When people find out that Bruce Hornsby has been my favorite musician since childhood, I usually get one of the following questions:
“Why do you like Bruce Hornsby?”
“Who is Bruce Hornsby?”
“Didn’t Tupac write ‘The Way It Is’?”
“How old are you?”
“No, seriously, why do you like Bruce Hornsby?”
The easiest way to explain my lifelong fanhood is that Bruce’s music is never the same. He finds different ways to play his most famous hits, he draws inspiration from a broad spectrum of styles and he is widely regarded as one of the most technically skilled improvisational piano players in the world.
More incredibly, after nearly 35 years of touring, Bruce and his band have never — once — used a setlist. It’s a new show every single night. That level of variety and originality is hard to sustain in music or any art form.
Writing is no exception.
Lately I’ve been considering some of the advertising language that flies past our ears every day. Sadly, unlike Bruce Hornsby, the industry often adheres to a well-worn setlist — especially when it comes to describing and marketing food. At any given time, there seems to be a list of hits that consumers want to hear over and over again.
According to one media research study detailed in Produce Retailer, these food word trends have evolved in some interesting ways, appearing and disappearing over time. For example, the article describes how the use of the word “artificial” has surged over the past several years (being included on labels like “no artificial ingredients”) while words like “healthy” have become less prevalent.
In their analysis, the study’s creators suggest that today’s consumers are more educated about what they eat and therefore more curious about what goes into their food. This unique situation creates an accepted matrix of language around food — so whether we’re scanning labels in the supermarket aisle, looking over a menu or watching commercials, we expect to have certain buzzwords checked off our list.
This litmus test of language has always been there, from the old days of “fat-free” to today’s ubiquitous “all-natural.” The challenge for writers is to continue telling a compelling, unexpected story about food while reassuring consumers their needs and tastes are being satisfied.
Language influencing behavior? That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.
What food advertising language do you see over and over again? Let us know in the comments.