Christmas Sentiment

Christmas is a time full of signs and symbolism. The same goes for any profession and Marketing management is no exception.

Marketing buzzwords are a sign. A sign with many meanings. They can signify ‘I’m in the know’, they can signify ‘the deliberate exclusion of the unknowing’, they can signify ‘the fudging of plain English’.

I picked up this example in a business article from The Independent about Thornton’s the chocolate retailer. Referring to recent poor sales the company said one cause was “continued weakness in customer sentiment”. What on earth is the meaning of that! The sentiment refers to something so ‘that something’ must be poor not the actual sentiment.

Interestingly for me it also seems to imply that the ‘sentiment’ is something that is being done ‘to’ the business. Something outside of their control. Poor sentiment is portrayed in the same way as poor weather. Its come our way and we’ll be through it soon. This is a dangerous mind set that focuses attention on PR and wordsmithery rather than the real issues that must be facing the business.

Sentiment is marketing communications latest buzzword. It is next in line to become reified by marketing acolytes.

Sure sentiment matters and tools like Radian6 are helpful and powerful, and it also risks becoming a fudge. A gloss over what matters, an arcane marketing short hand that skates over commercial issues that need to be communicated plainly.

I can hear it now ‘we have a sentiment crisis’, ‘101 ways to make your brand sentimental’, ‘sentiment sentience – how knowing what your customers feel about your products matters.’

All of sudden marketing has a brand new issue, something marketers can get concerned with, and something that diverts thought and energy from the fundamental issues. So in the grand tradition of Semiology perhaps being clear on the distinction between the sign and what it represents is a vital marketing capability. In this way we can ensure that Marketing is not dismissed as a fudge-box.


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