Shedding Labels

In the marketing and communications world, we tend to use labels to describe people, places and things.

Medication warning labels at pharmacy

For instance, that soda is “NEW…AND IMPROVED!”  (When you figure that one out, give me a shout.)

Winter is “Harsh,” so get a blanket with sleeves.

That quarterback is a “Golden Boy.”

Some labels are negative, some are positive, some are true, some are false, but all are rigid.

Labels exist because they are instantly relatable.  You just say a word and the masses understand what you mean.  And if they don’t understand, they FEEL something about that person, place or thing.  Savvy marketers know how to use labels in the art of persuasion, calling your innermost thoughts and emotions to get you to act (or not).

It’s not necessarily cruel or immoral, but just a fact of the industry.

I also have grown to find labels lazy.  How can a product or person stand-out and evolve if they are stuck with the same label they’ve always had?  They never had a chance.

Over the past year, I’ve shed a lot of labels about me.  From my marital status (the wife and I just celebrated our first anniversary!) to my employment (left the sports world behind after seven years) to my fantasy sports addiction (I retired, except for NCAA March Madness), a lot of the ways people identified me just 13 months ago no longer apply.

I don’t expect anyone to care about my life changes.  However, this has been one of the most exciting periods in my life.  And if changing the way I handle my own business can be so invigorating, I can only imagine how a company would feel if they altered their marketing tactics and freshened their brand.

So my challenge to you, marketing folks, is to rewrite your rules.  Take something you’ve always done because…well…you’ve always done it…and toss it out the window.  And in its place, do something you’ve always wanted to do, but your hands were tied because of that thing that you just got rid of.

I’m not advocating change for the sake of change, but rather change for the sake of growth.

What are you willing to change to improve yourself or your company?  Answer the question, then go do it.

Mike Schaffer is a Washington, DC, based social media strategist for Iostudio.  He likes sunrises and short walks on the beach.  No, really.

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