Jargon Can Hurt Your Brand

Here at Anchor, we work with a lot of engineers. Our manufacturing, distribution and systems integration clients deal with a lot of technical jobs, and it can be very easy to get caught up in the technical language that goes with them.

To an engineer, this language makes sense. But to the layman, it sounds like a foreign language. I’m reminded of the scene on Lunar Base Alpha Beta from Airplane 2. In it, William Shatner’s character, Commander Murdoch, steps into the control room, a typical movie set meant to evoke cutting-edge technology through hundreds of blinking lights and flashing screens.

A technician is working on a weird-looking piece of equipment as they enter the control room.”What have you found?” Murdoch asks him.

“All I’ve found is that these red lights keep moving back and forth. Aside from that, this thing seems to have no other function whatsoever,” the technician replies.

In Shatner’s typically halting delivery, he responds, “It must have some sort of function. I mean, why would they put all that money toward a thing that has lights that go back and forth? It doesn’t make any sense. Keep working on it.”

His assistant moves forward toward another machine and says, “These lights keep blinking out of sequence sir. What should we do about it, sir?”

Murdoch thinks for a moment and replies, “Get them to blink in sequence.” You can watch the scene here, and it will likely brighten your day.

Those of us who don’t work with a specific technology all the time can seem a little slow on the uptake to those who do. That’s why engineers tend to (understandably) lose patience, and when you ask them to dial back the tech-speak, they resist. “The people who will be installing and using these machines will understand,” they say.

They’re right, of course. Those people are engineers just like them. But the people who will be making the decision about whether to invest in the machines in the first place are often upper management. They have more in common with William Shatner’s character than with a scientist. Too much jargon, and you will lose them – and that’s not a good thing when you are trying to sell them something.

Instead, you might need to swallow your pride and call it “the thing with the red lights that go back and forth,” so that everybody is on the same page. In other words, you can’t just sell a technical product to those who use it, you need to sell it to those who pay for it. That is an important distinction, and one that can change the entire tone of your branding message.

Thankfully, there are folks who translate tech speak into common language every day. Sometimes it’s not easy, but it is always worth it. Contact us if you want to learn how.