Five by Five

If I said to you, not that there’s anything wrong with that, chances are you would know that phrase from Seinfeld. Or what about, Go ahead, make my day from Dirty Harry, or a little more recently,  “legen— wait for it! — dary as the catchphrase of Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother.

Although catchphrases from TV shows can get overused, they serve a purpose, much like the jargon and acronyms used within an industry or company. They unite a community, and their use signals you’re talking to another community member. Much like a secret handshake, those few words can elicit shared smiles and memories creating instant camaraderie.

Starbucks is a famous example, with their use of italianate words like grande and latte, a code for their customers that becomes hard to shake. How many times have you gone into a different coffee shop and had to remember to ask for the more ordinary sizes, “medium” or “large”. But Starbucks uses those labels to reinforce their difference and accentuate the Starbucks experience. Just as any Canadian worth their peameal knows what  and loonie are.

The  inspiration for this post is “Five by Five”, an expression from Buffy the Vampire Slayer sometime villain and sometime heroine Faith. At the time when I was watching the show, five by five seemed to me an obscure expression, special to Faith’s character, and served to reinforce her as someone with a different take on how to do things, with some special knowledge not even Buffy had. It made her intriguing and added to the sense of being part of a unique universe. Very much like Starbucks’ grande mocha non-fat no-whip….

You can find your own secret language to incorporate as part of your brand or community. Just have it make sense and not sound dorky — easier said than done.

The origin of “Five by Five” is as a communications radio expression to confirm the signal is ‘loud and clear’, which has since been adopted by the military to also indicate a message is understood. Whether you go digging for old expressions to bring back to light or use your own products as inspiration, e.g. an acronym like “BBM“, the initiation process for your community reinforces your customers’ sense of belonging. That extra effort they make has a payoff of ‘belonging’ which can work to both entrench usage and ward off competitors as not being ‘special’.

Do you have any good examples you can share? I’ll add more to the comments below as I find them, too.