Have you ever sat through a marketing meeting and wished you had a bingo card to fill out, just to get through the buzzwords, drudgery and platitudes? Yeah. Same.
Listen, after 20-plus years in journalism, it’s a much-needed change of pace to work for a tech company. And I think I’m finally recovering from the borderline Stockholm syndrome and self-importance that come with working in an elitist East Coast newsroom (er, sweatshop?).
But sometimes, I wish I had a bingo card at the ready while reading any marketing content, not just ours. Tech marketers, especially, are so used to “getting into the weeds” that we forget to speak like humans.
We struggle with when to be specific, and when not to be. We even wrestle with internal politics, preferences, and punctuation (holy exclamation points!).
- Mention this industry, but don’t limit ourselves to that industry.
- Don’t be too technical / this isn’t technical enough.
- We need to change our tone / this doesn’t sound like us.
- Don’t use the word “hosting” / always use the word “hosting.”
- Don’t be too heavy-handed in talking about the company / make sure you mention the product up high.
- SEO (see below) is king / where’s the narrative?
- We should mention customers more / we can’t mention these customers.
It’s no wonder that buzzwords, cliches, abbreviations and the like are like those annoying, short words that seem to permeate crossword puzzles (does Uma Thurman really need to be in that many puzzles?).
Muddled messaging runs rampant across the tech industry. It’s in emails, LinkedIn posts, it’s on company web pages and laced throughout “thought leadership” pieces.
It serves a purpose, for sure, but it’s time to end marketer-on-marketer crime.
Here is my attempt to unpack (jargon intended) some worn-out words, abundant abbreviations, and idiotic idioms, if you will, that certainly take the cake (cliche intended):
Disruption – Doing things differently, taking chances, doing what the establishment might be afraid of. To me, this really means one basic thing: leading instead of copying.
Leveraging – OK, so we’re not investing, and we’re probably not physically using leverage (although I wonder if an arm-wrestling metaphor isn’t just a tad on-the-nose for some products – not ours, of course). We can probably just use the word “using” or the phrase “taking advantage of.” Right? Like, I’d never say to my wife, “I’m going to leverage this new frying pan to get the best out of this omelette.”
Scaling, scalability, at scale – These are such a tantalizing words because they apply to just about anything and any situation. We use them frequently when talking about Acquia Cloud’s ability to accommodate increased demand or traffic. I don’t want to talk about servers here (bo-ring), so think of a middle-aged dad like me suddenly needing his day to be 36 hours long because of the demands of his nutty family. Imagine if I could just “scale” my day? Increase my available output when workload demands it. Maybe then I could sleep for more than five hours a day.
SEO – Search engine optimization (using keywords, commonly searched phrases, meta titles, meta descriptions, alt text, backlinks, etc.). SEO is one of my favorite things (along with taxonomy and content infrastructure). I love the idea that by simply choosing our words more judiciously and being more detail-oriented, we can make our content pop up on Google instead of similar content someone else wrote. That’s an oversimplification of the multipronged tactic, but it’s true. (And it’s super fun for some of us.)
Customer journeys – You know those ads that follow you everywhere? You know those emails you get from everyone? You know that concert that you just booked tickets for so easily because the ad reached you at the right time on the right device? You know those thoughts that are in your head … right … now? Someone put them there. OK, not the last part … maybe. Marketers love customer journey orchestration. It’s not Orwellian, it’s just useful nudges, reminders and kind of like super-chill motivational intervention. Somehow “customer nudging” hasn’t caught on, but I’m trying to make it happen.
Personalize – “Hello, Dave.” Personalization is us getting to know you so we can serve you better. It’s more like, “This seat is reserved for you, Dave. Do you want the usual?” We’re just giving you a “lift” (Acquia inside-baseball pun). It’s time-saving and practical.
Digital experiences – Really, this is kind of a catch-all for the way you interact with all technology through a DXP (digital experience platform) or a really great CMS (content management system) like Drupal. It’s all about convenience and ease of use, and it’s inspirational, fulfilling, and even entertaining. You know it when you interact with it. It’s all the things. Personally, I’m for dropping the word “digital.” What isn’t digital? You could call them web experiences, but what is the web? What is the internet? No, really, see IoT below.
IoT – Internet of things. Does your refrigerator tell you the weather, alert you of appointments, or prompt you if you’re out of milk? Singularity might be decades away (Cylons! Gasp!) but our cars can order pizzas, phones can unlock cars, and you can turn up your thermostat from the other side of the world. You can feed your dog and play fetch from work. The internet of things just means we’re all connected to just about anything, and just about anything can do just about anything. Alexa, can you help me cook dinner tonight, or tell me where my voting place is?
Omnichannel – A mobile app, a website, a store, social media, an email, digital signs. Wherever you can interact with a brand. It’s more like omnipresent, hopefully not omnipotent.
Some other fun ones that would be fun to decode or discard: ideation, adtech, martech, out-of-the-box, personas, seamless, holistic, disparate, inbound, “smarketing,” ROI (return on investment), AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), KPI (key performance indicators), and CRM (customer relationship management).
Have a pet peeve or ridiculous buzzword to share? Email me.