One of the things I love, and hate, about our culture is how the media can pick up on something new and hammer it to death. The result is good at first - a shared experience and/or vocabulary that rallies a lot of Americans around a cause. The downside is that the media, and society in general, keep hammering on the topic/vocabulary, and eventually it becomes a cliche' that everyone wishes would just go away.
Those trends resonate nowhere stronger than corporate America. Here's how it works. Media picks up a trend, focuses on a certain part of the vocabulary that describes that trend, and hammers away. Next thing you know, the buzzwords enter corporate America, meeting/board rooms start using the terms, and conferences are created around the buzzword.
Case in point - Presidential branding...
The first days of the Obama campaign were ripe with one powerful word - "transparency". More on what Obama did in his first day that contributed to the call for increased transparency from the Los Angeles Times:
"In a grinding first full day as president, Barrack (sic) Obama moved decisively to distance himself from the previous administration, pushing top military leaders for a plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq and issuing a string of orders to make government more open.
Obama used Day One as well to signal his commitment to a central campaign promise: upending the way Washington does business. He announced tough new restrictions on lobbying activity.
"This is big," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research institute at George Washington University that has challenged Bush administration policies on the release of information. "No president has done so much on the first day in office to make his administration transparent."
Speaking to his senior staff, Obama said, "However long we are keepers of the public trust, we should never forget that we are here as public servants, and public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself. It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans."
He also rolled out new rules for his appointees, requiring them to sign a pledge meant to disrupt the "revolving door" by which lobbyists flow seamlessly into government and back into the lobbying business.
His aides are barred from lobbying any executive agency for the life of the Obama administration. That means an appointee who leaves the White House in, say, 2010 would be barred from lobbying the executive branch until 2017 if Obama were to serve two terms."
As many of you know, I'm a moderate Republican. I loved the lobbying bill, as a first foray for Obama, to give the appearance of a high ethical code and a value of transparency. Good stuff.
But back to the point of the post. Somewhere around 2012, I suspect America, especially after the recession is over, is going to care less about transparency, and the Obama folks will need new branding.
Same with corporate America. Heard the term "transparency" double digit times last week, and used it myself multiple times. Felt good. I suspect by 2011, some bosses in the workplace will ban the use of the word "transparency". Find another word, because the boss is sick of that one.
Case in point - in the post 9/11 world, a hot buzzword in corporate America was "shock and awe". Don't hear that one much any more. Also heard "evil-doer" - not so much anymore. Also, two weeks into the Obama cabinet, and we're already faced with a bunch of folks that made it through the vetting process only to find out they didn't pay their taxes. That's probably going to hurt the branding of the transparency theme.
Corporate buzzwords - keep them fresh or watch the brand die...