Marketing People Talk Funny

February 1, 2013

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what marketing people mean when they talk.  Marketing is not as challenging as, say, being an engineer or a file clerk, so some in the business try to make it sound challenging by using the words they think their clients want to hear.

Like lawyers, if people understood what we were talking about, they wouldn’t pay us as much as they do (we have a ways to go to catch up to lawyers, of course).

Take note, though.  The folks at your agency are supposed to be communications professionals.  If they use worn-out words and phrases like those that follow, how professional are they?  The following includes some of the most overused language in history, along with a translation, so you’ll know what that marketing guy is talking about the next time he speaks:

Best of breed.  It means, “Our product is a dog.”  Apparently “best in class” wasn’t bad enough, so someone came up with “best of breed.”  As a substitute, try focusing on concrete features that demonstrate why your product is the best.

Branding (also, advancing the brand).  Beware when a noun is turned into a gerund.  Branding, of course, was what cowboys did to cattle.  So, naturally, branding is really about creating a new logo.  But the term “branding” can mean almost anything it today’s world.  Do you really want to advance your brand?  Wouldn’t you rather increase sales?

Drill down.  This term has nothing to do with fracking.  Once you’ve had a “high level” discussion, you may want to “drill down” a few levels and find out what your company is really doing.

High level.  For when you don’t want to “drill down.”  It’s a superficial summary for those who either don’t care or aren’t smart enough to understand what your company is doing – like upper management, for example.

Mission statement.  Some jargon is unavoidable.  Is there a better term for summarizing what your company is all about?  I wish there were, because I tend to think of someone with a white collar and rosary beads when I think of a “mission statement.”

Paradigm shift.  In all of history, the word “paradigm” has never been used without the word “shift.”  People who use this phrase have not had an original thought in at least 20 years.  If they can’t come up with newer clichés, how good are they?

My dictionary says a “paradigm” is either ”an example that serves as a pattern or a model” or “a list of all of the inflectional forms of a word taken as an illustrative example.”  Neither sounds like anything that shifts as often as marketing experts claim.

Proactive.  Being proactive is, of course, much better than being antiactive.

Robust.  Every piece of software ever created has been described as “robust.”  Ask someone who uses the term what it means and be prepared for silence.  Robust means “full of health and strength; vigorous” or “marked by richness and fullness.”  So how, exactly, does this apply to software?

Wanting to get in the use of a word that sounds cool, but means nothing, marketeers in other industries have started using the term, as in “the world’s most robust canned ham.”

Seamless integration.  When we’re integrating, how will we know if our seams are showing?  What do they look like?

Thought leadership.  Does thought leadership mean that you have more thoughts than everyone else?  If we really were smarter than everyone else, we’d come up with another phrase.

Vision statement.  For companies that are too pretentious to have a mission statement.

We’ve left out plenty of other annoying words and phrases that are encountered every day.  What are your favorites?


Let's not forget two oldies

Let's not forget two oldies but goodies: "state of the art", and "cutting edge". I don't mind state-of-the-art since my name is actually Art. Cutting edge makes me think of steak knives and medieval swords.

And I'm old enough to

And I'm old enough to remember when "state of the art" was "cutting edge." 

Another favorite someone else pointed out to me is, "solutions" as a substitute for software and just about anything else.  Even if I had a problem, I wouldn't buy a solution.



rosary beads

That's really interesting article.Actually marketing people have talk in this way that people come to them for any help.They use their mind freely to do their work.
Rosary Beads

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