The reaction to this was as if I had belittled a distinction as “just semantics” (something people say when they think you’re quibbling over words that don’t really matter). Dictionary.com’s own usage example includes this common derogation.
On the contrary, semantics matter a lot, especially to marketers. A linguistic theory called the “Sapir Whorf Hypothesis” states that language affects the way people think. Words colour your concept of a thing & its potential.
Not to be all Seth-Godin-state-the-bleeding-obvious, but isn’t that theory talking about the very cultural encoding marketing seeks to affect?
We try to “own” categories, to “rank” for keywords, to “brand” the way people talk about us. We reiterate, restate and cleverly dictate (advertising) what we want people to think about us, and try to lead the discourse in brand categories (semantic domains). We’re using adjectives, superlatives, vocabulary to dominate “mindshare”. The biggest marketing revolution in __ years is about starting & managing “conversation”.
Semantics win hearts and minds. Semantics matter. A lot.