Talking on the phone seems very 2000, and even text and e-mail are old guards (but still standing strong). We now have Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack — our friends, family and colleagues are always at our fingertips and reachable in a multitude of ways. This has its pros and cons, but that’s another blog entirely.
As digital communication has grown, many of us have learned that the true meaning of a message can be misconstrued. One word, even use of punctuation or spelling, can affect someone’s interpretation. It could excite them, put them at ease or even hurt their feelings. When applied to marketing, these everyday examples of digital messaging between friends can help you improve engagement with your customers.
The exclamation point can evoke drastically different responses, from Excitement to Anxiety. For example, a friend texts, “I got last-minute tickets to Celtics-Lakers. Want to come?” “Yes!!!!!” The four exclamation points emphasize how pumped the receiver is to go, whereas a “Yes” would sound rather lukewarm.
But in a workplace setting, exclamation points can be murky. If a colleague texts or emails their boss, “Do you want me to handle this client’s request?” and gets a response of “Yes!,” it can come off as curt and annoyed. Workplace communication is often flat, stale and lacking emotion in an attempt to be professional, so one tiny change in punctuation can cause an employee to tense up.
Now, let’s apply it to marketing:
This sits on clothing brand American Eagle’s website. Given that they target a younger audience the exclamation point helps emphasize the positive news and the exclusivity online shoppers have.
Imagine, though, a travel brand emailing a customer with the subject line, “Yes! You can check into your flight now!” On the one hand, if it’s the first email, a customer may be excited. However, if it’s the third attempt, it may give customers the sense you are mad at them and a nag by heightening the sense of urgency (which, Persado research shows, is usually a turn-off) — and who wants that?
In addition to establishing emotion, punctuation can also help establish tone, such as a surprised one. “I just found a vintage Chanel bag for $100.”
Caps can also do this. For example, texting someone (hopefully while at a full stop at a light), “Sorry, I’m going to be late. Traffic is a DISASTER!” shows the person is both apologetic and frustrated.
But like exclamation points, caps and other combinations of punctuation can be interpreted differently in a workplace environment or with someone you aren’t as friendly.. Think, “Are you done with this yet?!?!”
Now, let’s apply it to marketing: Though it has a hard news operation, most of BuzzFeed’s assets have a light, fun tone — remember, they practically invented those addicting listicles like “80 Things Only Kids Who Grew Up in the 80s Will Understand.” It made sense then that they used all caps in this video, which mimics a text between friends. It’s humorous and relatable, as many followers could probably see themselves choosing a sandwich full of cheesy goodness over another typical night out.
This is good for a brand that is known for being bold and whose audience expects dialed-up intensity. Imagine the New York Times doing this. You probably can’t. It’s just not them. Neither is right or wrong. It’s all about staying on brand, tone and voice. While it’s great to try new things, it’s best to avoid doing a total 180, unless you have deep, data-backed insights to prove your brand needs to. This is something technologies such as AI can provide to brands. Marketers can feed their ideas into a machine and see how they would perform against the current creative. The machine will give the answer.
Short But Sweet vs. Just Plain Short
Sometimes, you don’t have much to say, but how you say it will impact the way the other person receives it. “Ok” or even just “k” can come off as distant, whereas “okie” reads friendlier, especially if coupled with an emoji. “Hi” is just fine, but “Hi!,” “hiiiiii” and “heyyyyyy” feel more intimate and conversational.
Now, let’s apply it to marketing:
Skittles are colorful, fun and a treat, so it makes sense their brand voice would be upbeat. Around the holidays, they tweeted something festive that also subtly promoted their brand in a fun way. The couple extra “i’s” added emphasis to their point (Santa wants Skittles!), while making them sound more human. The tweet gave followers an extra reason to smile, which is always nice around the holidays!
An audience that expects more mature copy may not be on board with this.
Remember: Like texts and emails between colleagues, businesses cannot speak directly to their customers through digital and SMS marketing. Brands are at their best when they sound human, like a helpful friend rather than a distant colleague. Words are a powerful piece to this puzzle, but brands often struggle to find the right ones, and how to get it even further down to the precise punctuation. Through AI, the machine can sift through thousands of combinations and choose the right one, giving CMOs and their teams the peace of mind that they have deployed the best, most competitive creative.