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04.20.2014

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February 11, 2013 3:32 PM

Business

Companies Need to Talk Like People

I was waiting at a restaurant recently and following the up-to-the-second fashion week news on Twitter when my incoming tweets slowed to a crawl and then stopped....

I was waiting at a restaurant recently and following the up-to-the-second fashion week news on Twitter when my incoming tweets slowed to a crawl and then stopped.

My phone -- maybe my TweetDeck app -- did something totally unexpected. Not only did it tell me that I'd lost my network connection, but the machine empathized. Specifically, the button you had to hit to dismiss the message about the network outage said, "That sucks."

What?

I double-checked, but no, that's what it said.

Yes, I had become unplugged and it at least kind of sucked, or messed up my rhythm. But what really threw me was that this device or whoever programed it -- someone at the other end of an incredibly long string of ones and zeros -- was trying to talk to me as a person would.

That's kind of cool, right?

It's not entirely new, of course, but it is part of a larger movement away from corporate speak and nonsensical jargon.

That shift can't happen soon enough, and of course, the tech world is leading the way or seems to be. But why should that be the case?

It's an important trend for retailers and fashion brands because consumers are learning they can communicate with companies and brands on their own terms.

People are tweeting to brands or engaging them on Facebook, and corporations are learning they have to answer back, and in terms that are understandable.

Still, on many levels consumer companies are waiting for the consumers to come around to their way of talking.

I went to a marketing conference years ago where one of the speakers railed against BOGO -- or the retail practice of advertising a BOGO sale without explaining that it meant "buy one, get one." And they were right; people shouldn't have to learn that BOGO means buy one, get one. But it happens all the time.

On my way back from lunch, with my phone there in my hand so ready to understand me, or try, or pretend to, I saw a shoe store offering a BOGO sale.

And I thought, "That sucks."
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