Language is the most remarkable way in which human beings can communicate; an exclusive ability that differentiates us from animals and other life forms. My purpose in this article is to emphasize the idea that language plays a decisive role in the entire process of marketing, especially in the latest guise this discipline has taken to reach audiences: advertising messages.
Although most customers remain unaware of it, the process of choosing the appropriate words, tenses, rhetorical resources, or phonological aspects—depending on what or how you want to present about a product or campaign—is undoubtedly both meticulous and complex. Without language per se as communication tool, it would be impossible for the other “languages of” to exist, including that of persuasion or, in this case, that of marketing. Thus, this distinctive ability we humans have is characterized by diverse features of which advertising writers take advantage or exploit to create their marketing persuasive language.
The creative use of language in advertising environments cannot be emphasised enough. The writers must have both the ability and the expertise to manage certain linguistic resources to create the perfect message, while always taking into consideration the target market towards which it is going to be oriented and the reactions that are intended to be elicited from it. From monosyllabic words to speechless advertisements—as Fujitsu’s ad, which features neither words nor sounds—to so called puns or plays on words—as in KitKat’s ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ slogan—passing through unfamiliar constructions that may seem to be mistakes—as Dolce & Gabbana’s ‘Light Blue’ perfume—advertising writers attract the customers’ attention by making them think about the message and, eventually, about the product itself.
An effective and differentiated use of language will result in effective persuasion, or at least, in the effective transmission of the feelings and ideas the marketer wants the customer to associate with the product or service on sale. Clear examples of this are the different languages used based on the type of product: sport related items are usually portrayed by means of imperatives and short sentences made up of superlative or extreme adjectives—consider Adidas’s “Impossible is nothing” or Nike’s “Just Do It”; automotive products, such as cars, usually employ rhetorical questions—as BMW did in its “Do you enjoy driving?”—accompanied by electronic music—like in the Lexus NH 300h or Nissan Crossover ads. This is contrast with beauty product advertisements—like Giorgio Armani’s ‘Sì’ fragrance, which presents a clear parallelism of that word and universal concepts conveying positivity such as ‘liberty’, ‘life’, ‘seduction’, ‘love’ and ‘serenity’ thanks to the use of the liquid sounds [l] and [s] supported by melodic classical music in the background.
Conclusively, as far as marketing (advertising) is concerned, as a communication tool, language underpins everything as the main engine that makes the rest of the mechanisms employed work to persuade customers and to create and connect them to a product or service idea.
by Álvaro Delgado Pizarro
Master in Marketing and Communications