words, for example? There’s also the Experience Economy. Would people know what that means?
I’ve heard of this before
I remember when the phrase “content development” first started appearing on Twitter and in blog posts. I honestly thought it was a joke. “You mean writing, right?” “Oh no no no,” I was corrected. “This isn’t just writing. This is writing with the customer in mind.” Then “content development” became a “thing.” A big, viral, trendy, hip, I can’t stand it anymore thing. I still wonder though if this is a phrase that people in the marketing bubble wrongly assume everybody knows.
What about that phrase, “The experience economy”? This phrase dates back to 1998 when two authors, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, wrote an article of that title for Harvard Business Review. The general idea is that when most products become commoditized, the customer’s experience with companies is what will be the differentiator. Fair enough, but this is not really an entirely unique concept either. David Ogilvy, the king of advertising, said, “I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”In other words, he was saying to write so the customer would be comfortable.
More recently than that, Lou Imbriano wrote a wonderful book called Winning the Customer (not an affiliate link), which was all about using truly personal, stellar customer service to nurture existing relationships and build new ones. Do we REALLY need to coin a phrase for this kind of emphasis? Do people understand what “experience economy” means?
Time for another round of “Coin that Phrase!”
I get it. If you can up with a term or phrase like “Experience Economy” or “Sharing Economy” or “Economic Economy” it’s great for books, magazine articles, social media hashtags, blog posts, tweets, and more. However, our ultimate goal should be to communicate clearly with the people whom we want to be moved by our messages. If you say something like, “Hey, can we talk about the CX and UX with an H2H/B2B emphasis, byob,” is anyone going to know what in the heck you mean? Is using conniving jargon really worth it?
Personally, I vote for more conciseness and less jargon. I’ll be here to talk to you about your customer-centric business plan when you’re ready!
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/feuilllu/739173692/ via Creative Commons