One of the tweets I saw last evening riled me so much…enough to tweet this,

I *H-A-T-E* someone using ‘dis’, for ‘this’, even when there are a LOT of characters left. Not taking names; in a charitable mood.

The truth is, it was from a brand! And, here’s my gripe.

Brands like that speak in the best of their English, in all other forms of communication. Whether it is press releases crafted by the brand’s PR team…or senior management speaking to media. So, why should social media be any different?

Oh I hear you…you’re saying…no…just say it. Target segment? Demographic?

Hmmm, sorry, that doesn’t quite cut it.

The internet…or Twitter, in specific, is not full of people (I shudder to add…youth?) who use words like ‘dis’ and ‘wid’ (in place of ‘this’ and ‘with’), nor does that make a brand seem cool, even if it is catering to an age group that is purportedly using such words. They do exist, but it really isn’t important that brands start to talk like them to attract them.

If all other pieces of communication from such brands are consistent in terms of appropriately decent use of language, why should Twitter be any different? Does the CEO of such an organization know that such horrendous lingo is being used on the brand’s behalf, on Twitter?

Not convinced? Ok, let me say it – it is Cafe Coffee Day. I’m revealing the name only for the sake of demonstrating a point further – I do understand that Cafe Coffee Day may have a perfectly valid reason for this lingo usage that I may be completely oblivious of.

And the offending tweet was,

Hey folks! How many of you have experienced dis? πŸ˜‰ (Link)

My next question is this: Do waiters at Cafe Coffee Day use such language with their guests/visitors who may fall in the youth segment…or any segment, for that matter?

They still speak intelligent, decent English, I suppose. So, let me ask again – why should Twitter be any different?

This is not an isolated incident, if you think it is, since I’m referring to one single tweet. Back in August, Cafe Coffee Day referred to a tweeter (Narayanan H – who had tweeted them something…negative, at that) as ‘Dude’.

@CafeCoffeeDay: @narayananh sure dude, will let you know as soon as we get action items from our team @pprakash #CCDSucks

Without getting into what that issue was, since it’s not relevant to this post, a prominent Chennai-based Tweeter (Vijay Anand) tweeted to Narayanan,

@narayananh Did @cafecoffeeday just respond to you on twitter, referring to you as “Dude“? πŸ™‚ Wow. Who is teaching them customer service?

I had joined the discussion at that time by questioning if Cafe Coffee Day had acquired ‘dude license’ yet, with that tweeter.

beastoftraalΓ’??: Perhaps, @CafeCoffeeDay needs to earn dudelicense before using it with a tweeter and that takes more than 2 tweets, depending on context

Nobody else could explain that better than Seinfeld – he uses a post-date-call as the base to explain how relationships progress between people…in this case, between himself and baseball player, Keith Hernandez, after a chance encounter in the gym locker room. If you’re still interested in this line of thought, read the second act of this episode titled, ‘Boyfriend – Part 1‘ (It happens at Monks).

But I digress and having fun with the digression too!

Getting back to the point, I wonder what makes a brand resort to such language usage! It could be because of this – Interns shall inherit the earth – as explained beautifully by Jeremy Woolf. Or, it could be because this engagement is handed out to a bunch of just-out-of college kids who have, quite entrepreneurially, floated a ‘social media agency’. I applaud the entrepreneurism, but…please get your language right.

But again, if you think all this is trivial and the language really doesn’t matter on Twitter, I’d love to read your counter view, debate and learn from it.

Krish Ashok, on Twitter, offered one as soon as I ranted about the ‘dis’. Even if it sounded like it was done in jest, he did have a point when he asked me,

@krishashok @beastoftraal I wonder if someone said the same thing about folks who spelled musick as “music” in the 1600s

He went on, in Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue-style, to offer an example too, using The Chancery Standard.

At a broader level, going beyond language, the question is, should a brand become one of its users/customers to gain acceptance from them? Is it like asking a man to be a woman, to understand his wife’s feelings better? Or, as my son (he’s 7) says, ‘Dad, you don’t need to talk like me to get close to me – just be yourself…I like you that way’ πŸ™‚ I suppose that says a lot – we all have our unique identities and as a large brand, Cafe Coffee Day definitely has one. How it manifests in various customer touch points is the point to ponder. In Cafe Coffee Day outlets, which is one of the most important touch points, customers are referred to as ‘Sir’ – not by first name or with a ‘Dude’. Should it be any different on Twitter because they assume that, out here, they have become one of their customers?

Picture courtesy: Jonsson, via Flickr.



26 thoughts on “Should brands talk like dis jus’ coz its Twitter?

  1. While I still disagree on the notion that chatspeak spellings are somehow fundamentally inferior, you do make a valid point about companies trying to co-opt them to appear cool and connected. But everybody has been doing it for the last 100 years though. Best example is Nike – they put on a major, African American ghetto image despite making shoes that most folks in the ghetto would never be able to afford. In that sense, the “dude” and “dis” are simply minor league “cool-cred” hunting activities

    1. Yes, I agree that the post does seem to make chatspeak sound inferior. It is not, in truth and context rules above anything. The point is about chatspeak being part of a larger strategy – if the brand thinks that they need to feel one with a particular target segment, it could make a concerted effort and create a master narrative that includes language and tone. The only thing left is to stay in character, all through!

  2. Frankly, I think we need to let go of archaic language hang ups. How does using “dude” equate to inferior service or a lack of respect. It definitely comes across as a more honest reply keeping in context the way the brand is positioned or seen as.
    What could be seriously disturbing was if a more “straight laced” firm used slang and lingo like dude,ya etc.One wouldnt expect a firm who is handling money to be so casual.(though ING seemed to have pulled it off)
    If CCD on twitter came up to me and started using language like “Respected Sir, Your issue has been taken note of. We will act upon it and get back to you”
    Which sounds more believable,more genuine ?
    For people who live by the strict code of Wren and Martin it thhe above reply might be the preferred one,but there are people who use the word “dude” in everyday life and its really not that shocking.
    Look at Nike,Redbull,even Starbucks for that matter.None of them are rigid in their usage of language. Its just a personality and tone they need to adhere too.

    1. Rigid language is vastly different from conversational language. Do waiters at CCD say, ‘Dear Sir, your coffee is ready!’? Why should you assume I’m referring to that W&M lingo as a substitute for chatspeak? The 2 points here are – 1. Stay in character 2. Use appropriate language, consistently.

      So, if they use a particular tone and lingo, the only point is to stay in character in all kinds of communication. Appropriate language is normal, conversational English – So, ‘Hey Narayanan – we understand your concern. Could you allow us to get back to you?’ should be more than appropriate, no?

  3. First of all beastoftraal , you really should stay away from mentioning names of the brand which you like to criticize. Second i consider it a tragedy to get notice of someone being such a nitpick. Certainly i’m also not a fan of reducing a language to only its consonants. Still i dont see the point to make such a fuss on this. I agree with Geyoceanblues. We should not stick to these archaic definitions what is the right way of communication and what isn’t. Moreover a bit more of tolerance towards modern times wouldn’t hurt. I still maintain the freedom of speech. Nobody expects you Sir to follow their path. Hence i would advice you to get over it and move on.

    1. First question – why should I stay away from mentioning names? Just like you ask me to move on, I can (like anybody else) take names, I suppose. Have you even seen the kind of complaints about brands online? I have taken names after adding the fact that I may be completely wrong in my assumption …in the post.Second, I’m not making a fuss, but asking a question, to understand it better. You say you’re not a fan of reducing the language to its consonants – that was the opinion I was looking for – thanks!Third, there is no right way at all and I completely agree. What is missing however is that this twitter profile doesn’t seem to stay in character. If they did, it’d be obvious and people won’t be (not just me) complaining about how desperate they are trying to find acceptance by trying to speak the language of it’s patrons (!).Tolerance – freedom of speech…these are beyond the purview of this post. You’re going way too broad in your advice.I’ve moved on, after this post. You see an ad on TV and think it sucks. You tell your colleagues/friends/family about it. You move on. The same thing here – I see something that bothers me – I tell people, through my blog. I move on. Simple. If it starts a discussion and I learn something out of it…brilliant. I don’t think I’ve learnt anything from your comment, however, but that’s ok – in these days of Twitter, someone taking time off to even comment is a big deal – so, thanks.Most importantly, even if you have a single tweet and not a searchable LinkedIn profile to identify yourself, I see you are following at least one person (out of the total 3) from the agency that may be handling this profile on Twitter. I say may be since I’m not sure. And if you’re indeed from that agency, the most efficient way is not to leave a comment sounding like you are a neutral 3rd party, but with a disclaimer and taking wrong facts head-on. Explain to me that the language was intentional and was part of a larger strategy – I’ll add it in this same post and tweet all about it with a special note of applause for the effort and firm.

      1. I have nothing to do with any comment on your post reflects my personal opinion and is meant to the problem in general, but be assured, even after reading your epic reply, i’m going to keep it still. πŸ™‚
        Besides this…none of what i wrote was on the purpose to educate you, i wouldn’t be so impudent to do so πŸ˜‰
        Referring the naming of the brand..check your post yourself were resisting to use it at first sight as far as i remember: “Not taking names; in a charitable mood.”
        The first idea is always the best isn’t it?

        However..unfortunately i don’t have the time to deepen this discussion although it might be interesting. Apart from our diversity in views i appreciate your writing.


  4. I was corresponding with the HR of quite a big digital media agency and the person sends me a sms for an interview in complete sms lingo. I mean every word was shortened. I did not reply to the sms instead emailed her, cause that was less irritating.
    these tweets you mention don’t irritate me so much, but I can understand somebody getting irritated with them.
    I agree with your tweet that why should you not blog on something that you dont like, when you blog on stuff that you do. These blogs are personal mediums of communication just because there is traffic, and google ranking and all that buzz stuff people are forgetting that these are just personal channels to communicate.

  5. Honestly I tend to be stickler for the language. From a 50000 feet level chat speak has found its way into formal communication. Being on the client’s side, it irks me sometimes when someone from the Agency sends a mail with the body reading just ‘Here you go’. Similar feelings are evoked when you go through a moment of truth with the brand. Giving different signals (through differnt kind of languages) at different moments of truth would lead to a very confusing brand in the consumer’s mind. It is fine for @hellomehippo to do it. The beauty is that the brand is consistent about it. You can’t find a different speak anywhere. But with CCD, I would feel like coffee poured on me if the guy slides a cup near me saying ‘Dude, gulp it’.

    Leaving Queen’s English aside, it is important for a brand to maintain a consistency across all media and to that extent I do agree with the beast.

    And Suhaana – In my humble opinion, if one can take a brand to Twitter to complain, it is only fair to take their name in a personal blog. I am sure all of us are opinionated about various creative pieces at different times and would have expressed it in 140 characters. Blog is just a larger canvas and it is only fair that proper evidence be provided of one’s own rants. πŸ™‚

    1. Excellent reference to HelloMeHippo. I have written about them in the past in 2 different circumstances. They do a wonderful job on Twitter – stay completely in character – so I wrote about how well-thought out that job is. And it is being handled by an agency.

      They published a case study on what that twitter profile is doing for the brand – that I found hard to digest. It was classic PR spin, one that doesn’t quite sell. I pointed that out in the same blog.

    2. Oh i’m really sorry i have missed out, your comment was linked to my humble view as well Nanda. :-)Forgive it didn’t happen deliberately.You surely have a point if you refer to the “private atmosphere” of a blog..on the other hand, the settings of this special blog ain’t just for friends or any other selected group as it appears to me, right? So its public in some way. Let me be brief. I’m not a fan of pointing out a finger on someone by pulling the name into the open, at least not for such small thing as using “chatspeak” on a social network site. Everybody is free to think whatever he/she wants, but from my point of view this entire discussion is like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. If the world doesn’t really suffer any other, bigger problems than this..i’d be the first one to damn “slang usage”…everywhere. πŸ™‚

      1. At some stage, this has gotten into a public space. I would refrain from any further replies / responses too. Let peace prevail πŸ™‚

  6. I find chatspeak difficult to comprehend. Which makes it inferior, in my opinion (once the language is standardized and widely accepted I’ll change that to “Which makes me inferior”, promise πŸ™‚ ).
    On the other hand, I’m rather fond of the word “dude”. I refer to 40 year old cycling buddies as dude. And they usually don’t have a problem. But then I’m not a brand. Well, not yet πŸ˜‰

  7. Good blog, Karthik. There’ll probably be enough disagreement about this however that there will be no apparent consensus, (like our discussion of email domain for professionals, e.g.) and it might not have much impact.

    Having said that, what are some legitimate/professional ways to truncate/cut the twitter speak without offending. We need a Twitter Strunk and White.

  8. Well, a genuine question but with varied opinions!

    Prime Facie The essence of any communication is ‘To Communicate’. So when ‘no communication’ is also a communication; till the time one delivers the message it is irrelevant when, how, where, why etc. of the message. But then as the saying goes, ‘Even animals feed themselves’ – my point is and I feel to some extent Karthik’s as well – The method, process etc of communication is what makes me “ME” and differentiates me from others. The same applies to any individual or brand as well.

    So though I do not have any personal problem with ‘wid’, ‘dis’, ‘dude’ or other such ‘lingo’; I do have a problem with who uses these and for whom.

    Hence, I do not have a problem even when Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) uses ‘dis’ or ‘dude’ – I take it for granted that CCD as a brand would like to portray as a youthful and genX brand BUT I do have my reservations for using an informal communication language for a serious communication dialog that too with a person who is not speaking good about you. To add to it when you do not even know the person.

    1. Good point on this lingo not being appropriate for the negative comment cited – that’s the point…to create a character and stay in it. If they did it consistently, I’m sure it won’t be seen as odd behavior.

  9. For starters, “dis” is not spoken. It’s a purely written/typed form of English communication that, linguistic history wise, has arisen from a combination of

    1. Character limits on platforms like Twitter
    2. The need for speed on chatrooms/IRC (in the past). It might be just one more letter, but in the context of a long chat session, dis, dat, wen an vy save you a fair bit of time
    3. The innately human need for young people to be different, may it be for better or worse

    I find the insistence on “proper” spelling and grammar to the point of being Holy Inquisition-like slightly pointless. The reason “dis” is in reasonably popular use is very much because the people who use it know that the people who read that understand it. So this “I find it hard to understand chatspeak” stance says nothing more than “I dont speak their language but I will still take the time to dismiss it as crap”.

    Language, historically, had its origins purely in oral communication. Writing didn’t appear for many thousands of years. There are in fact still some isolated native/tribal communities that only possess spoken language (Bushmen, some Native american tribes etc). It was Writing that gave birth to formal grammar and syntax – it was never needed in purely spoken language. Context, body language and tone conveyed meaning (as they still do in languages that are purely spoken, not written).

    The internet and the onset of rapidly typed communication is yet another milestone in the evolution of language. The big fallacy most of us seem to be committing is the assumption that typing online is the *same thing as writing. While not being as dissimilar as spoken and written forms, it still represents a shift, and 3 of the factors I mention at the beginning give us a few hints on what the nature of that shift is. The web is rewiring the way we think – we are inexorably moving to a “search first, analyze later” phase of cognitive evolution.

    Alright, none of this deals with any subjective notion of chatspeak’s superiority or inferiority as a way of communication. It’s simply important to recognize that it’s one way to communicate. Urban African Americans evolved ebonics (more uncharitably called Ghettospeak), and this is what mainstream Rappers use. It is, in its own way, as hard to understand for an outsider as chatspeak is. But this did not stop brands from co-opting that for getting street-cred. You and me can argue about the morality of that, but hey, business is business and Nike and Reebok have co-opted the ghetto image and language to sell more sneakers. And so have mainstream music companies – what was essentially an underground musical genre in the 80s is now the largest selling mainstream genre (Hip Hop and R&B).

    So if some 23 yr old kid tweeting for CCD uses “dis” cos he believes the chap he’s speaking to is probably used to chatspeak, why hyperventilate?

    1. Love your argument! If I could move the focus a bit away from ‘dis’ (which was the main hook, I agree!), the point was on appropriateness of language depending on context. A complaint was answered with a ‘dude’…why assume that the guy complaining is dude-material? Does it apply to all complaints? I’m not sure if I’d feel great when I complain to CCD for a soggy sandwich and they tell me, ‘Dude, we’re sorry’. If that was the accepted lingo exchange for complaints, I have no issues, but I would perhaps feel that their attitude towards my serious complaint was very flippant.

      1. The appropriateness of language is entirely based on who is speaking to what audience. Saying “Yo wassa nigga imma speak about Quantum Mechanics yo” at Oxford is as inappropriate as saying “Sire, I find thy argument discombobulating” on 4chan. Some people possess the ability to get in the groove and do the proverbial Roman thing in Rome, and some do not.

        What I find silly is the notion that somehow only chatspeak is inappropriate in certain settings but parablade mindsapping coma-inducing corporatespeak is not. Frankly, as far as Im concerned, pretty much most things company say formally communicates little or nothing. Have you seen Pizza Corner’s tagline – “Better Pizza Through Quality and Innovation”. Seriously? They missed out “Six Sigma and Core Value Proposition”. That tagline according to me is a failure of communication. Most people would have been happier with something like “Yum Pizza I Lyk it!!!”

        On the “Dude” issue, I agree. Perhaps there is an unstated protocol on when somebody graduates to a “dude” from “Sir” but then again, a large bulk of contemporary English communication that has arisen online comes from a deeply anti-establisment, anti-rules, anti-protocal sort of a history, so that chap might simply have used it as a way to bring the conversation down to something more casual from the dead seriousness of a complaint. Of course, he might be wrong in doing that, but there is a difference between a spoken “dude” and a written “dude”. I mean, we dont live in a era where Barons will refuse to do business with you if you dont use the proper honorific when writing letters to them.

        So I’d say – don’t grudge CCDs right to try a “dude” on you. If one doesn’t like it – they can let him know that they’d like to be addressed as Lord Baron Esquire Viscount of Pompouspuram instead. Do you not occasionally drop the “nga” respectful verb endings when speaking to elders in your family?

        I’d judge whether they are being flippant or not by actually seeing if they addressed your problem on time, not whether they called you “Dude” or “Sir”

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