The Word is not the Thing – Strategic Communication 

How to Sell Ownership in a Partnership
Facebook Marketing Tips

The Word is not the Thing – Strategic Communication 

Remember that the word is not the thing.  It never was and it never will be.  The meaning only exist when the receiver of the communication is able to associate how a word is felt.

But what word can we choose that could carry a shared meaning across the market?

Quick Case Study

In one of my lectures in a local college, I took out a random picture and asked a simple question : “what is this?”  Instantaneously the class said, COW!  I asked again, “what is this?”  They second guessed themselves (because I am known for being full of tricks and a completely quirky lecturer) but said, cow! (this time with less confidence).  I asked again, “what is this?”…some answered, “cow la!”

I left the room silent, grinned and waited for them to laugh nervously before asking…”are your sure?”  Almost all were confused, unsure and a few nervously nodded.

I said, “this is a picture of a cow.  There is no cow in the room”.

Upon this response, the entire room broke into hysterical laughter.  But that is just the point — were they wrong in this first place? I did not disagree with them because I am aware that the meaning is not in the word COW but in how the receiver of the communication understood the question.  The entire room shared a common understanding that the beast in the flash card is known predominantly in their culture as the animal COW.

Yet, the point I am trying to make is — THE WORD IS NOT THE THING BUT THE MEANING THAT IS ASSOCIATED BY THE RECEIVER OF THE COMMUNICATION THAT TRULY MATTERS.  For communicators, we need to know, why.

What if I flashed the picture of the COW to a group of Indonesians.  What would the they call it?  Ideally, the answer would be SAPI.  What if the receiver of the communication were little tots?  What are the odds that their answers would be MOO?

Get it?

The intention of sharing this case study is to showcase that the WORD is never the thing. Communication is about the creation of meaning deduced by the target audience and socialization of a community that depends largely on how they understand language — that points to the crux of its CULTURE.  Simply put, meaning is almost always associated to a word based on the understanding of a CULTURE.

So, for business owners and entrepreneurs planning to embark on a communication strategic planning, I’d propose that one begin by first identify WHY you are creating this communication plan.  Begin the journey with an overall communication goal by answering the following simple questions :

  1. What are the main messages/ideas that you want the audience to remember?
  2. What is the essence that you want to resonate with your audience?
  3. What is the key element that will create the ultimate buy-in from your audience?

[more is shared in the 2nd chapter of my book due to launch end of this year]

Think about swimming out of the red ocean and into a blue one : what makes you unique?  What value do you add to your clients and the reasons they appreciate you for it? There must be something that makes you stand like a sore thumb in the crowd.

In my last coaching session in conjunction with Peaches & Pen, Own Your Word Campaign, I mentioned to a participant that the the TRUTH of a word is in intuition. How would the receiver of the message feel the truth in your communication?

In my opinion, the true Brain is the Heart.  The Heart makes all the decisions (though we leave a lot of the thinking process to the brain).  But for the purpose of Branding with Word to ensure that the right audience remember you for the right reason —  whatever WORD you choose to associate to your products or services, first, it must evoke the right intuition and feeling amongst the target audience that shares the same understanding of the word.

Just remember that the WORD is never the thing. It is the shared meaning that spells truth in the heart of your audience.

Check us out at for other interesting things about the business world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *