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Think of a car called Mercedes. Now describe it in one word. Just about everyone says 'luxury' in one form or another. Then think of Volvo. Now think of a word to describe it. Does the word 'safe' come to mind?

What is it about car companies that make them hypnotise the world with a single minded focus? How do they cut through the information garbage to tantalisingly burn one word in our brains? And why does everyone else struggle to achieve the same result?

Kindly ol' Mrs. Brown at school was right. You can't go very far without your grammar. Get the grammar right, the language falls in place and you get understood by everyone. Get it wrong, and you're speaking da Greek!

There is no monopoly of common sense, yet the basics of marketing grammar seem to elude most businesses. Not surprisingly, their customers stay befuddled and confused as ever.

So what is marketing grammar anyway?

Marketing grammar simply focuses on the noun, the verb and the adjective. When you sit down and analyse your brand in great detail, you can assign the grammar to it. That way, not only is your company very clear about what it sells, but your buying public actually defines it down to one word.

One noun. One verb. One adjective.

Let's boogie with the noun!

Let's start with a 'noun.' The noun is the core of the brand definition. For instance, the noun for Mercedes would be 'car' and for Coca-Cola would be 'drink.' Every brand name will throw up a different noun.

How the 'marketing noun' forms the basis of the strategy

The question must then arise: Is 'car' the noun for BMW, Volvo and Mercedes?. Yes and no. The noun is the spice that helps to set the flavour of the curry.

For instance, if you were to choose New Zealand, the noun could be either 'island' or 'country. 'It's still a noun but one conjures up a totally different image from the other thus leading to a completely different thought strategy.

Similarly, BMW has redefined its noun from 'car' to 'machine' and Coke could define their 'drink' as a 'refresher.' This is the building block on which your marketing grammar sits and you've got to make sure you've got it built with high grade concrete.

Painting 'bold', 'expressive' and 'punchy' adjectives

Quick. Name the adjective for Marlboro, Apple Computers, Pepsi, Heineken and Rolls Royce. If you came up with these: Macho, offbeat, young, premium and classy then you're like most of the world.

Each of these brands have tied an adjective to their brand and they own the 'adjective' in their category. So Rolls Royce may own classy in the 'automobile category' but Rolex owns in it the 'watch category' and Armani owns it in 'suits'.

However once they own it, it's theirs to keep. All of their branding gets tied around the 'adjective.' So if you were to use the 'noun' and the 'adjective' in conjunction with each other like say 'ultimate' and 'driving machine' you'd be hard pressed to think of anything but BMW. If I said, 'overnight' and 'delivery' you're basically stuck at Federal Express(where 'overnight' is the adjective and 'delivery' is the noun)

The adjective adds the colour. Heck, it adds the rainbow! Without your adjective you're up a creek without a paddle. Think of any of the biggest brands in the world, and you'll find an adjective. Now look at the ones that surpass the other by 3:1 and you'll find this interesting fact: Every person across the world has the SAME adjective for that brand.

Think of Muhammad Ali. Does the 'greatest' come to mind? Now that's the result of well executed branding! Just do it and other such verbs

Nike uses it all the time. Even so, the verb is the hardest of the lot. However, once you strike on a verb, you've unlocked the key to 'live presentations' because that's exactly what a verb is: A doing word!

For instance, "Reactivating dormant business clients" is the hook phrase for my company. Which means, I can then come up with several active presentations for 'reactivation' that could range from an alarm clock, or a magnet to something as refreshing as a cappuccino! Anything that wakes you up or gets you moving again is a reactivation cue.

Predictably the slogans that work best time after time, have a potent combination of noun, adjective and verb.

Nike uses the verb almost as an adjective. In one swoop, it calls for action but also very clearly defines the attitude (or adjective)which in this case is 'radical' How do you put this to use?

Once you have your noun, adjective and verb in place, you begin to understand yourself even better. Hooray! However, you can go further in your communication. For instance, if you were Rolex and you owned the noun 'precision'(not 'watch')and the adjective 'classy' then where would you advertise?

Naturally some place that embodies precision and classy. E.g.: Wimbledon. Or National Geographic. They're both precise and they're both classy. And yes, they both attract the target audience that aspires to wear a Rolex.

It also clears up the fuzziness in the customer's mind. They're now crystal clear why they choose you. In a world full of 'me-too' competition, that's a really handy plus in your communication. You have to make sure you know why your customers choose you. Once you clear this up, your future advertising will have a much sharper focus. P.S. Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red

Once you start to own stuff, it gets to be a bit like monopoly. You then want to be the fattest cat on the hill. The way to get there is to own the colour as well. This is important but it really is a sub-section of the 'adjective' which is why I have added it on more as an after thought despite it being pretty vital in your communication.

Take a look at the courier world for instance: UPS owns brown (and has been doing a song and dance about it recently) and FedEx owns a combination of orange and purple. DHL has the 'mortgage' on red.

See, how smartly they've avoided bumping into each other. You too have the option to own a colour in your category. A friend of mine Douglas Webber also pointed out to the fact, that some car company was running ads in sepia tone and though the brown tone ran right through the ad, he could actually 'see' the colour of the car.

You'll come across that same eerie feeling when you think of a Mercedes. Somehow most people end up with the colour 'black.' I see brown Mercs and grey Mercs but have not seen a black one in months. So why is black tied to Mercedes. Is it because their premium shiny cars are all black?

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

How to find out if your company is really communicating

There's only one way. Write down what you perceive to be your noun, verb adjective and colour(remember all the big brands have them). Then ask your customers to write it down. If they stuff up, or go 'duh', it's time you had a nice long look at your communication.

It probably needs a lot of help from this article or good ol' Mrs. Brown!

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Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology, marrying it to modern technology, on his Web site, Can "psychological tactics" make a difference? Go there and find out.