‘Monumental’ Adjective Abuse at Minnesota Orchestra

Here are some words that executive leaders at the Minnesota Orchestra like to read about themselves in their marketing materials. All were published in just one post-fiasco season brochure:

Extraordinary, brilliant, celestial, dazzling, festive, stunning, shimmering, beautiful, star-studded, never-to-be-repeated, heavenly, glorious, wonderful, tragic, heartbreakingly, sprightly, treasured, superb, brilliant, monumental, tremendous, thrilling, stellar, magnificent, sensual, shocking, radiant, majestic, lush, enthralling, amazing, phenomenal, shining, beautiful, lush, characterful, stirring, distinctive, triumphal, charismatic, brightest, world-class, priceless, thrilling, most famous, lush, romantic, richly dark, tragic, star-crossed, thrilling, tragic, cinematic, comic, most-popular, utterly charming, gorgeous, stirring, wonderful, famous, remarkable, brilliant, striking, timeless, legendary, wonderful, dramatic, lyrical, dramatic, lovely, illustrious, soaring-voiced, spine-tingling, profound, ethereal, beloved, world’s greatest, fantastic, heartrending, unforgettable, greatest, most soul-stirring, transcendent, exquisite, enchanting, always-zestful, magnificent, deeply spiritual, ground-breaking, exciting, demanding, outstanding, blissful, thoughtful, witty, nostalgic, multi-faceted, fiery, famous, other worldly, stirring, great, distinguished, breathtaking, dancing, lyrical, extraordinary, marvelous, youthful, vigorous, esteemed, exhilarating, dance-infused, wildly popular, inimitable, preeminent, magically, mysterious, triumphant, epic, celebratory, historic, glorious, top-class, revered, hottest, immortal, jubilant, renowned, distinguished, extraordinary, delectable, magical, soulful, distinctive, organic, meditative, powerful, spiritual, romantic, glorious, perfect, special, bubbly, magically, rich, first-ever, stunning, wonderful, exquisite, wide-ranging, thrilling, classic, popular, beloved, festive, extraordinary, imaginative, stunning, phenomenal, captivating, beloved, ever-popular, timeless, transcendent, greatest of greats, beloved, stellar, multi-talented, uniquely, consummate, monumental, unforgettable, wonderful, glorious, funniest, bona fide, genuine, dazzling, esteemed, riotous, beloved, great, fantastic, heartrending, unforgettable, greatest, most soul stirring, pure, unadulterated, historic, legendary, glorious, extraordinaire, wondrous, beloved, lively, famous, popular.

Here’s a word that describes the professional qualifications of executive leaders who would approve this much hyperbole in one piece of sales collateral:

Dubious.

Here’s a word that describes the marketing team that would produce such a brochure:

Mismanaged.

Here’s a word that describes funders who allow their financially troubled grant recipients to do this sort of amateur marketing:

Irresponsible.

Here’s a word that describes an industry that accepts untethered, narcissistic bombast as acceptable language for public communication:

Leaderless.

And in case it isn’t obvious, here’s a word that describes the seats that might otherwise be filled by new audiences who need to be spoken to in a normal, sane, humble, down-to-earth, customer-centered persuasive language:

Empty.

:::

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5 thoughts on “‘Monumental’ Adjective Abuse at Minnesota Orchestra

  1. Omigosh Trevor, love your cut-through-the bullshit eagle-eye! It is informing the work we do promoting theatre at the Surrey Arts Centre. Still a ways to go, but the tide is turning. Thank you SO MUCH! Keep writing about this, you are inspiring.

    Barb
    Barb Wolfe | Performing Arts Programmer
    CITY OF SURREY
    Surrey Arts Centre Theatres
    Surrey, BC, Canada
    http://www.surrey.ca/arts

  2. Clearly you have a problem with the number of adjectives being used in the season brochure. OK, I get that, but I find it misleading that you say these adjectives are what the marketing executives want to read about themselves. The brochure is for the consuming/public and audience for the concerts. How should the pieces be described, or are you suggesting that there be no descriptive words at all? It seems like you have an axe to grind in regards to the MN Orchestra. Sorry you feel this way about the brochure, but I disagree. Perhaps you have a better idea for marketing that you would like to demonstrate?

    • Hi, Erika. Thanks for weighing in. I have no axe to grind with Minnesota Orchestra. I do take issue with arts organizations that make international headlines for their financial difficulties then turn around and publish marketing materials that talk in overblown, artificial, self-indulgent, self-flattering language about how wonderful and important they are. This may be how all classical music organizations prefer to promote themselves, but steadily declining audiences would suggest that it’s no longer working. I usually recommend doing extensive audience research and crafting language that responds to the stated desires and expectations of target audiences.

      Language that’s designed to speak to real people about things they actually said they care about would never contain this much extravagant boasting.

  3. “Overblown” I’ll give you.
    “Artificial” makes no sense to me – what yardstick do you measure artifice by?
    “Self-indulgent” and “self-flattering” are kind of funny – I think the marketing limb of a body should be darned self-indulgent, because the music limb requires that kind of reassurance
    (okay, I hate my metaphor and am abandoning it now.)

    I see this stream of words as bouquet after bouquet from one part of the family to another, after being away from each other for too long. The staff is just as overjoyed as the musicians to be back on the job.
    Believe me, when they start earning FRESH hot quotes from Alex Ross, they’ll make excellent use of that kind of, um, honest and appropriate flattery. Until then, I think the marketing department should basically go ape-s%t with love and excitement. The audience, all full of real people, is delighted to have them all back.

    • Hi, Amy. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate that this is a “family” thing, but at some point (which I made the mistake of thinking was now) the orchestra is going to have to start talking to new audiences in a language they find natural, meaningful and persuasive. This is not that language.

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