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speak the language

About a year ago, I accepted a Creative Director position at Capital One. Yes, I went to work for the “What’s in your wallet?” guys. I love it. Good people, challenging work. One of the headwinds (Capital One term; I’ll be noting them throughout this post) to getting the hang of things there is the language. The folks at Capital One have their own flavor or corporate-speak. They actually have a sense of humor about it and have published a glossary of the many many MANY acronyms that they use. It was fairly helpful.

My mother works for United Airlines. Another giant corporation with their own way of speaking. Every company does; every industry does. It’s just the manner of things. You’re a part of a group when you can speak their language.

I’ll tie this into marketing and usability in just a second. Promise.

So I just got a text from her saying that she has boarded a flight from Pittsburgh to Dulles International Airport. Being the airline veteran that she is, she uses military time, 1100 for 11:00AM, 1500 for 3:00PM. She used an airline term that mean that the plane is getting ready to leave the gate to head to the runway: Pushing back.

Mom's text: note the use of military or "Zulu" time and the airport call letters. She's in the zone.

Pushing back means something completely different at Capital One. There, it describes a situation where you are challenging someone’s assessment of facts or recommendation for a course of action. You are “pushing back” against that idea or recommendation.

Why is this important?

Because when you are communicating to your audience, usually a segment of your audience, they have a certain language that they speak and your brand, to establish credibility (CapOne term), you need to be able to speak their language as fluently as they do.

Do your homework. Speak to your audience like they would speak to each other. Than ensures that whatever you’re trying to say won’t be met with skepticism and confusion.

If your audience can’t understand you, there’s no way that they’ll believe that you understand them.

You’re now free to move about the cabin.