Opinion

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‘Cute’ is not always good marketing

4 Mins

Doubtlessly, during AB tests – the de facto tool to test consumer preferences – a fun set of phrases will be preferred to a sober one. But it betrays the impact these phrases have upon the brand of a company.

Innocent Drinks, who make smoothies and supply ‘veg pots’ to supermarkets, us this sort of endearing language as part of their brand. A peruse of their website shows: their own a ‘banana phone‘, their blog’s articles are titled “breaking news: fruit is good for you” and similar, and they avoid capital letters. Outside their website, their social media presence is peppered with parochial idioms like “[…] she knows how to make a very fine looking cake indeed.” In this way, they avoid formality within their brand. 

If you’re going to adopt such language into a company, you need to know that ‘cute language’ will change the brand. It’s easy to see this as a natural refinement of marketing – moving from formality to informality – which intuitively consumers should prefer. Actually,it changes a company into a more child-like, more fun brand. This may or may not be suitable to the product and target market.

Take for example the subscription-based, coffee service PACT. PACT sends its customers coffee at a prearranged interval, varying the mixes of coffee, very similar to subscription snack service Graze. Both companies use endearing language. By way of example, see PACT’s unsubscription confirmation email:

“Bon voyage Jack. Whilst it pains us to watch you walk away, we will always look back fondly on the time we shared.  We hope you speak kindly of us, as we will of you. Another time, another place, we really could have had something. Who knows!? One day we may find that we still do.  Until then, it’s been emotional. À bientôt.  Stephen & The Gang x”

Though they have identical distribution models, the problem arises in the difference between products. Graze produces healthy-living snacks. They encourage a ‘good-guilty’ lifestyle: you can snack, which is typically a guilty pleasure, but the food is healthy, so you’re okay. Playful and light marketing in copy and design reinforces this message, and Graze has been very successful in its short lifetime (founded in 2008).

PACT is a coffee-supplier. Coffee, almost without exception, is branded as a drink for sophisticates: major coffee retailers and distributors like Nescafé, Caffè Nero and Lavazza all encourage the perception that coffee is sophisticated, mysterious – and even a little sexual. 

PACT does not follow these industry standards and, while innovation should be commended: this isn’t real innovation, but a parroting of a fashion.

It’s not surprising that informal language has been taken up by businesses in recent years. However, setting up a standardised vocabulary is important to establish who a company is and what consumers can expect from them. Endearing language is a potent branding tool: that much is certain, but is it the tool for you? 

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