In the hangover from Valentine’s Day, let’s ditch passionate for the boring cliche it is.
When I’m running a branding workshop and getting participants to chose from a range of words to describe their company, I always include one dud word, which invariably gets selected: passionate.
Participants are always bit peeved when I explain the word was only in there as a trick. It’s one that everyone trots out without thinking about it, something that they think is important in describing their organisation, but is it really?
Are your really passionate?
The best brand identities are grounded in truth. In reality passion is (and should be in) in short supply in the workplace. Are stationery suppliers really “passionate about paper clips”? Are retail firms genuinely “passionate about customer service”. Sure you can be committed to it, focused on it, determined to provide it, but “passionate”? It smacks of insincerity and conjures up visions of hyperactive shop assistants flinging open changing room doors to tell you how much they “are totally loving you in that burgundy halter neck”. No thanks.
So saying ‘we’re passionate about…’ to your customers instinctively gets their guard up: it’s either unthinking marketing speak or simply untrue. Neither of these are things you want to communicate to customers.
What it says to your team
Even worse is what you’re communicating to your employees. Obviously there are some rare organisations (ones clearing land mines, curing cancer) who can genuinely claim passion for their employees, but for the overwhelming majority of people, work is a means to an end. That doesn’t mean people can’t look forward to work, enjoy their jobs, gain satisfaction, and do brilliant things but it is not passion.
People are passionate about their families, their personal interests. Demanding “passion” in the workplace is setting an unrealistic expectation that most of us simply can’t and shouldn’t fill. And such unrealistic expectations only result in disillusionment and poor motivation. To communicate an exciting brand, to be innovative and to be successful you don’t need to work in an motivational pep rally.
Passion is about extreme reaction, it’s about throwing caution to the wind, l’amour fou. In it’s true meaning it’s excessive, it’s intense and it’s dangerous.
Sadly in marketing and brand speak it’s become a bland lazy cliche. If you think you want your brand or people to be “passionate”: dig a bit deeper. What is it you really want? Energy and enthusiasm? A restlessly inventive mind? A cool insightfulness? Don’t settle for “passionate” – it says nothing about you or your organisation. Work a bit harder to find words that express the truth of what makes your brand or business unique.