Now that smartphones with full QWERTY keyboards are seemingly more popular than the number-pad mobile handsets of yore, is there really a need for ‘text speak’ anymore? Or does the ‘language’ now solely exist in the realm of marketers?
Sure, there are still quick abbreviations—OMG, LOL and TTYL don’t seem to be going anywhere—and Twitter’s 140-character limit forces people to be creative in their tweets, but the rampant use of text shorthand seems to be fading among actual users, while it’s transparent abuse seems to be rising amongst marketers striving to be ‘cool’ in speaking to Gen Y.
Unfortunately, when marketers strive to create innovative campaigns, a number of them fall into the trap of jumping on the latest fad without fully understanding it. The net result? Confused and skeptical consumers.
Though it’s a bit old now, one of Chase Bank’s campaigns is a prime example of this. The bank’s “gt $ fstfr ;)” campaign promoting their ATM QuickChoice menu/service makes little sense. How does text-speak relate to this service? And why is there a wink at the end? This just seems like hopping on a fad just for the sake of doing it, not because it adds any value to the campaign.
I recently received an email from U-Promise with the subject line “Gr8t College Savings, LOL”. I can identify at least three things are wrong with this. First, “great” is written as “Gr8” in text-speak. There’s no need for the extra T. Second, the “LOL” is superfluous, as there’s nothing necessarily humorous in the email (except, maybe, the campaign itself), so similar to the wink above, it makes no sense in the context of the campaign. Finally, based on the standard and generic feel of the email, there isn’t even a need to use tex-speak. The email didn’t mention anything that would relate it back to technology or SMS messaging or mobile communications. It was surely dreamed up as a way to catch Gen Y’s eye.
Despite the often misuse of text speak, the Cingular “IDK my BFF Jill” commercial was an example of a good tongue in cheek use of it. One version of it on YouTube got over 1.6 million hits and sparked numerous blog posts and screennames.
Ultimately, though, text speak is now as passé as alterna-caps (eg, aLtErnA-cApS) and sometimes equally as obnoxious. Marketers should strive for authenticity in their communications and not just follow the latest fad.