The umble instrument hath decreed for this month:

Yes, consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed, and choice-saturated than ever-before (we know you know). For brands to prosper, the solution is simple though: turn SERVILE. This goes far beyond offering great customer service. SERVILE means turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.

Um, no, it does not mean that. You don’t have to believe me, but you should definitely believe Nancy Friedman:

It isn’t a neutral term meaning “of service”; rather, it means “abjectly submissive,” “slavish,” “relating to servitude or forced labor.” Its synonyms are “obsequious,” “toadyish,” “sycophantic,” and “fawning.”

Not a positive association in the bunch.

See, for instance, “Check our monthly Servile Specials.” And does “ever-before” actually require a hyphen?

(Title courtesy of Uriah Heep. No, not the band.)


  1. Roger Green »

    13 October 2012 · 6:10 am

    You’e right, of course. service is noble; being servile is a sign of weakness.

  2. Charles Pergiel »

    13 October 2012 · 12:24 pm

    Trendwatching (bah! Humbug!) means what they say, although it’s all an act, all “Yes, master, walk on my face, I am your slave”, while they siphon your filthy lucre out of your wallet. When your wallet is empty, they get up, kick you to the curb and go look for another master/sucker relationship.

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    13 October 2012 · 12:30 pm

    The third hyphen is there for purposes of rhythm only. To quote Sir Todd Bridges: “don’t ask, you’ll never understand what I’m talking about.”

  4. fillyjonk »

    13 October 2012 · 2:22 pm


    Too-servile service makes me leave a store in disgust. Just as I LOATHE what I perceive as the “neediness” of my dealership (“If you fill out the customer-service survey with other than all “excellents,” we will send one of our techs right over to commit ritual seppuku on your front lawn”), I also loathe feeling like I’m being toadied to. I’m not saying INSULT the customers, but neither should the company be bootlickers.

    Servile branding will mean an increasing number of Special Snowflakes in the general population who believe that that is how they deserve to be treated. And that CAN’T be good for society.

  5. fillyjonk »

    13 October 2012 · 2:41 pm

    Charles P.: It’s very likely somewhere had a “buy 2, get one free” special on hyphens this week.

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