I recommend that you avoid the word unique entirely when marketing construction products. Below I give you three reasons why. In brief: it is usually used incorrectly; it is overused; and it does not build trust.
1: Ask yourself: is it really unique?
The first reason to avoid the word unique is that you may be using it completely incorrectly. Is the thing you are describing really a one-off? Ask yourself again: Is it really? Most often, I see the word unique used to describe construction products that have similar competitor products available on the market.
The meaning of unique is something that is one of a kind or unlike anything else.
True examples of unique products are sculpture and public art, fully bespoke commissioned products, products with patents and products with innovations that are first to market. If your product isn’t one of these things, don’t use the word unique.
Even if it is one of the above, I’d strongly recommend describing in plain terms why it is a one-off product. This is much more helpful for a specifier who might be considering a similar commission, than trumpeting about the fact your product is unique.
It’s true that the meaning of language shifts over time and we may be seeing this with ‘unique’. The word is overused, and the strength of its meaning is being reduced. It is being used almost to mean ‘special’, and this is in evidence by the increasing use of the phrase ‘quite unique’. Technically, something cannot be ‘quite’ unique; it is either unique or it is not.
2: Do you want your writing to be cliched?
This word has been so overused as to have lost some of its weight. When a reader sees the word unique, my guess is that at best, they will think twice, and at worst, visibly wince. For these reasons it is best avoided, even if your product actually is unique.
In 2010 (1), Adam Sherk conducted research using PRWeb that showed ‘unique’ was the fifth most commonly used word in press releases. This built on a 2006 study (2) by David Meerman Scott.
Instead, find a way of describing what makes your product special in clear, helpful terms.
3: Do you want to build or erode trust?
Too often, a product’s features are described as “unique”. Even if you have designed your own locking mechanism, fixing system or slam-lock hinge, there is likely to be a similar feature available on some other product.
It is better to state clearly in plain terms what the features are, what their benefits are to the user, and let the reader make their own mind up as to whether they are special or not. They may or may not be special depending on the application a designer plans to use them for. The environment and usage play a big part in performance of a product.
Over-hyping a product or one of its features is to be avoided in itself. It is a bigger than the use of one single cliche or a series of marketing buzzwords. I have written about the importance being honest and objective before and will do so again. It’s a philosophy that helps the construction specifier. This approach will in turn benefit the manufacturer looking to promote their products.
Put yourself in an architect’s shoes – they may be trying to source ideas at the concept stage or they may be specifying product details. In either situation, is it a help or a hindrance to them to have to cut through exaggerated marketing language?
There are many more blog posts I can write on this.
Avoid the word unique to:
- accept the fact that there may be other similar products out there and your readers need choice
- steer clear of a stale, overused word that has lost its impact
- build trust with your audience as an honest manufacturer that communicates the facts
Adam Sherk blogged in 2010 with a list of the 100 most overused buzzwords and marketing speak in press releases after using Google search on PRWeb’s website.
David Meerman Scott launched his ‘gobbledygook manifesto’ back in 2006 and explained that your buyers want your products to be explained in plain language. This post is still as valid today as it was 10 years ago.
Pamela Laird says
I totally agree Owen, i think the word unique is over used in may industries. Great read.
Glad you agree Pamela!
Nicola Donnelly says
This is one of those blogs that should be in a life manual somewhere. Maybe one given out with a thesaurus 😉 Objectivity is a wonderful tag.
Thanks, high praise indeed Nicola!
Martin Huntbach says
Great article Owen. A word that is used far too frequently without any thought.
Cheers Martin. Its overuse has led to a ‘weakening’ of the meaning. It has led to more and more instances of the phrase ‘very unique’ – a contradiction in terms – but something that is almost accepted now. Exaggeration in marketing contributes significantly to language shift!