“Honey”, why you can’t milk an almond and how language builds categories in marketing.

The thing is, language is so good at its job that we don’t often notice how it works. Until it’s too late.

If you like Larry David’s humour, you’ll know what we mean. Did you see Curb Your Enthusiasm’s  the “Honey” incident in Series 9?

If you can’t stand LD, that’s OK. You’re in the majority.

But language is subtle and beautiful.

And one of the great advantages of using language as a marketing tool is how powerful it is. If you want to make a product sit within a category, all you have to do is ape the language of that category.

If you’re really good at it, you even can use language to place your product in a category while also making it distinct within its category.

Like calling Almond Milk ‘milk’. It’s lovely in tea but the truth is, mummy almonds don’t produce milk for the baby almonds. And even if they did, I’m not sure how you’d get under one to milk it.

The most conservative brands will sit closer together in their positioning and their language. Which is why all banks talk alike. Originally, they all wanted to be taken seriously, so they all talked seriously. Then they all wanted to be a bit more ‘consumer-friendly’ so they’re all now using words like ‘stuff’ and even ‘your money’.

All the banks, that is, except the new challenger banks like Atom and Monzo.

Who are radically different and modern and individualistic.

But who both make a big deal on their landing page about being “built for your smartphone”.

Different. But alike.

The question is, if you were in charge of a challenger bank entering the market now, how much would you make your brand language ape the brand language of Atom and Monzo, conservatively placing your brand adjacent to them, fighting for their space? Or would you, if you were CMO at Tandem Bank or Starling Bank, use language to subtly differentiate your brand?

Alike. But different.