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The evolution of marketing language: Part 2

As we saw in part one of this series, marketing, advertising and the marketing language that made it work, have all experienced several watershed moments connected to technological innovations. The advent of the printing press, the industrial revolution, the birth of radio, and the widespread adoption of the television into nearly every home in the western world have all forced the world’s brands to change the way they market their goods and services to the masses and the marketing language they use to do so.

But the innovators of the world had one card yet to play…


With the rise of the internet, marketing channels and the different styles of marketing language used for each of them has changed more quickly in the past several decades than at any time in the history of marketing.

Even back in 2010, David Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, told BBC News that, “Language itself changes slowly but the internet has speeded up the process of those changes so you notice them more quickly.”

Part of this is due to the medium and different types of online channels available – instant messaging, email, blogs, 140-character tweets, online newsletters – and part is due to our quickly disappearing global attention spans.

Apparently now human adults have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. A goldfish.


Last year a survey conducted by Microsoft of Canadian media consumption determined that the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000 and shorter than a goldfish’s attention span, which is 8.5 to a whopping 9 seconds (depending on who you ask). According to Time magazine, Microsoft speculated that the changes in attention span might possibly be a side effect of the brain evolving to meet the demands of a digitally connected world.

All this together has resulted in a number of language changes to make communication in all different forms, marketing language or otherwise, quicker, easier to digest and immediately intriguing.

Internet Slang


From acronyms used for instant messaging to new phrases and slang terms that spread at a “viral” rate, people using the World Wide Web are familiar with an entirely new set of lingo. It’s not just the way language is being used, but also the actual language itself that is different.

Just think, print advertisements in the 1800s featured paragraph upon paragraph of flowery words. Today, a marketer could potentially show an image or video of their product or service then slap on the acronym “YOLO” and people would get it.

We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

New communications technologies have always aided and affected the evolution of a language. Radio and television certainly introduced a number of new words and phrases that got picked up by the public. In fact, our grandparents were making up catchy acronyms and abbreviations way before NTSFW came into play. Case in point: TTFN, standing for “ta ta for now”, is from the “It’s That Man Again” radio series from the 1940s.

The fast pace of the internet, and the ability for people to post and share things instantly that can then be from accessed around the world, means that we are adopting more words faster than ever before. Recognising, understanding, accepting and then using these words in a company’s messaging, social media channels and email marketing campaigns shows they’re up to speed as well. Such lingo, when used appropriately can help companies quickly connect with their target audience because it gives the impression that they get them.

Too many messages

Image credit: Bravo


The fast pace of the internet and all the different ways to connect also means that people are receiving ALL THE MESSAGES ALL THE TIME.

A 2014 study by Media Dynamics, Inc. concluded that the average adult sees 360 ads per day across all the media they consume – TV, radio, internet, newspapers and magazines. Out of those 350+ ads, around 150-155 are noticed and far less make an actual lasting impression or move the consumer to take action.

With such a constant onslaught of messages and companies vying for consumers’ attention there’s no way a wordy 19th century print advertisement, 10-minute-long radio ad or 1960s television commercial could cut through the clutter.

Consumers also have a record-breaking amount of ad blocking options, such as the required option to “Opt Out” of emails, pop-up blockers and spam folders, to try and limit the marketing messages they’re exposed to.

Crafting marketing messages has always required a certain level of thought, skill and creativity. However, today’s marketers need to choose what messages they share, the language they use and the medium they employ even more strategically to have any hope of rising above the noise.

Fortunately this can be done in a number of ways, including through concise and clever messages geared toward niche markets making sure that every word counts, and trying to connect with consumers through language that sells the brand or associated lifestyle versus simply the product.

The new face of marketing language

Image credit: Warner Bros


Of course, the language used across all mediums has changed but often if you look at an ad from 1967 compared to 2017 you can still find similarities in style or type of language featured. Email marketing has, in its short history gone through its own fair share of drastic changes. This evolution has revolved around how companies can target customers and how customers interact with the information they receive.

A modern-day equivalent of direct mailing campaigns, email marketing is still going strong despite some past lulls in popularity. This is due in no small part to the modern ability to clearly segment customers and send highly targeted messages, as well as track their activity or responses by sifting through the data.

One message does not fit all – you can’t send out a blanket company update or new product announcement and expect customers to fall at your feet. Instead, smart companies are customising messages to customers based on their preferences and past interactions with the company, A/B testing messages to see which ones resonate more or result in the most conversions, and taking advantage of clever new tools.  

AI is changing the marketing language used even more by helping optimise the ways messages are structured, making them easier to understand and more meaningful to the reader. Though at the moment this technology is being used on a relatively small scale (we at Phrasee for instance utilise AI and advanced language generation algorithms to assess an array of factors including tone, nuance, emotion and your brand voice to carefully craft email subject lines or calls-to-action to help hook readers right away) the potential capabilities and opportunities of this technology are nearly endless – AI messaging services could be used to tailor and optimise entire reports, sales landing pages, customer service communication, new business proposals, heck, even cheesy greeting cards might get just a little bit better.

How will marketing language continue to change? Using AI tools and technologies is just one of the factors we foresee language continuing to evolve, but certainly this story isn’t over yet.

Who knows, perhaps one day we’ll even see all-emoji emails. Although that would be a very sad day indeed.



Read The evolution of marketing language: Part 1: The analog years

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