What we say, what we mean, what we want


Listening to the radio today when a commercial comes on for flowers. In it, the ad copy offers up that these flowers are picked at their peak. And it hits me immediately… I’m not ordering them if they’re picked at their peak. That’s not what I want.

Oh sure, it sounds fantastic. These flowers were harvested at their absolute best moments. Should be perfect. Why would that upset me?

It upsets me because I want the flowers to arrive in my hands at their peak. I want to pass them along to the intended at their peak. If they’re being cut and packaged for sale at their peak then I’m getting them on the decline. The best days for these flowers are in the rearview mirror.

Now chances are that what was said in the commercial is not what this flower company actually means. There is absolutely every possibility that the message they are trying to send is that they care, and that they’re not looking to mass produce things and ship some inferior product. The message is, quite likely and in all I-won’t-name-them fairness, that they are picking these flowers at exactly the right moment so that they are the very best they can be when sent my way for what will be the longest possible enjoyment.

And that may be what they meant.

But then again, that isn’t what they said.

I go shopping for plants and flowers all the time. And when we’re looking for, let’s say some mums in the fall, we don’t select the ones open and blooming and in full glory. We take the ones that are a few days to a week away from exploding in color. We want to enjoy the peak and have them around for quite some time. What we don’t want it for the best days to have ended before they even reached our car for the drive home.

Thirty years ago, different radio ad. I’m going to refer to pools… and I want to stress this advertisement was absolutely not about pools. It was something different. (Might have been sheds, boats, cars, or lawn mowers. Might have been something else. I’m using pools because it was definitely not pools. Here we go…

(Theme music playing, lyrics being sung) “Come on down to Pool World. We’ve got pools.

Now, if you call your place Pool World, I think most people would probably come to the conclusion you have pools for sale. But maybe not. I mean, you could offer all sorts of pool-related services and products.

Maybe you clean, maintain or service pools.

Maybe you sell items for use in and around the pool. Deck chairs, floats, volleyball nets or slides.

Maybe you sell pools and service pools and offer inflatable swan rafts, and provide a bit of it all.

Point is, Pool World does not specifically mean pool sales and only pool sales. So someone picking up the phone could be calling for a number of reasons.

But there it was…

(Theme music playing, lyrics being sung) “Come on down to Pool World. We’ve got pools.

And it was a quick, clean stop. Right there. Period. End of sentence. End of lyrics. The advertisement offered a catchy jingle, those simple two sentences being sung, and then wrapped up with a phone number and address.

If we were talking about Tree World, you might be wondering about things. Is it a greenhouse? Do they do landscaping? Sell trees? Sell chainsaws?

I don’t know. I didn’t need a pool or pool supplies at the time. I wasn’t looking for landscaping products. And, right now, I’m not purchasing flowers. But even if I did appreciate the lost opportunity to offer more details, there was a store name and then the lyrics and my reaction was quick: “Well, you’re Pool World. Of course you have pools!” I will admit, I felt a bit insulted that they assumed I was kind of dumb.

And again, it wasn’t pools. It was more like Motorcycle World having a commercial that only offers a name and address and the statement that they have motorcycles.

In the end though, there are two sides that need to be considered… the message sent and the message received.

There’s a reason why we all roll our eyes when written communication doesn’t connect. No matter how often or even how well we use CAPS, italics and exclamation points, the reality is that jokes and sarcasm and the subtle unsaid intentions are not always read. And that’s true no matter how beautifully constructed such efforts might be.

So, the next time you’re watching television, listening to the radio, reading an e-mail, or in any way are working with material trying to deliver a lot of information in a limited space, at least give a bit of thought to the material that isn’t there. To thoughts that might be intended but remain unexpressed. It might not have been intentional, and what you heard may not fully capture what was meant, but there might even be a reason why Pool World needs to tell you that they have pools.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com