Mangled Message: It was wrong, but it was great

Well-managed messages help a team, organization, or company stand out—in a good way. Mangled messages have the opposite effect, frequently damaging credibility with key relationships.


Mangled Message: The Word Salad

Have you heard the term “word salad”? It means that the words themselves in a message are recognizable, but the collection of them together makes no sense. In today’s intensely interactive environment, it is easier than ever to have your message called out. A recent LinkedIn post and string of comments illustrated the point.

The company involved (Neopost) says it is “a global leader in postage machines, folder inserters, and a major player in parcel delivery management and electronic document delivery.” Sounds good to me.

In a sponsored LinkedIn post, the company went a little far with its language. The post began with: “You know your company. And we know how to improve customer relationships. That’s why we listen to you and adapt our products and services to meet your needs. Together, we can create meaningful interactions that help you get the best from your business.”

To which a LinkedIn user named Scott Evans commented, “What does that word salad even mean?”

That caused me to laugh out loud. But the company’s reply doubled down on the overly-highbrow language: “Hi Scott. Our new brand positioning reflects our belief that in an era where change is increasingly dependent on technology, people have a key role to play. It's all about helping our customers better connect with their customers…” And it went on.

Scott, the LinkedIn user, then replied with “You don’t ‘create meaningful interactions’ nor do you really have a role to play in ‘improving customer relationships.’ Make great equipment that does what it is supposed to do.”

This being social, the exchange played out in front of millions of LinkedIn users. This being digital, I contacted Scott (who gave me his blessing to share the example with you). He said to me, “I recently sold my business after 21 years in the mailing industry—thus my disregard for the very specific B.S. of the mailing equipment business.”

Neopost did nothing harmful or dangerous. Their offense was merely semantic. However, it’s a funny if painful reminder that the word salad you create can be sent back to the kitchen—with millions watching.


Mangled Message: Destructive Instructions

It is almost a tired joke, isn't it? The hopeful customer buys some furniture (or a toy, or machinery) with "some assembly required." Said hopeful customer brings home (or has delivered to the residence) a box which contains the product, lots of packing material, and a set of instructions. And the intrigue begins.

I recently had my turn as the hopeful customer. We had a set of lounge chairs delivered from a high-end catalog retailer that will flank our pool. Lounge chairs are pretty simple; there aren’t many pieces to assemble. This should be easy.

The pieces, a package of hardware (bolts, washers, wheels) and a set of instructions were included in each box. But check out these instructions! There are no actual words, no sequence for doing things, and inadequate pictures. Note that even the quality of the printing was subpar; the print fades out toward the bottom so that one-third of the page is essentially unreadable. This sheet was no anomaly, either—there were four lounge chairs in the order, four boxes, four instruction pages all the same.

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