Pardon My Pessimism About Solutionism


While watching the Olympics on television over the weekend, I heard a word that actually made my ears hurt. It’s not even a word, really, but one of those manufactured collections of letters that companies – or, more accurately, consultants – try to pass off as a word.

Solutionism.

You read that right. What is solutionism? According to Dow Chemical, it’s the new optimism.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

“Solutionism: The New Optimism,” it turns out, is the new B-to-B marketing campaign Dow is rolling out to position itself as helping to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s part of Dow’s “Human Element” campaign (which, actually, is not bad as far as advertising campaigns go).

Clearly, this new tagline was invented by highly paid marketing consultants. We know this because there are more clichés packed into those four words than you are likely to find anywhere else.

“Solution” is an overused word in press releases and advertising. Confession: I used the word as part of the name of my communication consulting business. In my defense, however, I decided upon Holland Communication Solutions in 2000, when it wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as it is now. Still, if I had it to over again…

Adding any “-ism” to any word is also a cliché. Just like adding “-ize” to turn nouns into verbs.

And “the new” anything is the new black. It’s not so new anymore.

Beyond the clichés, I’m not even sure what the tagline is trying to communicate. That Dow is an optimistic company? That finding solutions to problems is an optimistic act? That Dow has stopped inventing new chemicals and begun inventing new words?

I just hope the folks at Dow feel they got their money’s worth. Because you can bet a lot of money went into inventizing that new word.

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One Response

  1. Interesting post here… to be honest I haven’t heard the term solutionism that much … but I see what you are saying and I think it is always wise to be suspect of anything that becomes an ‘…ism’ like this – so thanks for flagging this up…

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