Cut the marketing speak (unless you’re a copywriter)


The travel media world can kind of be like the Matrix. It’s so ingrained in us from all the media we’ve consumed over our lives that we don’t even know what’s real. We take things in and then regurgitate them without second thought, thinking “this is what it’s supposed to sound like.” If you want to stand out in your writing, photography, or filmmaking, it’s time to start being hyper-critical about everything you create. It’s time to start asking hard questions of yourself and your craft.

This week let’s have a look at marketing speak. This comes across most obviously in travel writing, although elements of it can and do appear in photography and filmmaking. A lot of what we read in mainstream media is rife with marketing speak. Sometimes it’s blind perpetuation of this kind of construction and sometimes it’s, well, literally marketing.

Remember, unless you’re a copywriter for an ad or PR agency, it’s not your job to sell a destination. In fact, if you want to create compelling and authentic stories, strike the word “destination” from your vocabulary. Thinking of places you travel to and the cultures you connect with as destinations inherently turns them into commodities. If you think you need to sell a place to your readers, your writing/photography/filming will come off that way, and you will miss out on all the little details and nuances that exist by not being there and observing what actually is.

In looking for marketing speak in your work, watch out for:

Cliches: “sweeping vistas” / “verdant hills” / “azure coastlines.” Think if this is actually how you would describe a place in real life. Is this how you talk? I’m guessing it’s not.

Meaningless abstractions: “Amazing views” / “stunning landscapes”

Rhetorical questions and situations: “Always wanted to dip your feet in the world’s deepest lake? Well you can here!” / “Swoosh through knee-deep powder, soak in mineral hot springs, and dine by a wood fire, all in one day.”

Speaking to an abstract group: “For the art lovers…”

A red flag that I probably most commonly see (and am guilty of myself from time to time) is this kind of construction: “Whether you’re looking for peace and solitude, a bit of adventure, or a great nightlife, so and so has it all.”

There are many other marketing constructions out there. The best killer of these is: CONCRETE DETAILS. Use people’s names, street names, specific restaurants/bars, menu items, quotes. When you use concrete details well your readers/viewers will infer whatever feelings/emotions that they will, naturally. Don’t try to force a feeling onto anyone. This is what marketing does.

Go back to the last thing you wrote/produced with a critical eye to “accidental marketing.” See how you can change it.

[Feature image: davebloggs007]

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