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Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Dan Bailes: We're an impatient people. Time is money. So when we have something to say, we want to get it out there and out of the way. Jargon is quick. Jargon is in the know. Jargon is inside the box. Jargon is also stultifying.

When you throw it into the mix, it is a total idea stopper. When I hear jargon I'm suddenly more aware of the speaker than the words -- the flow of ideas smashes into a wall of questions. They keep on going but I'm asking myself, do I understand what that bit of jargon means? Jargon does not invite you in, it keeps you out.

When WSJ Business Tech blog writer Ben Worthen wrote about "Tech Terms We Hate" he used the example of the IT word "user." He was quite eloquent on the subject, so I'd like to quote him here:

Today, all the term does is emphasize technology at the expense of the task someone is trying to perform. To an IT person, you aren't writing a message, you're using email. To see how ridiculous this is, try applying 'user' to some routine activities. Someone who is grocery shopping becomes a supermarket user; a driver becomes a vehicle user.

See what I mean. It takes the person out of the experience. And Washington seems to be a city overflowing with jargon, government acronyms and pundit double speak. Whoops, I guess that's a bit of jargon, isn't it? Lifted that expression from Mr. Orwell's 1984.

Anyway, when I interview people for a video I'm always aware of how they answer. When I hear jargon, I'll ask the question again, usually acting like I didn't understand what they were telling me. That often makes them want to rephrase the answer, looking for words to help me understand what they are saying. And when I edit a person's interview for a video, I always try to edit out jargon from their comments. That way, the flow of ideas moving right along.

And after all, no one ever complained that someone's words were too easy to understand.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Whip It Into Shape

Dan Bailes: Horray for Blendtec blenders. Who knew product demo videos could be so much fun? In case you don't know Blendtec, they're the ones who created the wacky "Will It Blend?" series of videos now playing on their website, Youtube and elsewhere.
So what's the deal here? Well, what can be more mundane than a blender, right? We're talking whipped potatoes, purees, smoothies, maybe even carrot or spinach juice. Ah, then again, maybe not. But blenders: they chop stuff up. End of story. So if you were head of marketing for Blendtec, what would you do to whip up some enthusiasm for your product?

Here's their cool solution: instead of breathlessly showing us how to concoct the latest pineapple, pear and passion fruit frappe, they whipped up something weirdly goofy but effective. Their recipe? Take one boring product, mix in some mundane objects and blend it all together with a dash of some Dave Letterman style humor. And voila, a stroke-of-genius web video series is born, branded
with one silly but wonderful question, "Will it blend?"

The answer is a video series that's flamboyant, foolish and lots of fun. And what a great product demo! It shows so simply and elegantly what they're all about: chopping stuff up.

I've just skimmed the surface looking at some of their videos. But one favorite is their latest video feature on the iphone. There is something positively delicious watching what happens when the much-touted technological marvel, the iphone, meets another great piece of technology, the Blendtec Total Blender. A total mashup. You can check it out their site and the iphone video at http://www.willitblend.com/

Another favorite is their recipe for creating a debt-free lifestyle, which you can find at http://willitblend.com/videos.aspx?type=safe&video=creditcards

What makes a great communications idea "great" is not just what you have to say but also how you go about saying it. And what makes Blendtec's approach so appealing and memorable is that instead of taking themselves and their product so seriously (hey, it's a blender) they're willing to let everyone in on the joke. The corny music and semi-serious presentation make it even funnier. And they open the door for viewers too, by inviting them to suggest other things to blend. So viewers become part of the process--which makes them more willing to buy into the message. A truly inspired campaign: it's clear, direct and elegantly simple.

Oh yeah, and according to their marketing director, they've had record sales for every month since the launch of their Will It Blend? video campaign.

Which should tell you there's a lot of sense in all this silliness.