Lost in translation

Besides English, I have tried to learn two languages in my time – German and Spanish. Unfortunately, German never really stuck. All I can remember is the phrase – “Ich habe lockiges haar” or “I have curly hair”… which I don’t – so even this phrase wont help me out. With Spanish, I do okay.

I remember when I was learning Spanish I got to a point where I could translate in my head fairly well from Spanish to English and back again. But as anyone that has learned another language call tell you, to truly learn a language you have to get past the mental exercise of translation and move to a higher level where you start to think in the other language (it is really cool when you even start to dream in the other language).

The hard part about being in the “translation stage” is that it is very taxing. It takes a lot of time and energy to push past The Dip and on to a level of proficiency. I remember a lot of memorizing, headaches and feeling mentally spent (yes, learning another language can be exhausting).

I’d say that this is not unlike many of the communication that goes on between businesses and consumers. Often times, businesses speak in a different language then their customers and the customer is left to translate what it means. For example, a marketer may have bullet points of their products features:

  • Our hair stylists are professionally trained
  • Our hair stylists know the latest trends

And the customer is left to translate what it means to them:

  • Professionally Trained – “They do not use a Flowbee for their haircuts and certaininly will not use the phrases – ‘oops’ or ‘I’ll just have to try and even that out’”
  • Latest trends – “No mullets or mutton chops or anything else that will limit my social life”

The problem is, when you do not take the time to think and speak in a way that your customers understand, few of them continue the metal exercise of translation of what you are trying to say. They usually just end up moving on to a different company that speaks their language.

Happy Tuesday!


Seinfeld on marketing: Double Dipping

It’s Friday (like you need a reminder when its Friday). In this week’s episode of Seinfeld on marketing, George is at a wake of his girlfriend’s deceased Aunt. He is eating at the snack table when his girlfriend’s brother, Timmy, approaches him:

TIMMY: What are you doing?


TIMMY: Did…did you just double-dip that chip?

GEORGE: Excuse me?

TIMMY: You double-dipped the chip!

GEORGE: “Double-dipped”? What are you talking about?

TIMMY: You dipped the chip. You took a bite. And you dipped again.


TIMMY: That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip! From now on, when you take a chip – just take one dip and end it!

One of the quickest ways to dissolve any trust or loyalty between a customer and a company is to double dip. The business equivalent of the double dip would be any activity that takes advantage of your relationship with your customers. Here are three quick examples:

  1. Unnecessary explanations. If you call customer service to explain a problem (first dip) then you are handed off to someone else (or multiple people) and you have to explain everything all over again (double dip).
  2. Excessive or hidden fees. Of course a business needs to make money. So the clearly stated, agreed upon fees are the first dip. Any hidden fees would be a double dip.
  3. Long customer surveys. I would consider the first 5 minutes in a customer telephone or online survey to be the first dip. Anything more than this would be the double dip.

Double dipping a chip is considered bad manners and is just plain gross. Double dipping your customers is like tarnishing your trust and liquidating their loyalty.

Can you think of any other double dips?

Have a great weekend!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

It’s Ironic

We know from Marketing 101 and Reis and Trout’s book, Positioning, how important it is to stand for the something in the prospect’s mind. For example:

Volvo = safety
FedEx = overnight delivery
Apple = differently innovative technology

When it comes to marketing’s own backyard, we have a problem. Many people (I’d even say many good business people) have the misconception that:

Marketing = sales (or advertising)
Brand = logo

What can be done? Let’s pretend for a moment that you are the recently promoted salesmarketing manager or logobrand manager for “Marketing” or “Brand”. Unfortunately there’s no time to celebrate your new position, as there’s work to be done. As your first endeavor, what would you want to come to the mind of business people when they think of “Marketing” or “Brand”? How would you change the current perception to this new position?

Happy Tuesday!