Simon Harriyott

Marketing adjectives for food and software

Marketers for food manufacturers have a stock of adjectives that they commonly add to labels to make the product sound more appetising. These include:
  • Authentic
  • Traditional
  • Homemade
  • Country
  • Fresh
  • Large
  • Tasty
  • Gourmet
  • Farmhouse
  • Premium
  • Quality
  • Selected
  • Handmade
  • Finest
  • Best
  • Original
Most of these are subjective or vague, and under scrutiny become meaningless. A product may be "Selected" for many reasons, which may may include negative ones ("selected from the older chickens that weren't good enough for the ready-meals"). "Quality" on its own doesn't distinguish from good quality or poor quality. It is a unit of measure, just like "temperature" is. I could go on through all of these.

Software marketers do the same thing, including subjective and vague words into the product descriptions:
  • Secure
  • Best practice
  • Enterprise
  • Professional
  • Open
  • Standard
  • On-demand
  • Solution
  • Flexible
  • Innovative
  • Integrated
  • Robust
  • Comprehensive
  • Industry-standard
  • Scalable
  • Customer-proven
  • Standards-based
  • Next-generation
  • Modular
Again, under scrutiny, many of these are meaningless. "Professional" is a word almost completely without meaning, other than contrasting with "Amateur". "Next-generation" without reference to the previous generation is useless. Solution without reference to the problem it solves is too vague. "Robust", "Secure", "Scalable" and "Comprehensive" need qualification with facts and numbers. Does "Robust" mean it never crashes? Ever? Can this be proved? If it does crash, how many crashes are allowed before it can't be called robust any more?

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24 April 2006