Blank Made Simple

Made simple. How many times have you reared your ugly head in copywriting, marketing and lazy branding?

Just today, by looking around the web, I can tell you there’s a marketing company called MadeSimple. A reality show called Home Made Simple. A video by the guardian called Bitcoin made simple. A content management system called CMS Made Simple. Dog food called Raw Made Simple. Punctuation Made Simple. Web design made simple. WordPress made simple. House made simple. Travel made simple. Wardrobes. Volatility. Digital. Purity.

And even Church Insurance Made Simple.

I’ve had enough. The list goes on ad nausea.

If you’re thinking about what to call your product, how to market it to masses, just stop. Don’t use these words.

You might think it “simplifies” your message. Or maybe it conveys the essence of your product in two easy words.

What you’re actually doing is being a lazy bastard like everyone else.

[Blank] made simple is not only over-used and lazy, it’s also terrible, and using it in your marketing copy makes you a terrible person.

It’s a vernacular transgression. Word-based sin. It’s awful and meaningless and should condemn your product to the fiery hells of bad marketing.

Think about it.What are you conveying with “volatility made simple” or “purity made simple”? What do either of these actually mean?

“You know, it means our facial cleanser is simpler than all the other complicated ones.”

Oh yeah? How so? What makes yours so simple and magical and different? Does it fly out of the bottle and apply itself or do you have to put some on your hands and rub it on your face like everyone else?

What about Church insurance made simple? Are all those other bastards mucking it up for everyone with their over-complicated, mechanical, soulless church insurance policies?

How many people on earth even need church insurance to be made simple? Where are the masses crying out, cursing the skies because insuring their church is just too damn complicated?

The worst part it, “made simple-ism” isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Every day new products, new websites, new crappy brands emerge from the either and demand lazy ad copy. The people behind them will hire some marketing agency made simple, get the same regurgitated copy as everyone else, and pat themselves on the back while giggling about how clever they are.

If you’re one of the bastards writing this type of copy. Just stop. Please. For the love of good words and better phrases.

Payette Gate

Canadian politics are boring. So boring in fact, that we turn anything we can into scandals, just to have scandals to talk about.

See last year’s “elbow gate” or as it is also known: “how a person bumping into another person in a crowded room became a cause for uproar.” (Those people shouting over bumping elbows have clearly never been on Montreal’s Metro during rush hour, but that is neither here nor there.)

Our latest non-scandal/scandal was everywhere in today’s news.

This morning, commentators were denouncing Governor General Julie Payette. Across the internet, commentators (including at the CBC) were crawling out of the woodwork to condemn her for “criticizing” religions and that she somehow “mocked” and disrespected millions of Canadians in the process all because of a speech she made at a scientific conference.

Let’s review what happened.

Payette appeared as the keynote speaker at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa. One assumes her career as an astronaut (I.E. scientist) had something to do with this.

During her address, she observed (with some incredulity) that “we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Despite her tone, one should probaby assume that Payette wasn’t taking the pulpit to be offensive, but to address the general state of things concerning the scientific community.

Let’s recall that Payette wasn’t invited to speak at the pulpit of a Church or to give a sermon. She was speaking at a conference for scientists, as a scientist, about “science stuff.”

In such a context, it would seem that arguing that religious beliefs and astrology have no place in science is somewhat matter-of-fact and not out of place.

Why?

In case there was ever any confusion, science and religion are not in competition. Nor are they interchangeable. As processes, they are both concerned with exploring fundamentally different things.

Science is a critical pursuit, a form of investigation – whether it be the natural world, the laws that govern it, or the ways in which humans interact on a sociological level. You start with a hypothesis, review the data, and draw your conclusions based on the evidence at hand.

Science is impersonal and kinda boring.

Religion, on the other hand, is a different sort of pursuit. Religion investigates personal truth, the meaning of this world, and our place in it. The process doesn’t begin with a hypothesis, but a conclusion (see opening verses of the Bible… it does not begin with an investigation whether God did or did not create the world in seven days, but a statement). These conclusions then inform people how to live their lives.

Religion is personal and dynamic.

It is also has nothing to do with science.

So, saying that divine intervention has no place in a scientific inquiry should be as matter-of-fact as pointing out that scientists have no place storming into a church and telling people how they should be praying or singing.

Wouldn’t that be fun? I didn’t think so either.

Let’s try keep each to their own. If we can’t, then at least not lose our collective minds every time something we disagree with happens to drip all over the news.

Thanks, Facebook: Russia’s “Being Patriotic” Campaign

Facebook has a problem (okay, not just one).

According to a recent investigative article in The Daily Beast, a Russian “troll factory” played as much (if not more) of a role swaying the minds of American voters in the run-up to their 2016 election than our earlier (and dire) suspicions.

Somewhere over 10,000,000 Americans saw and were possibly influenced by these ads, many of them targetting hot-topic and (sadly) divisive issues like LGBT rights, gun control, and the like. And, of course, the Clinton / Trump divide.

“Being Patriotic” was the account name and Twitter handle for one of the more popular Russian-backed groups on Facebook. According to The Daily Beast, some 200,000 Americans joined the group which then went on to organize at least a dozen potential marches and rallies in Trump’s favour during the last election cycle.

The sad part is that it’s not hard to understand why the 200,000 Americans who followed that group did so. The implications are clear: supporting Donald Trump meant you were patriotic, while supporting Clinton meant the exact opposite – being unpatriotic.

No one wants to be labelled “unpatriotic.” Least of all, in the United States where Patriotism is a currency, a challenge that always seems to face new contenders.

The crushing irony is that there was nothing patriotic about this group, since it was being secretly backed and organized by Russian operatives. In effect, Russia was telling Americans how they should understand patriotism. Never mind what it says about electoral integrity, campaign laws and voting fairness (not every candidate is fortunate enough to have Russian backers sponsoring you from the sidelines like daddy) — it’s a pretty damning look at the power and perniciousness of present-day social media.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg loves to talk about how his platform helps people connect, makes the world a better, and a whole other spool of yarn. While some of that may be partially true, it’s becoming more and more obvious than the opposite is taking place well.

In this sense, Facebook’s simplicity, ease-of-access, and droves on content are both a blessing and a curse. It helps more and more people get online and “connect” with others, while also subjecting them to more information at a faster rate than anything most of them had been used to before.

The problem is it doesn’t look like people know what to do with all this information or how to take it. Perhaps people are too trusting and accepting of whatever they read (no matter the source, nor the headline) and are inclined to take it at either face value or on an emotional level.

Unfortunately, information (and data) is meant to be taken critically or analytically (and not based on one’s emotional attachment to the keywords in the title). If people aren’t trained or taught to be skeptical of everything they read (or at the very least, of suspicious claims), then we have a problem. People will make uninformed decisions

it would seem then that thanks to Facebook, people are essentially being exposed to information which they are unable to properly process at a faster rate than they can handle. This information in turn leads to real-world events and actions. Some can be big and elaborate (like organizing rallies based on a Russian sneak’s claims to patriotism) or more mundane.

It even happens where someone a person casually sees on Facebook (“hot water causes cancer!”) might seep into casual conversation after (“did you know cold water is better for you?”). When it comes to mundane things like water temperature, it’s not so bad, but when it comes to making an informed decision about who you think should run the country, then it’s another matter altogether – and a more frightening one at that.

Since the article ran in the Daily Beast, Facebook has come forward with more details¬†about Russia’s use of their platform. In tandem, the social media company has promised greater oversight and moderation, but the most obvious part of the damage it seems has already been done. The less obvious damage – people’s inclination to read ingest whatever they read on the internet – isn’t something that they can patch with a few quick fixes. It’s systemic.