Are you more or less likely to trust a brand that invokes dictionary definitions, syllabification, and pronunciation guides in its advertising? My new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Branding by Definition,” looks at the messages such marketing sends. Access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
Take Babson University, which takes pains to syl•lab•i•fy a word that doesn’t really need the dots: entrepreneurship.
In 2011, the nearly century-old Boston-area college opened its first West Coast graduate business school in San Francisco, where it began festooning utility poles with ads that both invoke and challenge dictionaries. “The world needs a new definition of entrepreneurship,” the Babson web copy announces – and you can write that definition yourself, right there on the web site. (Most of the submissions lead one to conclude that professional lexicographers are secure in their jobs. “Grabbing a life passion by the horns and sculpting it into a real business that adds value to others’ lives,” reads one “redefinition.”)
Read the rest of the column, which has many more examples, quotes from dictionary mavens, and theories about causes and effects.