Many years in advertising and branding have left me just a bit cynical (big surprise?). I’m usually a really cheerful positive guy, but when I see toothless language used to describe successful businesses and their products it’s just, well, sad. And avoidable.

Take “committed” for example, or its brother, “commitment.” Commitment is a great human attribute, but is it really worth saying in a slogan? “We’re committed to making better paperclips.” As a consumer, can’t I assume that particular commitment is pretty obvious? That’s why the company is in business, right? “Making better paperclips” is three words instead of six, it starts with a nice assertive verb and it’s a declaration of the quality of the product.

There’s the “working” construct, too. “Working to help our customers …” and “Working together to create …” You’ll find those in content and copy all the time and that’s bad enough. But in a slogan or tagline “working” is just air – I know you’re working. Starting those lines with “helping” or “creating” is much more powerful. 

One more example and I’ll get off the stump. Too many companies describe themselves as “Leaders” or “Global Leaders.” I expect the C-Suite and the board feel all proud about being leaders, but I’d assert that leadership means little to the consumer. Especially these days, when every company and product in the world are just a few clicks away. Being the biggest isn’t necessarily a benefit, either. Remember how famous Avis got for being #2? (Great story if you’re too young to remember.)

Anyone who’s ever done a copy test knows that individual words have power. When our team evaluates a brand and its promise, we don’t just look at the words and images that promote the brand. We gather data from every level of an organization—especially people who face the customer. And we even talk with vendors, board members and other stakeholders. Only by examining a company and its brand from top to bottom can we distill the essence of a brand’s promise and present powerful recommendations. And that’s why MBM’s proprietary branding process works.