The most misused word in marketing?

Committed. A truly wonderful principle, but a shamefully over-used word.Every company claims to be committed, but have you ever stopped to think what it means? 

Committed is quite a big deal. If you are committed to something, you have pledged yourself to it. You are inextricably bound to a cause, willing to devote every last bit of energy to achieving it. You can't pull out – and you wouldn't want to anyway because you are firmly committed to doing it.

And it is not surprising that such a powerful word should be used with abandon to describe company's [alleged] attitude towards customer service, innovation, etc etc. But how often do you really see true commitment from company employees?

However, I don't really take issue with the lack of commitment. It is such a powerful force that only a small amount of commitment is a pretty good thing in a supplier. Although they should perhaps use a different, less dramatic, turn of phrase. If I consider every brand I buy from – on a personal or business level – I don't think I need full-on commitment. A little enthusiasm would be appreciated. Or maybe just a helpful personality. I don't want people to get anxious because they feel they have to commit everything, to strain every sinew in order to serve me. All I wanted was a phone contract after all.

But what annoys me is the overuse of the phrase in advertising. Do marketers still really think that "committed" is the magic word? It has become invisible because it has been not just over-used but applied in all kinds of inappropriate scenarios.

Allow me to close with a glaring example I heard on the radio this morning. An electricity company claimed that their drivers were "committed to letting you know when they will arrive". How committed do you have to be to make a phone call? I can imagine the conversation now.

"Hello? Mr Perkins? This is Barry from SupaEnergy Services. Just calling to let you know I'll be there to read the meter at half past ten."

"Great - thanks for telling me"

"Erm. I'm really grateful to you for letting me call you and say that."

"I'm sorry?"

"It means a lot to me. You see, I'm committed to calling to let you know when I will be there.""You're committed to calling me?"

"Yes, I spend every waking hour developing more effective ways of calling customers to know when I'm arriving."

"OK. Can I ask why?"

"Because... [sound of paper rustling] is, erm, part of an ongoing commitment to customer excellence when we strive to exceed customer expectations through our dedication to... er... calling to let them know when we're arriving."

"Are your reading this from a script"

"Yes. Sorry."

Commitment is not a bad thing. But you've got to do it, not just say it. And anyway, commitment is probably a bit too much anyway. I think it's time we stopped over-claiming by using this word. Just be polite, be efficient, and be honest about it.

And I remain, of course, utterly committed to making it happen.