Word Of The Month: Vernacular!
This is the tagline from a roadside advertisement. A local diner boasts:
“Where good food originates!”
Know what I love about this tagline? The same thing I love about the word “vernacular.” No customer will ever use those words. Never.
"Vernacular" is a fancy word for the idea of, “How folks say it round these parts.”
The only person I can remember ever using the word “vernacular” was one of my college professors. It was part of his personal brand.
He was a little, bald, German man who wore tinted glasses and stank of chocolate pipe tobacco.
In his delightful, heavily accented English, he loved to condescend to the lowest of his low-level students for whom who was dumbing down the simplest possible course material.
During the course of said condescension, one of his favorite phrases was always uttered with ex-cep-tion-ally pre-cise dic-tion:
“As we like to say in the vernacular…”
Somewhat later, he was indicted for fraud. But I digress.
In advertising, "employing vernacular" is a fancy way of saying, “Speak in the language of your customer.”
A roadside diner saying, “Where good food originates!” is like Motel 6 saying, “We illuminate your accommodations!”
That tagline was probably written by the owner of the diner or someone near him. This person was probably thinking, “How do I make this thing sound clever?”
“I know! We can say that this hole-in-the-wall joint in this tiny town in this cozy corner of Appalachia is where good food originates! Done! Phew! Let’s go get us some griddle cakes!”
Line up the competition along the highway and decide for yourself.
“I’m lovin’ it.”
“Be your way.”
“Where good food originates!”
Doing something even slightly better doesn’t require deep thought.
Let’s assume we can’t come up with a qualifier more evocative than “Good food.” The client says, "That's what people know us for!" It's non-negotiable.
How about saying, “Good food for happy travels.”
“Good food, fast and friendly.”
“Good food for going down the highway.”
“Good food that gets you back on the road.”
“Good food for getting where you’re going.”
In less than a minute, that’s five possible alternatives. None of them are brilliant. But all of them are (yes) vernacular.
That means (ahem) speaking to the customer as the customer would speak.
Once upon a time, Honey and I were in one of our favorite small towns in the American south. It’s a simple place from a different time.
There was a new restaurant in town, a fancy Italian joint with foodie pretenses.
We were talking to a local lawyer friend about this new restaurant. We asked him how he liked it.
As he took a tipple from his adult beverage, he said in his inimitable southern drawl, “I believe they are firing over the heads of their customers.”
“Vernacular” is a word that fires over the head of the customer.
“How we speak” might be on the nose, but it’s clear and it leaves the light on for you.
If ya know what I mean.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.