Watch out for the “Nell” effect

nellToday at work we were discussing the prep for a big presentation next week, and getting into some pretty esoteric discussions (as we usually do) about how to communicate the vision and direction of our company.

One of the issues with what we do is that we are not only in the marketing world, but we are also in a subdomain of marketing (“social marketing,” or basically building communities online for marketing purposes). The social marketing world deals with a lot of pretty innovative web tools and a lot of specialized terminology that many people, even professional interactive marketers, don’t understand completely yet. In prepping for any presentation outside Powered’s four walls, we have to be cognizant of that. If we don’t constantly stay vigilant we run the risk of speaking in a language our audience can’t understand.

In more general terms, this is the “Nell” Effect, referring to the 1994 movie starring Jodie Foster that received mixed reviews like “Stunningly awful on almost every level.” But useful for a blog post!

In the movie, Jodie plays this woman who basically grows up in complete isolation from the world. As a result, she has invented her own language and built a completely unique world view. Neither of these translate to the world we know very well. Of course, in Hollywood fashion the movie tries to show us that our world view isn’t as beautiful as Nell’s, but Nell isn’t trying to make it in the private sector either.

I think we’ve all experienced the Nell Effect before, though, in various places where we’ve had an immersive, shared experience. When I graduated with my MBA, it was extremely difficult to get to where I was talking and writing like a normal person again – and not using terms like “sustainable competitive advantage” when talking about my favorite places to eat. Of course, my MBA classmates would know exactly what I was talking about!

While it’s important to internalize the learnings from each of these closed environments, you have to find new ways to express them once that environment has fallen away. When have you experienced the Nell Effect? Are there still traces of it in the way you talk, or the way that you write?


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