Spinning a Chair

I was once writing for the agency representing one of the world’s best known office seating companies. My boss came to me with a problem of sorts. “The client has a new line of seating. The high end chairs move back and forth by this complicated series of gears and hinges. You push your legs forward and the chair back moves backward to balance the load, so to speak.”

“Uh huh,” says I.

“Now the low end chairs here, they bend because the cheap material they’re made of is pliable. Push and it bends.”

“Gotcha,” I chime suckupedly.

“What we need are terms for both these motions. Something that implies a real value thanks to advanced engineering.

“Or lack of engineering”, I mumble under my breath.

“Client will be in this afternoon. Get me something.”

And off I went. Try as I might I couldn’t find anything to match the elegance of the company’s usual rhetoric. These guys were smooth. The few terms I fabricated that had any promise whatsoever, crashed immediately on reaching the boss’ desk. The clock was ticking, and with minutes remaining I retreated to every writer’s last resort: Websters Collegiate Dictionary. I had the thought of finding a word with “co” in its beginning for the fancy chair as to say “working together” and something mysterious for the cheapie chair (“it moves cause it just do.”)

Paging became more rapid by the moment and then, I found it: “coactive”. The entire definition consisted of five words: “to move in concert with”. So “coactive adjustment” was my first term.

About the “i’s” I found the other puzzle piece – “intrinsic”. The motion exists in the material itself – intrinsically, just because it can.

So, I placed the two terms with some b.s. (benefit supportive) copy on the boss’ desk and got a slow, affirmative head shake. And that was it. The client came in that afternoon, took the paper, shrugged and left. No high-fiving on this one.

A week later one of the junior account clones stormed into our offices fuming. “I just spent over an hour in a room with the marketing team being lectured about the benefits of intrinsic and coactive adjustment. Where the hell did that come from?” Mental high-fives all around.

In the “click and they’re gone” world of online marketing, the lesson here has never been more important. No matter how apparent the benefits are, they need to be stated to their best advantage. The features don’t justify themselves. They’re just… there.