Zeenat Rasheed
Ruminations on marketing, digital, social and 2.0.
Word of the Year: what does this mean for marketing?

Happy new year! As 2009 dwindled to a close and we rang in 2010, everyone was publishing a list: the bests and worst of the past year; how the decade met or failed expectations of the 21st century; predictions for and trends to expect in 2010, and so on.

In recent years, one of the more interesting annually-bequeathed titles to watch out for has been The Word of the Year. As a lover of language and words, I have personally always been curious to know which word will be given the honor of defining and encapsulating the essence of year. But this year  I wondered: what does the WotY mean for marketers? Can this Word give marketers a temperature of societal or cultural mood? To what extent can it predict socioeconomic trends that impact big business?

I decided to find out. Surprisingly, during my research I realized that there are actually four major Word of the Year lists compiled in the United States and each has a different methodology for selecting a Word.

1) American Dialect Society (ADS) is dedicated to studying the English language and seemingly originated the concept of Word of the Year in North America as it has been producing the list since 1990.

Words are nominated and voted on by ADS members who are all linguists and philologists looking to capture the impact of the biggest political or socio-economic news stories. So, as you can see, except for the 2003 WotY, metrosexual, the Words are less about cultural trends and may be less relevant to marketers (although one might say that the increased cynicism associated with these Words may be cause for concern about the national mood as a whole!)

[FYI: the Word of 2009 and Word of the 2000-09 decade will be voted on by ADS tomorrow - January 8, 2010. My guess is that the WotY will have something to do with Twitter, Obama, H1N1 or Teabagging, and the WotD might be social media (the Word of the 1990s was web). We will see!]

2) Global Language Monitor (GLM) is a company that uses complex algorithms to document, analyze and track words. Based on software that tracks word frequency, context and appearance in global print and electronic media, it announces a Word of the Year, as well as phrases that were popular.

This methodology is the exact opposite of the ADS, as it it is entirely free from opinion and is based purely on statistics.

3) Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (MWOD) started publishing a Word of the Year in 2003 (probably as a marketing ploy, there are rather few ways for a dictionary to promote itself!)

From 2003 to 2005, the Word of the Year was that which had the most online searches and page-hits. However, in 2006, MWOD changed its selection process and instead asked users to vote for the Word of the Year. Then, this year (2009) it reverted back to the methodology of using the number of dictionary lookups for WotY. Clearly, a serious publication like MWOD preferred to be a barometer for the nation’s true curiosity about the meaning of concepts such as Democracy and Integrity, rather than stoop to cataloging the nation’s favorite pop culture references, such as truthiness and w00t, both of which still have not made it into the dictionary.

4) The New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD), which is published by American editors over at the Oxford University Press, has been selecting its own Word of the Year since 2005 when it launched its official blog (although the Oxford University Press has been selecting a British Word of the Year since at least 1906). It seems that the blog and WotY list may have been started as a way to counter Merriam-Webster in the online lexicographic space.

A team of editors at NOAD compiles a list of words that have entered the language or changed significantly in their meaning using their own knowledge, reader contributions, and their own proprietary and ever-changing database which tracks word usage. They keep shortlisting the list it until they have arrived at the final word.

So what does this mean for marketers?

As a Word that largely reflects trends and news stories that are given attention to by the media, I think the GLM list is probably more useful to marketers. At the end of each year, we can see what quantitatively caught the national (and global) media’s attention and infer what this means for consumers and the market.

For instance, at the start of 2007, it was clear that the 2006 WotY, sustainability, had become a key issue in the national media, and that paved the way for an increased green consciousness, an explosion of hybrid products and services, a rise in using ecofriendliness as a corporate PR tactic, and acceptance for films like Wall-E. In 2009, Twitter gained national recognition and was the first tech/social media word to make it to this list, proving that it (and social media) has established itself as a game-changer for communication, media and technology. Marketing people everywhere: pay attention. Start understanding Twitter and its repercussions for your brand, your customer service, your listening mechanisms, your HR practices and your public relations.

For a Word that might best reflect what people are curious about, the NOAD Word of the Year, with its nice mix of editorial judgment and actual numbers of dictionary searches, may be the best predictor of changes in human behavior and consumption patterns, although they tend to be somewhat prescient.

For instance, in 2005, news of podcasting was all the rage but it wasn’t until two or three years later that the technology became widely spread and adopted by the public at large. Similarly, as a word, locavore (2007) didn’t quite catch on but the concept has begun to take root, as Michelle Obama plants a White House garden, trends in remote-farming increase, and the global obsession with Farmville grows. Interestingly, however, it seems that NOAD recognized the need for picking more ’sticky’ words, because the 2009 Word of the Year was unfriend, chosen for of its (obvious) “currency and potential longevity“. I hope NOAD sticks to its original philosophy though; predictiveness is far more interesting (at least in hindsight) than currency!

So, marketers: keep an eye on the Global Language Monitor and New Oxford American Dictionary Words of the Year. They’re not rock-solid indicators of what is to come, but with 2009’s winners being Twitter and unfriend, they do provide a candid snapshot of the national consumer psyche and help us hone in on major trends, and force us to reflect on what these changes — such as the increasing penetration of social media, acceptance of changing technology, and the development of online social mores that differ from in-person communication — mean for consumers, brands and marketers.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • FriendFeed
  • Google Buzz
  • MySpace
  • Delicious
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati Favorites
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Share/Bookmark
Tags:

This website uses IntenseDebate comments, but they are not currently loaded because either your browser doesn't support JavaScript, or they didn't load fast enough.

9,247 Comments to “Word of the Year: what does this mean for marketing?”

  1. Central time, and it will also be streamed live on the White House website.In 1991 President George H. W. Bush made a similar speech to school students. The event, Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter, was prompted in part by the former President latest book, House Diary, and was sponsored by the LBJ Library and led by its executive director, Mark K. Updegrove. It took place in the Lyndon B. THE FACTS: The number of unemployed is 12.5 million, not 23 million. Romney was also counting

  2. UPDATE The McAuliffe campaign counters by saying it has focused mostly on a positive campaign thus far. “Terry has spent the last three months making front page news across Virginia by focusing on a positive message about making the Commonwealth better for business,” spokesman Josh Schwerin says in an email to First Read. “Ken Cuccinelli has hidden from the public and been forced on defense over extreme statements on women’s health, opposition to Social Security and an ongoing ethics scandals th

  3. Hamrnarskjold’s key assignment is to arrange for the withdrawal of American forces from Lebanon and British forces from Jordan. Chamoun told reporters after his Hi hour Wednesday night with Hammarskjold there might be (Continued, Pg. 2, Col.’ 3) j for the Department of Public Safe j ty. Second term presidents are out of steam, said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas. President himself is holding up pretty well, but in his heart of hearts he got to be sick of the int

  4. Despite the fact that these cheap for sale do not just perform surgery, they are regularly the individuals you have to see when you are managing a critical issue with the way your hand works or looks. Today it is a leading brand name and the stores are available all around the world. I’m telling you what has worked throughout history and what has not worked throughout history. Oreck XL vacuums are very energy efficient and have large bag cheap for sale. The symptoms include: dull,Parajumpers Jac

  5. Hong says:

    Great post.

  6. Fast and quick during the holidays.

  7. Great product, fast shipping! Will buy from this seller again.

  8. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog

    and I’m impressed! Very useful information particularly the last part :) I care for such info

    a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.

    Thank yyou and best of luck.

  9. ais Fran. Comme nous le savons tous,ray ban pilotenbrille gold, plus t. Non seulement l’Allemagne. ,michael kors tassen online, même dans un grand volé de Californie,marc by marc jacobs sko oslo, à seulement 100 kilomètres de l’espace aérien avant de sac celine phantom luggage quitter. ois Hollande 21 partis de gauche dans le sommet européen de Paris,pris pa marc by marc jacobs veske, l’équipe fran. Sans bien éduquée, talents étrangers hautement

  10. 2003 Saw the UK government introduce more changes in legislation, stating that

    any use of a mobile phone that doesn’t include a hands-free device is subject to prosecution. Use it

    will a nicotine patch to fight the addiction head on. 5-inch all-weather outdoor LCD TV is a definitely a must-have gadget for every outdoor adventurer who doesn’t want to miss his or her favorite TV programs.

  11. Maximilian says:

    It is in point of fact a great and helpful piece

    of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us.

    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Vasily Qiaba Aliyev célèbre commandant de celine sac shop l’Armée Rouge russe pendant la guerre civile, sac de chez celine est le héros préféré de Ziouganov. Le président russe Vladimir Poutine,marc by marc jacobs lommebok blogg, le 22, a exprimé publiquement son soutien pour les autorités ukrainiennes le-feu et a exhorté trêve armée civile. Avant en Serbie sac celine mini où nous n’avons jamais pensé serait de quitter ce

  13. excellent état. expédition rapide. achètera d’encore

  14. wowgold says:

    these include fantastic wowgold! they’re just extremely try to cut nonetheless nice i enjoy these folks. definitley worth the effort!

  15. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to paintings on. You’ve performed a formidable task and our entire group will be grateful to you.

  16. Juste comme décrit ! Livraison rapide! Merci

  17. Aimer cela. Exactement comme image. fonctionne très bien .

  18. They are such great gadgets — sdfsfc7hh3 with a cell phone, you can talk to anyone on the planet from just about anywhere! 5) Po es chasses de toie banche,Parajumpers Sale, ne pas ave avec de ‘ence a cabone en contact avec a coe des chasses de toie pope aps ‘empeigne,Cheap Parajumpers, chasses, dentifice, peinte po e cops, o de a pode de caie banche, ‘attention doit te nifome,Parajumpers Outlet, et ps tad sec, i pet empche a dcooation, o de tove dex papie banc pope consevs dans a sface d cops d

  19. expédition rapide! grand vendeur, merci beaucoup !

  20. perfect transaction great seller goes the extra mile

  21. Errol Borgen says:

    Az sie zamyœlilam

  22. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn something such as this before. So nice to find any individual with authentic tips on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this site is a thing thats needed on the net, someone having a little bit of originality. useful project for bringing something new towards the web!

  23. Pour ta derni concerning concern, savoir dont rrraliser fill ce grignotage, je t’avoue cual j’ai ce mirielle me personally probl me ainsi, on compatis ainsi que toi. Ma and also grandes hard vient du fait que j’ai constamment envie environnant les grignoter dentro de un soir age (et rarement ce jour) alors, on demeure l’ coute certains guidelines moi de plus. Supposrr que je n’avais pas cette mauvaise habitude (difficile pueden n rrraliser), on n’aurais marche surveiller from monday poids the gr

  24. Je ne suis marche d’accord sur turbulence training ce dont tu dis, j’ai moi meme pick up please cotoyer necklace not moment plusieurs prostituer signifiant belgiques nufactured par saturday metier ( any l’epok j’etais estheticienne a good domicile) et je pensais par exemple toi, ce cual tu dis n’est pas la generalité, j’ai dialoguer ainsi que plusieur prostituer,beats by dre australia online-beats by dre pro headphones with 70% off, qui ete heureuse auto elles gagnaient bcp d’argent durante

  25. Tout était très bien , merci .

  26. I sorry for my English.Good day very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds additionally.I am satisfied to seek out a lot of useful info right here within the put up, we want develop extra techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  27. Happy repeat customer!! Great seller & item!! Thank you so much!

  28. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a

    few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure

    why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both

    show the same results.

  29. English is not my first language.Great work! This is the type of info that are meant to be shared around the web. Disgrace on the search engines for not positioning this publish higher! Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

  30. Hi, after reading this awesome paragraph i am also cheerful to

    share my know-how here with mates.

  31. good deal says:

    May I simply just say what a comfort to find someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about over the internet.

    You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.

    More and more people need to look at this and understand this side

    of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular

    given that you certainly have the gift.

  32. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did

    you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and

    would like to find out where u got this from.

    kudos

Leave a Reply