The Taming of the Shrewd

December 11, 2015Uncategorized

Have you ever noticed how marketing people never seem to do anything? They ‘action’ things instead.

This is a field where buzzwords are boss, and if you’re not down with the lingo you can sometimes feel like people are speaking another language. If people aren’t growth hacking, their newsjacking or reimagining consumer-oriented cyber optics. Did I make that last one up? Yes. Does it mean anything? Who knows! Do any of these words?

The problem with this practice, which largely involves combining multiple words into one super word or turning nouns into verbs (I call it verbing), is that consumers are becoming increasingly shrewd, and their tolerance for BS is getting lower. More often than not, they are tuning out altogether at the slightest whiff that someone is trying to sell them something.

One of the beautiful things about language is that it is constantly evolving, so there is nothing wrong with adding new words or phrases to your vocabulary or having a bit of linguistic fun – after all, Shakespeare gave us 1700 new words, many of which we still use today, by turning nouns into words, verbs into adjectives, combining words, adding prefixes and suffixes, and just plain making up new ones. We can thank The Bard for words like ‘excitement’, ‘bloodstained’, ‘remorseless’, ‘lacklustre’, ‘impartial’, ‘moonbeam’, ‘premeditated’, ‘obscene’, ‘blushing’ – even, believe it or not, ‘marketable’.

But one of the other beautiful things about language is that it allows us to express ourselves and be understood by others.

If we litter our lexicon with meaningless terms, what message are we trying to convey? That we are knowledgeable professionals full of esoteric expertise? Ironically, it seems that the easier it is for us to communicate, the less we are actually saying.

So, without further ado, here are a few of this year’s popular marketing buzzwords:

Freemium: when the basic version of a product or service is free, but you are frequently encouraged to upgrade to the “premium” experience – which will cost you, of course.

Ideation: a port-manteau of “idea” and “creation”. The process of coming up with ideas.

Pain points: the problems that consumers experience, which you would ideally solve for them.

Netiquette: internet etiquette.

Hyperlocal: even more local than local. Very local. This word is brought to you by advertisers using GPS tracking to geographically target customers.

Growth hacking: taking shortcuts to build some kind of following or getting creative with free marketing strategies.

Storyscaping: this one relies on the premise that consumers are fickle and easily bored, so ads are largely ineffective – instead, design worlds for your users and suck them into your story that way. Or, to put it another way: it’s an innovative, 360-degree engagement experience for your target demo.

This is a very condensed list, and whether the above is jargon or innovative words worthy of inclusion in your day-to-day vernacular is something I’ll let you decide for yourself.

But while the above have a habit of creeping into boardroom discussions, where they are largely harmless and occasionally even make sense, whatever you do, try to keep them from popping up in your communication with customers, who will roll their eyes and immediately disengage from the message and your brand.

The best and most effective communication is direct and easy to understand, and therefore easy to remember. Because who these days has the time or inclination to wade through nonsensical gobbledegook?

I guess what I’m saying is life is too short, and YOLO.