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Here’s a New Ice-Cream Flavor: ‘Tear Gas’

We live in a country that often seems bewildered by words and concepts created by commercial brands. The typical “We’re appalled by this hateful thing!” response is not only premature, but also makes you believe the outrage is more something you’re forced to put up with than something you actually believe in.

But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a difference in approach and tone matters more than a specific word and term. How? Recall that when the app removed Facebook ads, the Facebook response focused on social responsibility. It urged businesses to show moral leadership by switching to advertising on Facebook’s designated page or in its dedicated hashtags. Similarly, when @CutestDogntomorrow changed its policy to ban any content that promotes violence against animals, their response to consumers didn’t make any direct attempt to suggest that their change of policy was in any way punitive or mean.

On a related note, consider the response of a popular beef jerky brand after the USDA said it would allow it to use the term “beef” for the product. Although they did explicitly state that the term was “for a short time” and that they would switch to a term (and simply rebrand their line) that didn’t distract from its meat-y nature, we can still argue whether or not it was in the right for the company to use the term at all. “Beef” is a term established to denote a nutritional quality, an identity and an idea that goes beyond the relatively superficial claim of being a tasty snack.

In response to these examples, we’ve become all too comfortable with the “cliched” terms that “marketers” use to market to consumers. But these cliches are part of the problem. They create negative expectations that aren’t necessarily incompatible with earning brand loyalty, but instead do what marketers do best – create a sense of nostalgia.

When “the word … I’m against is abused” or when some other “bad word” is triggered by a toy, an item or service or a platform, the reactivation of a personal dislike can be sad to witness. Is being passive-aggressive still passive-aggressive? Or is it incumbent upon marketers to consider how they use bad words, whether they force consumers to create the conditions that create negative responses or seek to take a subtle and much-needed tone shift?

Sometimes the nice thing to do is to ask people what they want and present it in an alternative language. Remember when Jesus lost weight? Maybe it was a real thing, maybe it wasn’t, but the effect on the world was still meaningful. It’s already been noted that the headlines out of France all had very specific English translations. If they had been translated into a language where French was not a commonly understood language, we would have had a lot of mockery and outrage.

Along the same lines, maybe it’s time to bring this to an end. Say it with me. I hate gross. I hate going out to lunch. I hate going to the playground. I hate these things and I’m not going to keep experiencing them. People often say “Treat yo’ self.” But do you?

Maybe the best way to help consumers feel good about being able to enjoy life is by killing off some of the ingredients – at least some of the bad ones. Treat yo’ self.

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