I vow to strip these words from my marketing vocabulary

umph hhmghth ghmph mhmph…

Umph hhmghth ghmph mhmph…

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet who penned “Auld Lang Syne” was a sentimental dude. Those famous words of his, loosely translated from native Scot, mean “long ago,” or “days gone.” Burns is asking all of us, as a New Year dawns, to glance back and remember our lives, times and loved ones.

With all due respect to Mr. Burns (whose work I love, by the way) I was never the sentimental type… and that’s especially true when it comes to marketing. It has always been about looking forward.

That said, I think it is high time, me lads and lassies, to drop some words from our collective marketing vocabulary. Here’s a random sampling of what I mean, in no particular order:

  • Target audience
  • Market penetration
  • Blitz
  • Guerilla (tactics, marketing or any other add on)
  • Segmented approach

I’m not sure when the line grayed between military and marketing jargon, but it’s been with us a while. Maybe it was driven by a business mindset—the notion that we have to overtake a market or risk annihilation. But it puts the people we ask to buy from us immediately on the opposite front… as something to be conquered.

But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, marketing is fundamentally changing. “Target audiences” aren’t paying attention to us like they used to. “Guerilla tactics,” unless they’re fantastically creative or entertaining, aren’t quite getting through, either.

Many “targets” have built a pretty robust immunity to us—akin to being able to fight off any marketing super bug they please—in the form of DVRs, the trash can, clicking the X on a pop-up, or good old-fashioned ignoring.

Now, all of the sudden (in historical terms), the vernacular has flipped to terms like:

  • Inbound
  • Engagement
  • Social
  • Share
  • Viral
  • Connection
  • Meme

Although I’ve always been intrigued by what’s around the bend, I’m also very wary of bandwagons. But the paradigm has indeed shifted, and so should the way we talk. To pull a term from the one-way, full frontal attack phraseology we all love: It’s off target.

So, as best I can, I’ll strip the militaristic, carpet-bomby type lingo from meetings, presentations and emails. Instead, I’ll make a few small, but important shifts in the syllables that leave my lips.

Instead of “Who’s the target?” I’ll ask, “Whom are we talking to?”

I’ll drop “What are our tactics?” for “How should we talk to them?”

No more “What’s our market penetration?” Maybe I’ll try, “How many people are into this?”

I’ll turn “demographic data” into “what our audience is like.”

And no chatter of “What platforms does this segment engage in?” I’ll ask, “Where do they hang out online?”

It’s like the old quote I keep near my desk—and I wish I knew who said it, so I can give him or her the credit for having such foresight:

Consumers is a fancy word for people.”

Please understand… I’m not trying to dumb down marketing here. It’s the viewpoint that has changed, and the vocabulary should and probably will follow suit. Over the last several years, all the cool ads that got shared… the videos that had a zillion views… the posts that got passed along… were all either informative, entertaining or educational (in the words of Alex Bogusky). That’s what happens when you make things for people—not for targets.

Like most New Year’s resolutions, I’m technically overdue for failure at this point. At the very least, I’ll slip up from time to time, with my modified vocabulary facing deportation to the Museum of Past Resolutions—a shadowy place with dimly lit displays of tattered gym memberships, dusty turned-over leaves, and stubborn bad habits. But I’ll try.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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2 Comments
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