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May 12, 2004


Bill Doerr

Katherine, you're astute in your observation.

Business has traditionally been a male-centric endeavor that, until individuals like yourself '-) came along, has been slow to lose the 'caveman' paradigm it's been slave to in the past.

Language and perception do go hand-in-hand, though. Sapir + Whorf were the two cultural anthropologists who explained that in the 60's.

I work with a number of women clients and always enjoy the cooperative vs competitive (and they're NOT mutually exclusive!) mentality they bring into any business endeavor.

Suffice it to say that a 'kinder, gentler' world view will come more easily and quickly in business when the language we use to describe business reflects our perception of ourselves and our expectations of one another.

Thank you for reminding me of the power of language and it's effect on my own world view.

Words are choices and choices have consequences. Choose wisely!

JoAnna Brandi


You are so right. A large part of the training we do at the Customer Care Coach teaches people to look carefully at the negativity and the violence in their language. Language structures reality, so it's wise to watch it.

Just yesterday I was working with a group of about 20 CEO's in a workshop I was doing on Building Customer Loyalty. Even after bringing up the language issue several times using many different examples, one of the CEO's asked me what to do about the "deadbeats" that don't pay, and told me that in his perception it was the CFO's job to "hammer the deadbeats". Talk about shock and surprise on my part. Obviously he had missed some of the points. It was towards the end of my time with them so I responded by saying "Look, you have to make some choices in your business. You can make love or you can make war. You can't do both if you want the maximum profitability that comes from a loyalty strategy. And then I asked a simple question. "What do you call the deadbeats after they pay the bill, presuming some of them pay up and want to do business with you again, what do you (and the people that are charged with taking care of them call them AFTER the bill is paid? He got the point. They were called and forever treated as a "deadbeat" - not the kind of experience that makes the customer want to tell their friends about. Language is SO important - I could on on forever, but I'll be kind and stop here. Bill Doerr is right - Kindness should be the Rx for business now. So here's a reminder - Make love, not war. As we say here: "If you're not romancing your customers, WHO IS? (sm)"

Johnnie Moore

I also find this aggressive language a turn-off. Another of my pet dislikes is phrases like "today's increasingly competitive business environment" which presents a rather monochromatic view of the world. You might just as easily talk about today's increasingly collaborative business environment, since I see a lot of collaboration going on.


So "Feed the tigers, ride the horses, shoot the dogs" is probably out of the question? Damn. Here I was thinking I'd finally started getting in touch with my Inner Mother Theresa.

Just kidding, Katherine. Action words substituting for real movement, that's what it is. The facsimile of boldness in the face of soul-crushing conformity and boredom. So we get drugstore cowboys; boardroom John Waynes, without the Geneva Conventions. Force versus flow, push v pull explains plenty of business pathologies and screw ups if you think about it, yes?

I had a partner a few years back whose favorite flick was Braveheart. It was his go to bag of tricks when the team "needed" a pep talk. Most suffered through it. I and a few other partners needled him about it. Until "William Wallace" wheeled it out on a pitch. For a hospital chain. In a room of 6 senior executives. Women.

I'm sure he still only has half an ass from us putting those lightning bolts back where they came from on the long plane ride back home.

Yea, communication and persuasion. One demands, the other moves. A fine art, a disappearing art, best served with judicious sprinkling of Y chromosome.

Jon Strande


Yeah, great post... but I think you left a book out: Career Warfare. We've brought the battlefield home... what a shame.



Dear Katherine I was happy to read your post.
Let's try to slow down and to use the correct expressions to indicate what marketing is about.
War is terrible and ugly, and the words you indicated shouldn't be part of our daily life, no matter if we're common people or marketers . We can't live and dream of creating the next "killer" application.

Ken Hall

Probably none of this will make sense, but:

I think it's part of the same mindset that has Dr. Laura saying nonsense like, "Your menfolk are out there slaying dragons every day...."

Codswallop. Is getting up and going to work every morning stressful? Generally. Tiring? Oh, yah, youbetcha. Carry a better-than-even chance of getting fried to a crisp and eaten? Please.

Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, said something similar, comparing death rates in the Navy test pilot squadron that included Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, and others. The loss rate was about one in four. Wolfe contrasted that with the loose boardroom talk comparing business with war, and ended the passage with the quip "Gentlemen, we're having a little problem with chronic violent death."

Cliff Allen

In addition to negative words used in book titles, the cover art can convey negative feelings, too.

The publisher of our book on one-to-one marketing created cover art showing customers walking around with targets on their heads! Yes, marketers talk about "target marketing," but their art director took one-to-one (target) marketing too far. Unfortunately, we had no control over the publisher's choice of illustration.


I wonder if you're not all being a bit naive here, or perhaps you're just knit-picking, either way I can't say that I personally agree. In fact I whole-heartedly disagree.

It's just a name...if you don't like it, dont buy it. I'm sick to death of the dull boring business book titles, they all appear as if created by a cookie cutter. Like it or not, we look for catchy titles (Purple Cow, funcky business) they're what draws us to the book in the first place. I read Brand Warfare, and loved it, and you know what, perhaps war isn't a bad analogy for the business is conducted these days (but remember, it's just an analogy).

It seems to me that if there is a problem, it lies at the source (business), rather than with the name itself. If you want to make a real change, start there.

Please people, idiotic political correctness is a far worse epidemic, lets not get it going here too.

It'll be sad bloody day if we do...!


Looks like you made your decision just fine Rich. The market worked.

Methinks you're fighting against yourself on this one, though. Words matter. They frame debate and set context. But where things go after that is anybody's guess if hormones are the only guardrails: Parade ground barking just doesn't seem to jibe when consumers complain of arrogance and unconcern from America's 101st Delight the Customer Division.

That was the point of Katherine's post and, speaking for myself, of at least one of the comments.

Business as war IS just an analogy. But, given the folderol and malfeasance characterizing the state of business as evidenced in the media and court filings of late, perhaps it's one that deserves a cooling off period. Giving the old "Patton Stand-up" for the boys seems to send the wrong signal more often than not. Especially when it's spouted by business chickenhawks whose only answer to competitive confrontation is to strand or cut troops, retroactively redraw those campaign plans, restate the conditions for victory, and make sure there's a clear and gold-paved retreat route with armored limo waiting.

My friend, war analogies are fine--When I see more "warriors" willing to take a bullet for the cause. "Death before dishonor," "falling on one's sword" and all that.

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