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How 21st-Century idioms are doing companies’ marketing for them

Posted on October 21, 2016

 

We all remember a good advertising slogan, especially if it’s one that gets hammered into us at every opportunity. Anyone who lived through the ’80s or early ’90s will be aware of that Shake n’ Vac “puts the freshness back”, and with major companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola, you can probably reel off a handful of phrases that have been associated with them during your lifetime.

These slogans can often expand beyond the confinement of the adverts they’re used in and become used as figures of speech in everyday language. The term ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ tends to be used in any situation where someone has failed to see something obvious. You can see Soccer Saturday anchor Jeff Stelling use it towards pundit Charlie Nicholas in this clip of rather ham-fisted banter from the popular football programme.

For marketers, this is an absolute dream. Not only are people able to recognise their slogan and associate it with their brand, but they’re even choosing to use it to refer to scenarios that have nothing to do with the company behind them. Every time that phrase is used, especially on television, it’s free and effortless advertising for Specsavers.

Incredibly though, it doesn’t even stop there. Not only do we use companies’ advertising slogans as idioms, we actually create our own and popularise them. Don’t believe me? How many times have you been told that ‘Google is your friend’? It’s a standard response, particularly online, to anybody who asks a question that can easily be answered by using a search engine. On social media and internet forums, web-savvy smart Alecs might even use a link to the website ‘Google is your Friend’, which will perform a Google search for them.

Google didn’t create that slogan, internet users have coined it, but what a piece of marketing! ‘Google is your friend’ is a neat soundbite that encapsulates a brand-to-user relationship and loyalty that any company would crawl over broken glass for.

Similarly, how many times have you been invited to a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’? If you start to type ‘cheeky’ into Google, it’s one of its first autosuggestions. Nando’s has never marketed itself as ‘cheeky’, yet somehow, a whole identity for the restaurant has been created from the ground up, and it’s a positive one of pleasure and mischief.

The Google empire makes another contribution to the world of modern brand-based idioms with the rise of ‘Netflix and chill’. I have to admit, in my naivety I had no idea this was a euphemism until I started writing this article. I just thought it referred to people watching Netflix and chilling. The fact that it actually means much more than that shows how intrinsically we associate digital brands with our lifestyles.

Since the internet has played a major role in helping these terms spread, it shows how it’s redefining the way we talk, and that the brands we see left, right and centre as we browse the web are working their way into the throwaway comments we make.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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