The Garrulous Jay – Label Babel

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The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is intended in part to explain why people across the world speak different languages. It may also be interpreted as a punishment for mankind’s hubris in attempting to build a tower that would reach heaven.

I have always been a big believer in clarity of communication in the corporate world. Consumers should be able to understand exactly what it is they’re buying. In other words, product labelling and advertising should pass the “Ronseal test” and not appear to be speaking a different language.

And yet this doesn’t happen. Nowhere is this more evident than in the wonderful world of toiletries, where I think we frequently read labelling and think we know what it’s saying but, if we were honest, we actually don’t have a clue.

Here are a few examples of my own…
Revitalising + minerals – I get the revitalising bit (although I’m not sure it’s true), but what have minerals got to do with anything, and what are these mysterious minerals?
Dermatologically approved – seven syllables, impressive! But what’s been approved and who by? How do you “ask skin” for its approval? Or is this simply saying your skin won’t melt if you use this product, in which case it shouldn’t really need saying.
Anti-perspirant/anti-transpirant – I understand the first bit but “transpirant” triggers the spellcheck alert in Word. I think it means it stops sweating which is, err, like anti-perspirant.
1/4 moisturiser technology – sounds like I’m about to put a spaceship under my arms, and what’s going on with the other 75%?
Micromoisture – whatever!
24H fresh effect – really? So I think this is suggesting that 24 hours after using this product my skin will still feel fresh and, presumably, I should be able to tell this is the case. I can’t.

Confession – I’ve not spent any time Googling all these terms and finding out what the companies that manufacture the products from which I’ve draw this copy claim in detail. What I do know is I don’t know what they’re talking about. Do you?

In financial services we are under a regulatory obligation to ensure all our financial promotions are “fair, clear and not misleading”: it’s written into the regulator’s Conduct of Business Rules.

I don’t think we always do a very good job of it, but we do know that falling foul of this rule will have negative consequences.

I think there are still areas of financial services advice where some practitioners use complexity and confusion as a means to market themselves. By making something sound complicated they hope to convince the potential client they need the help of an expert.

I strongly believe the opposite should be the case: unless a client is completely clear about the product or service being recommended they have no business buying it, and the adviser frankly shouldn’t be selling it.

If an explanation isn’t sufficiently clear clients should either not proceed, or they should ask someone else.