Whadd'ya Mean You're Not a 'Grease Monkey'!

James Burchill

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People get so funny (and I mean funny weird, not funny ‘ha ha’) when you call them by the wrong name. What’s even more strange is that I’m not referring to their given name, no I am referring to their job title or their working name… Take for instance ‘GREASE MONKEY’

I love that name. It conjures up the oddest pictures. Granted it does not necessarily paint the worlds most professional image (after all, some people think monkeys are smelly skittish creatures) but it does paint a mental image and one hell of a good one.

That’s the funny part though isn’t it. Words which by their very definition are static and flat (until spoken of course), are our meagre attempt at packaging a thought, idea or concept into a sound.

We even choose to let sounds evoke an emotional response. Think about this for a moment, when someone shouts a rude word at you what has happened – nothing really. You heard a sound, you ‘recognized’ it and then you ‘interpreted’ it, and finally you gave it meaning based on experience.

And that’s where it gets really interesting. YOU DECIDED what to think, feel and do because you heard a sound. Pretty powerful stuff if you stop and think about it. The trouble is though, if we stop and think about this too much it all unravels and you’ll get a headache (grin).

But all kidding aside, you decide what a word means. So why on earth do mechanics get so bent out of shape over a sound – sorry I meant to say a few words: GREASE MONKEY. Try this with me. Say grease monkey ten times fast. I bet you can’t help smiling – I do.

The term evokes in me pleasant memories, of a bygone era when people were kinder and more gentler. It reminds me of my late Grandfather (a giant of man) and his generation. Today people seem to take things far too seriously, take for instance this monstrous mouthful:


Do you have any idea what this fellow does for a living? Go on, take a guess. Did you get it right? They’re a window cleaner. A perfectly respectable and absolutely necessary job. But for some reason they felt that the newer name made them sound more ‘officious’. If you ask me (as a marketer) it’s a fool-proof way of getting lost in the shuffle. I mean seriously folks, when was the last time you went looking for a ‘transparent wall technician’ in the local phone book.

You think I’m missing the point because I’m not an automotive technician? You think that I don’t get the fact you feel you get little or no respect – I understand. In fact each day I try to help build the industry’s image with positive articles, adverts and marketing advice. You guys are great – I get it, but I’m not your customer.

I am not the only one who is ‘confused’ by the new automotive names you’ve taken. There is empirical evidence wish shows that when you changed your name from ‘mechanic’ to ‘automotive technician’ - although you may have felt better about yourselves - you lost customers.

Decades of time was invested in the word mechanic – and ironically – grease monkey. People associated the terms with their vehicles. When your car breaks down you seek out a mechanic. Technicians fix computers and other technical gadgets – I know, cars are now basically computers on wheels, but the consumer doesn’t yet see them that way. Why ignore all that good will and positive ‘brand’ history?

Here’s some of that proof I mentioned earlier - it’s been taken from Overture, a website that shows the terms people are seeking, the counts are local and for one month:

#1) Automotive Mechanic – 5384
#2) Grease Monkey – 3396
#3) Automotive Technician – 2122

Look, I know you don’t like ‘grease monkey’ and quite frankly I get it. But people seem to look for it 60% more frequently than technician. And mechanic is still the #1 term outperforming technician by about 250%

Here’s my closing thought. Do you want to be rich or righteous or found?

AUTHOR BIO: James Burchill is a freelance marketing consultant and author. He's also the editor and associate publisher for two of the automotive aftermarket industry's leading print publications and he publishes http://www.CorrectLink.com - a new Internet publication for the automotive aftermarket in Canada.

In between all that, James helps people ‘Sell more stuff, and make more money!’ and publishes a series of informational and Internet products about advertising and marketing. His main website is http://www.JamesBurchill.com


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