Three word descriptor….
Mallet’s Mallet, the word association game on Wacaday, is a good introduction to the three line descriptor.
Timmy Mallet used to get two small children, usually a boy and a girl, and make them look at each other and go bleugh. Then Timmy would say a word and child one would respond with the first word that came into their head. Child two then had to say the first word that came into their head and so on. It would have been dull TV were it not for the fact that pauses or repeats resulted in a bang on the head for the errant child.
Companies like the same thing...for the brand to instantly create a word association. Bentley = luxury, EasyJet = cheap and cheerful, M&S = filthy voiceover.
The press, too, likes to explain a company in a few words to help people place it.
The trouble comes, of course, when the newspaper’s three word descriptor differs from the company’s three word descriptor. Back in the day, Xerox was always described along the lines of ‘the photocopier company’ and it hated it because Xerox’s strapline and intention was to be ‘the document company.’ It’s a small difference and, while it’s petty, you can understand (it does printers too)…
So in all its press releases Xerox always described itself as the ‘the document company.' Overtime, the media did indeed change the way it described Xerox. After a series of poor financial results, the descriptor became ‘the troubled photocopier company.’
Thankfully, many large companies have finally given up the practice of forcing a three word descriptor into the first line of every news release. Honestly. Check out news releases from SAP, IBM, even Xerox, and the three word descriptors have gone.
Smaller companies, however, still love the three word descriptor and often - with no genuine USP - these companies tend to create longer and longer descriptors. We all have a favourite example, but flying the flag for the tech PR industry is Clarity Public Relations. A rare bastion standing firm against the onslaught of common sense, it proudly uses the descriptor:
“The only CarbonNeutral PR consultancy that specialises in the technology sector and related industries.”
Kudos to Clarity for its environmental commitment but, honestly, that descriptor is a large enough blot on the landscape to block out all the coal-fired power stations in China.