It’s called a holiday

Scarborough

Scarborough: a commitment to integrating modern architecture that is perhaps most reminiscent of Barcelona.

Now that most people are mostly back in a country that mostly matches the one on their plane ticket, it’s time to strike an optimistic note about one other thing that didn’t fly last week: the attempt by holiday operator Thomson to popularise the phrase “awaycation” to describe a holiday overseas.

Thanks to Will Randall for showing me the press release, based on a survey by Opinion Matters. It needed someone to point it out to me, because afterwards I could count only four publications that wrote about it – and one of them only printed the word to make fun of it.

The awaycation is the latest shot in marketing’s tedious Buzzword Wars. Imagine, if you will, a group of dedicated marketers and PR people in early 2008, huddled into a meeting room, desperately trying to make the prospect of a week in Scarborough seem attractive to people who would prefer to take their leisure in Ibiza or Florida.

There’s a reason why we choose not to go on holiday to the same places that our parents visited. It’s broadly speaking because, compared to most popular destinations in the world, a British holiday is what travel experts call a bit crap. But call your holiday a staycation” and you’re not just eating overpriced jumbo haddock and chips while watching the drizzle, you’re part of a global economic trend. Also, it gives the travel section something to write about that isn’t holiday companies going down the tubes or how you’re only getting one Euro per Pound.

The tedious buzzword magic worked for the staycation marketers – seven uses of the word before January 2008, more than 4,000 since then –  so in 2010 Thomson, which owns 77 planes and even bought a Boeing 787, needed to work the same magic by describing something like a staycation which involves getting on a flight. Just don’t call it something boringly descriptive like a holiday abroad. It’s much better than that, it’s an awaycation!

Sigh.

This tedious rebirthing isn’t new, because there are so many reasons beyond inspiration-free desperation for marketers to do it. It might just be the self-importance that turns a personnel department into human resources. It might be a way to do an about-turn without making it look like you were wrong, which turns outsourcing into insourcing, rightsourcing or even upsourcing.

Or, sadly, it might be our need to see every event in our lives as a jolly project with a special name and a happy ending. Losing your job has always been a pain for you and an opportunity for buzzword manufacturers. In vogue at the moment: you’re apparently re-careering.

If you have expertise in inventing pointless words for marketing purposes but currently find yourself unavoidably re-careering, perhaps a job in an expanded Ministry of Euphemisms for Bad Things is on the cards. On the evidence of this election, trying to pretend that it’s OK really is one part of the public sector that has continued to expand in the recession. If we’re going to fight the Buzzword Wars, our troops need to have the right euphemisms. Sorry, I meant they need to be optimally resourced with appropriately context-sensitive descriptors. These meaningless government phrases don’t invent themselves, you know.

A quick search shows that even the mildly silly “re-careering” had a better run in the press than “awaycation” has, so far at least. I find this encouraging: we have discovered that it is possible to come up with a marketing buzzword that’s so obviously rubbish that everyone simply ignores it, like a bad smell.

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