Beware of Buzzwords

brown The Marketing Minute

Buzzwords can be great for your marketing—until they aren’t great for your marketing, that is.

What do we mean? Buzzwords have a lifespan, and even though they don’t necessarily die out completely, their effectiveness changes over time.

Let’s take “spa,” for example. A lot companies in the last 20 or so years changed their names to include “Resort & Spa” or “Hotel & Spa,” because the spa was the most important amenity for those properties. It also was a differentiator; including it in the company name created visions of soothing massages and healing treatments in luxurious surroundings.

Today, while those massages and surroundings may be just as luxurious, the word “spa” doesn’t necessarily conjure those same feelings—not when you see it used at nail salons in strip malls. It’s been completely diluted. And even if your audience understands that the spa at your property means more than a foot bath during a manicure, it’s no longer a differentiator. At a premier property, a full-service spa and fitness center is expected.

Of course, your spa is still important, and the word is still important, too. It’s something you can and should promote in your marketing. You don’t have to stop using buzzwords, even those that have become overused or are at risk of becoming cliché (“wellness” is one in particular that comes to mind for our industry).

But you do need to consider how you use them, and more important, what they do to support your bigger brand story—a story that must focus on tangible, meaningful points of differentiation.

A meaningful brand
Does your brand have a solid foundation? If not, a buzzword certainly isn’t going to make a difference, because buzzwords don’t make brands. The best brands are built on experiences, and if they use buzzwords at all, they use them to evoke those specific experiences—not the other way around.

Here’s how to get there.
First, look at who you are and who you want to be
For this (simple) example, let’s say your property currently has a spa that offers massages and little else. However, your goal is to become a leader in “wellness,” providing a transformational retreat for guests.

Then, determine how to create that experience
Many companies would be tempted to simply refocus their website content and other marketing materials around the term “wellness,” without any real thought given to whether the actual experience lives up to that description. Instead, you expand your spa offerings to include other treatments. You create meaningful programming, providing guests with well-being tools they can use in their everyday lives. And you either train up your existing staff or hire renowned experts to make it all happen.

Tell the Story
Now that you’re providing the experience, you can tell the story—a story that is based in reality. Even if you use a buzzword that has become diluted, your brand’s solid foundation gives the word actual substance, and your audience will recognize that. In fact, you can even acknowledge the issue directly:

“A lot of brands talk about ‘wellness’ these days, but we know that true wellness requires more than talk. That’s why we have created a respite where everything—from our innovative spa treatments to our interactive workshops—is designed to not only enhance your stay here, but enhance your life when you go home.”

It’s important to use language that describes more than what a guest can do at your property, however. You need to make them understand what those things will mean to them, what they will feel, what they’ll take away. The paragraph above is a start, but it’s not enough: While innovative spa treatments and interactive workshops sound great, going deeper will engage your audience and reinforce your brand:

“You can enjoy our gourmet meals, but also learn from expert chefs how to prepare your own food that nourishes both body and spirit. You can relax during a soothing massage, but also discover useful tools from knowledgeable practitioners to help you find that feeling wherever you are. You can explore your creativity in one of our art workshops—creativity you might not even realize you possess—and also expand your mind in the process. This isn’t a mere stop on your journey. If you choose, it can be the beginning of an entirely new one.”

That’s only scratching the surface, but you get the idea. When you back up a buzzword with an experience that fulfills its promise—and you then tell a story that places your audience inside that experience—you’ll do more than differentiate your property or delight your guests. You’ll be on your way to creating a brand that generates its own buzz.