Friday, July 11, 2008

Marketing buzzwords: Optimizing for a new paradigm

There are some really stupid marketing words floating around and unfortunately I catch myself using most of them! Dumb marketing words satisfy two key characteristics:

  1. They are always synonyms for another, shorter, more appropriate word
  2. They are always cool-sounding. Remember, clients will think you’re cool if you use big words that no one has heard before. I learned that while conversating about eco-metrics with a blogtrepreneur.

So here they are, the worst words in marketing:

The ‘Izes’ of March:

What you said: Strategize
What you really meant to say: Plan
  • I use strategize all the time. I think that the weird looks are because clients are blown away by my professionalism and vocabulary.

What you said: Optimize
What you really meant to say: Improve
  • Optimize is just a smart-sounding word for improve or ‘to make better’. It also connotes a positive attitude like you’re optimistic about things when in all truthfulness, it has nothing to do with that.

What you said: Synergize
What you really meant to say: Coordinate
  • Synergy is a great word, but it can be optimized by adding and ‘ize’ to it and making it synergize! If less is more, then think how much more MORE will be!

What you said: Routinize
What you really meant to say: Standardize
  • Despite my best efforts, routinize is not a word. Probably for the best considering how clumsily it garbles off the tongue when spoken.

Business Basics:

What you said: Leverage (verb, always a verb in marketing. What...are we in finance?!?)
What you really meant to say: Use
  • Yes folks, ‘to use’ is essentially what you mean when you say ‘to leverage’, but it just doesn’t sound as impressive or ambiguous.

What you said: Visioning
What you really meant to say: Planning
  • Visioning really is the superior word here. Planning suggests rules and order. Visioning seems so much more free and unclear. I also like this word for the pseudo-religious overtones, especially when you get to announce at work that you’re “on your way into a visioning meeting”

What you said: Offline, as in ‘I’m tabling this for an offline discussion”
What you really meant to say: Later
  • Of course there’s a line! You’re on the line now, so if you talk about something later, you’re talking about it offline.

What you said: Core competency
What your really meant to say: Skill
  • This one is an HR term and a key reason for over-inflated egos at work. I would much rather hear about my core competencies than my skills. Perhaps misleadingly, the root word ‘competent’ implies a proficiency in my actual performing of the task!

What you said: 20,000 foot view
What you really meant to say: Context
  • I always imagine myself skydiving out of a plane why I use the phrase ’20,000 foot view’. I try not to think about the fact that I’m plummeting to the earth below and using nonsensical marketing buzzwords as my parachute!

What you said: SOX-compliant
What you really meant to say: Make sure it gets approved by the lawyers and the accounting department
  • SOX, not to be confused with the compound sulfur-dioxide, stands for the ‘Sarbanes-Oxley Act’, a seismic event for modern accounting practices in the United States. This is essentially the extent of marketers’ understanding of SOX, however for some important business decision to be approved, it must always be ‘SOX-compliant’.

What you said: Organic
What you really meant to say: Normal
  • Wouldn’t you rather eat an organically-grown apple than one grown with East German growth hormone supplied with TLC from Monsanto? Organically-grown ideas really are the best kinds of ideas. Also, points for the pseudo ‘green’, ‘sustainability’ theme.

Fun with Marketing:

What you said: Learnings (noun)
What you really meant to say: Knowledge
  • Knowledge just sounds too bookish, right? Too stuffy and staid. Let’s use ‘learnings’ to show that as marketers we like short, digestible pieces of information rather than a whole library! The Learnings-Knowledge axis is best represented by the difference between YouTube and a VCR player.

What you said: Dialoguing
What you really meant to say: Talking
  • As marketers, we know it’s all about the relationship; building trust and creating value in everything we see. Dialoguing is just a great word to express these good vibes!

What you said: Low-hanging fruit
What you really meant to say: Opportunity
  • Marketing is about communicating a story. Stories involve metaphors. Using low-hanging fruit to describe everyday opportunities really spins a more compelling and interesting story.

What you said: Killer app
What you really meant to say: Two uses: 1) Something cool online that you sent to your friends; 2) A useful piece of software
  • The phrase ‘killer app’ implies an awesome devastation of all similar programs and applications. Why wouldn’t you use this terrific word to describe something web/computer/digital related that you don’t completely understand?!

…and finally, my favourite:

What you said: Touch base
What you really meant to say: Talk
  • In business, you work in teams. Baseball teams play games on a diamond with bases. Therefore, business should be about swinging for the fences and using phrases like touch base to describe normal interactions like having a brief conversation with someone. Whenever someone tells me that we’ll ‘touch base later offline’, I get this warm feeling inside and feel like the most special person in the world! Share the love.

Here’s another fun list of marketing-related buzzwords. Is it bad that I actually think most of these are unambiguous and acceptable?

And when you’re bored at work, play this fun Marketing Buzzword Bingo game!

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