We are living in a world where each day brings relentless social media posts and news cycles of trauma, crime, wars, death and horrors in Australia and globally. And its not abating any time soon. This blog discusses why we must stop using trauma-induced marketing language
The words and language we read and speak matter. The power of language to mobilise, inspire and reimagine is undisputed and revered. Similarly, negative language demoralises and increases anxiety levels.
Overuse & misuse of trauma language
Language and words in general can be overused and misused. A life long opponent of clichés and lazy sales and marketing language, I encourage copy and campaigns which are unique, vivid and relevant. I am no wuss and by no means the captain of the PC society.
For many years I have shone a spotlight on trauma based marketing language in times of devastating international wars, mental and physical health issues, domestic and community violence, environmental, economic, and weather disasters.
But now in 2023 the news cycle and social media cycle of these issues is beyond overwhelming. We are confronted like never before with traumatising news and language. Images and photographs accompanying add further anxiety.
Coinciding with these ‘external’ issues is the deluge of businesses and people clamouring for visibility, career influence, sales & marketing success.
Social media (and especially LinkedIn) have provided everyone a free platform to share content and promote their businesses and opinions. This is great but also problematic if mindfulness is not applied.
The overuse and misuse of trauma language is concerning with many copycatting others or simply a lack of thought. The use of inappropriate trauma, military and destructive language in marketing campaigns and business dialogue must stop.
How language impacts – scientific research
The research is clear and compelling:
In BRM’s article The Neuroscience Behind Our Words, Dr Maria Richter states that scientific studies actually show that positive and negative words not only affect us on a deep psychological level, but they have a significant impact on the outcome of our lives.
In the neuroscience experiment on Science Direct ‘Do Words Hurt: Brain activation during the processing of pain-related words’ scientists monitored subjects’ brain responses to auditory and imagined negative words.
“ During this process, they discovered painful or negative words increase Implicit Processing (IMP) within the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sACC). Put frankly, their study proved that negative words release stress and anxiety-inducing hormones in subjects”
There’s also evidence to show that words affect perceptions of circumstances.
In 2022, Dr Debra Wilson on Psych Central reviewed a 2016 study. It was found the context of words matters and people naturally import perceptions of certain words into new situations that are neutral.
Researchers called this “semantic prosody,” where the precise meaning of a word comes from where it occurs in language.
Where trauma language appears
It’ prevalent on clickbait headlines, media articles, lead magnets, social media posts and email subject lines are breeding grounds for phrases such as:
Business suicide, killer pitch, killer profile, he/she is killing it, shooting the competition, career death, killer email, killing social media, career suicide, gun person, war on talent, war on media etc.
It’s not smart or creative to use such phrases, but lazy and unimaginative marketing.
I’m not one for the magnification of woke discourse or outrage reactions at every turn as I said earlier as the world has gone mad with umbrage at every opportunity.
Moderation and critical thinking is sorely needed. And more calming but empowering language is essential. We all need a balm to soothe what is very difficult times.
But the purpose of marketing and sales language and communication is to inspire and build an emotional and solution connection of relevance.
It’s not about being timid, crouching behind safe weasel words and being scared witless to be different. Ditching trauma and pain language is a call to go far higher and bolder.
And it’s a call and commitment to reduce the imagery of hurt and trauma in any way possible. Marketing and communications hold such opportunity here.
Make the Thesaurus your friend
Fall in love with the Thesaurus, make it a constant and fun friend. There are so many synonyms to find unique and appropriate other words.
Be creative, congruent and responsible. Congruent to the topic and responsible in avoiding inappropriate language is key.
Here are a few examples. If the subject is:
🔸 not about health, cancer and mortality – don’t use ‘killer’
🔸 not about humans taking their own life – don’t use ‘suicide’
🔸 not about military activity – don’t use ‘kill’ or ‘gun’
🔸 not about war – don’t add-on ‘war’ to other words
🔸 not about murders – don’t use ‘shooter’ or ‘killer’
🔸 not about actual military combat – don’t use ‘war’ or warfare.
There are far more interesting and formidable words and phrases to use to create compelling marketing messages and conversations.
Whether you give a hoot or not about the impact or use of these types of phrases, I’m sure you will care about attracting more business, new executive roles and positioning yourself as a unique expert in your field.
In a sea of content and marketing overwhelm, be mindful and focus on building more positive language associations and powerful outcomes.
After all we all can do with more creativity and calm these days wherever we can get it.