Social media is awash with quotes. Some accurate, some less so. Some deeply cherished by those who post them, others seemingly churned out of some quote sausage machine. Many love them, many loathe them. However, what is not in doubt is that they elicit engagement.
People are drawn to simple, clear messages. If those messages bring simplicity to complex issues, well then everything’s rosy. But there comes a point when something is made too simple. When so much context is removed that the message is meaningless.
There is an excellent documentary series on Netflix called Abstract. In the first episode, Christoph Niemann, who designs covers for the New Yorker, discusses abstract design. He uses the example of communicating love. Everyone uses a heart shape. From a design perspective, the heart shape is the most abstract a drawing of a heart can be before it becomes meaningless. It doesn’t have the complexity of ventricles and arteries, but it is definitely a heart. If you made it more abstract, by turning it into a square or a circle, it would go from simplified to meaningless.
Let’s apply the same thinking to language. A popular refrain in communications at the moment is that there is no longer B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business), there is only business to human. The idea being that in the age of social media and the blurring of work and personal lives, we need to communicate to people as people. It is superficially appealing, but it is meaningless.
B2B is a useful simplification. It tells us, at a very top level, that we’re communicating to people who are making decisions for businesses. Similarly, B2C tells us we’re communicating to an audience who are making decisions as consumers.
Business to human, tells us we’re communicating to people. What’s helpful about that? It is shorn of useful context. It is the equivalent of communicating love using a square.