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Saying You're Important Doesn't Make You Important

Overuse has destroyed the original definition of the word

A seagull
Photo by Ann Smarty at Unsplash

I got an email yesterday that immediately got my attention and made me drop everything to find out more.

It wasn’t important.

You will have noticed that during this seemingly never-ending game of ‘Lockdown Hokey Cokey’, businesses decided the most important thing they could do was tell their customers what steps they were taking to fight the virus — lest they be accused of doing nothing in these unprecedented times. And so the emails began.

It soon became clear that there was nothing most of them could actually do, but that did nothing to relieve the pressure of getting comms out. In a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, the action being taken became the act of informing you. Very meta.

But never mind the detail. Nobody reads email copy apart from the subject lines anyway. And the self-proclamations of the importance of each non-announcement made their importance hard to miss.

It seemed like every company that had at some point served a purpose in my life which had necessitated an opt-in, was suddenly racing toward my inbox.

There were emails from banks, supermarkets, florists and ironing companies.

From brokers of mortgages offering to help me spend and from pension providers reminding me to save.

From taxi firms, telling me not to ride. From the same taxi firms offering me discount codes to encourage me to ride with them if I really had to ride.

One or two emails from porn sites. A similar number from DIY Stores. Some subliminal link there perhaps.

I felt like I was drowning under a sea of anxiety-inducing messages being spat out from my computer screen.

Whether the company was one with whom I have a daily relationship, like my bank, or one I have no memory of (Topps Tiles anyone?) they all carried the same urgency. It was like being surrounded by toddlers all demanding their bottles at the same time.

All clamouring for attention. All screaming at me to read the information they had sent. Because they had something they had to tell me.

Something important.

But it never, ever was.

An old peeling road sign with an exclamation mark on its face

From CEO’s desk to junk folder in seconds

Almost all the initial comms came from the ‘desk of the CEO’, as though to demonstrate that they were taking this too seriously to let Marketing handle it.