#59 Advertising weasel words

Buzzwords, marketing tripe, and meaningless hype.

These most notoriously appear in the ABOUT US section of websites. I’ve collected them from many sources.  While appending my latest additions, I realized I’ve been violating a bunch. So it’s a good review. For a long time I’ve called myself a “creative strategist,” according to my list that means I’m “nobody.” Too funny. So I’ve changed my title to “Supreme Commander.” That’s much more meaningful and less pretentious.

Link to Weasel Words >

The list is mostly for my entertainment as you said. But it can serve as a reality check, too. I’ve heard them so much in the business world I’ve grown weary.

I didn’t share the list to evaluate your own design claims – but rather the claims of clients. In the course of getting this list modified and ready, I realized I’ve many offenses to correct in my own stuff. I’m willing to admit that and fix it. That means thinking instead of regurgitating.

Here’s a client example: A client kept repeatedly insisting the main benefit of their product was “it’s state-of-the-art.” My question that disturbed her was, “What does that mean in plain English?” In fact, she couldn’t tell me. It wasn’t real. Just smoke. The product technical specifications or measurements had no edge over other similar techniques. She just wanted to say it did. In other words, lie or deceive. The products real benefits were it’s lower price tag and ruggedness. But that didn’t sound as sexy.

As a designer, I try not to publish client created lies or exaggerations about their products or services. This has not made me popular with product managers (pretend copywriters) – but popular with business owners (at-risk.) Lying or boasting can get a company into trouble. It sets up possible customer disappointment (buyer’s remorse) and is potentially false advertising.

This list is mainly to keep clients from overselling, exaggerating, or flat out lying about their products and services. A client saying something is state-of-the-art doesn’t make it so. In 15 minutes, I may no longer possess the highest level of development. Things change fast. It’s a presumptuous term overused by marketing people (tech people and politicians alike.)

My father was a PhD. I observed it didn’t endow him with common-sense. So I’m generally unimpressed with titles, diplomas, awards, and acronyms.

Now to your question, ABOUT pages:

Your About page.
Who are you? What qualifications and experience do you have? Why should viewers care about your work?Are you trustworthy and reliable?
You can answer the trustworthy and reliable question in two ways. You can include testimonials from previous clients, or you can emphasize the ways in which you’re a decent, normal person: you have a family, hobbies and so on. Client testimonials are effective for persuading those that visit your site that you will deliver on your promises. It increases the level of professionalism when tastefully incorporating testimonial into your portfolio. David Airey has an article titled “The Importance of Client Testimonials” that has useful information on this subject.


Resumé alternatives.
We can include a downloadable PDF resume.

But I don’t recommend it. A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send your resume, a client can say, “Oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out. How about instead—three letters of recommendation? Or a  sophisticated project they can see or touch?

Hire Me page.
If your portfolio is a traditional showcase of your work, your ‘About’ page will suffice. Stick a ‘Hire Me’ button, link or section on your site.

That’s when a ‘Hire Me’ page becomes important (though you’d probably call it ‘Hire Jonathan’, but using your name.) It should include all the information listed in the ‘About’ page section above.

Link to your hire page in a prominent way from your site’s front page. If you want to get hired, be bold about it. Put a sign with the text: “For Hire” and a link to how to actually hire you. Describe yourself and your work in just a few words.

A designer says as an opening line on his website:
I create targeted, effective solutions to your problems.

I call this a “refrigerator statement.” It could apply to many home appliances. I’m just as guilty and need to revisit and clean up several of my websites. But the opening line is too generic. There’s no hook and this is the most important sentence on your website. It doesn’t reflect why I should care about your work. Everyone is special in some way. Especially, you. Tell your story.

There is no such thing as a business being exactly the same as its competitor – you are one-of-a-kind. I can see your products and services in ways you cannot. Intuition and imagination are benefits you can’t afford to ignore.

It takes a lot of thought to tell people who you are, what you do, and why they should care.

Exploring who we are as “artists and designers” can be and usually is an agonizing process. One reason is we change or our environment changes. Then we have to adapt with a new definition of ourselves. I learned from a friend, “an organism cannot evaluate itself.” In other words, there are strengths and weaknesses others see that I don’t.

So where am I going with this?

Having friends to talk to can help you find the definition of who you are, what you do, and why others care about it. So pick someone to help you as a sounding board. Someone empathetic to your cause who isn’t related to you. :) It can actually be an empowering experience to get a clear direction.

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