In the recent TermNet survey, 60% of participants stated that they agreed with the statement “corporate language helps to set a company off from its competitors”. What is corporate language? Think tall, grande, and venti.
60% is not a lot. I expected more. It could be that people didn’t know for sure what “corporate language” is. And while researching, I couldn’t find an English definition. The German equivalent comes up a lot more often. From responses to the blog on my Facebook site, it also seems that Firmensprache triggers fewer emotional responses than corporate language does. But let me try to describe it.
On the one hand side, it is the plethora of acronyms and terms, the jargon that employees of a company use in their daily work. An example of corporate language that is used “inside” of a company is code names. For Windows 7, the revised taskbar was internally called superbar.
On the other hand, it is the terms, words, phrases, names, slogans, etc., in short, the language that is used to communicate with “the outside world” of clients and partners. That also includes the corporate style. Ideally, what is used towards the outside is also used on the inside. Why? Because consistency is one of the critical aspects of a functioning corporate language. We can still find superbar on the internet today. It may not have done damage, but it wasn’t the most straightforward and clear communication about a revised feature for Windows 7.
In The Importance of Consistent Brand Messaging branding expert, Rick Thompson, emphasizes the importance of consistency: “You must speak to the market with one unified voice. The brand character must be defined and socialized to everyone in the company so they can design, develop, support, sell and market the product in a manner consistent with the essence of the brand.”
How do you make sure that employees speak with one voice? You guessed it: Terminology management. Designators, i.e. terms, appellations and symbols, are the linguistic and symbolic representation of a brand. Well-motivated and managed designators enable a company to be consistent in the messaging. By applying terminology management methods, those designators are documented correctly and available to everyone in the company at any time.
Not all corporate terms are well-motivated or work equally well, of course: How many of you have gone to a competing brand of Starbucks and ordered a venti? I wouldn’t be caught dead.