What is Marketing Jargon?

Hello there, my name is Martin Henley and this is the WTF series where I am going to war with marketing jargon. In this, the very first episode, I am answering the question what is marketing jargon and is it marketing jargon that is stopping you from being successful?

In addressing the question, what is marketing jargon? there are in six things that we need to be thinking about. We need to be thinking about the problem with marketing jargon, if we are really in WTF situation, we need to think jargon is, if there is an issue with jargon all on its own, why marketers use so much marketing jargon and what you should be saying if you want to be an effective and successful marketer.

What exactly is the issue with Marketing Jargon?

It seems to me that marketing jargon takes something that’s very simple, something that’s very necessary, something that every business in the world needs to be doing if they want to be successful and it makes it much more difficult, much more expensive much more inaccessible than it needs to be.

More than that I think it’s marketing jargon that gives marketing a bad reputation. So now you’re asking me but does marketing have a bad reputation? 

It’s reported that in London the average lifespan of a digital marketing customer is three months. You can’t achieve much marketing in three months so what on earth is going on here that these marketing customers don’t want to persist with these projects? 

I think what’s going on is they don’t trust what’s being delivered because they don’t trust what

they’re being told, because what they’re being told is marketing jargon.

Are we really in a WTF situation with Marketing Jargon?

Let me tell you how this came about, but before I do that let me give you an idea of my experience.

I have been working in sales and marketing for the best part of 25 years. I have run my marketing agency The Effective Marketing Company since 2005, I’ve been teaching marketing since 2008, I’ve been a lecturer with the Digital Marketing Institute since 2013.

Recently I was having breakfast with a good friend of mine who also runs a marketing agency and he was telling me why he got into the marketing business. The reason he got into the marketing business is because in a previous role he had spent 10,000 pounds, that’s ten thousand pounds on an hour of CRO consultancy. Now, in that particular context in that particular instance I was thinking – WTF is CRO? because I couldn’t conceive of any kind of consultancy that could be worth ten thousand pounds for an hour. I will be

explaining what CRO is to you later in this series but I’m thinking, in this particular instance, with all my experience, if I am struggling with marketing jargon then maybe other people are struggling with marketing jargon and maybe I can help those people out. 

That’s what this series of videos is about. So if you’re challenged with marketing jargon why not take a second to subscribe because in this series of videos and blogs I will be cutting through this marketing jargon to empower you to enjoy the marketing success that you deserve.

What is the solution to this marketing jargon issue?

There are essentially two things that can happen; either marketers could stop using the jargon – that’s not going to happen; or you need to learn and become comfortable with marketing jargon if you’re going to be effective with your marketing and achieve the success you deserve in your business

What is jargon?

Perhaps to understand marketing jargon first we need to understand jargon. If we go to dictionary.com they tell us that “jargon is the language, especially the vocabulary,

peculiar to a particular profession or group” and the for instance they give us

is medical jargon. I have no issue with this, this makes absolutely perfect sense to me.

If I’m having open-heart surgery I absolutely want the surgeons to be using their vocabulary, to be using their jargon so they can communicate efficiently and make decisions effectively to give me a good procedure. In that sense, where technical things are happening it makes absolute sense that those technical people are using their technical vocabulary, their industry jargon to operate efficiently and effectively.

Is there an issue with jargon?

If we go back to dictionary.com what they go on to tell us is that jargon is also “any unintelligible or meaningless talk, any talk or writing that one does not understand or pretentious vocabulary which is vague in meaning” and this is where we start to see an issue with jargon.

If we think about the jargon that most people have an issue with at some point in their life its legal jargon. We know that if you want to practice law then you’ll be at university for seven years studying and then you’ll have to perform your articles before you get to practice. The result is that if you need to engage a lawyer then it’s going to cost you a lot of money. You are going to pay a premium for that learning. For me, I don’t think anyone would argue that the law is anything other than difficult, expensive and inaccessible and if this is the

intention for marketing to become like the law – difficult, expensive and inaccessible then that for me my friends is where I have a real issue with marketing jargon.

Why do marketers use so much marketing jargon?

Which brings us to the question why do marketers use so much jargon?

Well they certainly do. You will understand the issue if you’ve tried to engage with marketing at all. If you’ve tried to learn marketing, if you’ve tried to teach marketing, if you’ve tried to do marketing, if you’ve tried to buy marketing you will know what marketers look like and you will know what marketers sound like. They use acronyms like SEO, CTR, PPC, CRO and what you’re hearing is blah blah blah blah blah and you’re wondering; “am i stupid.” Let me tell you you are not stupid because you are not the first person to encounter this issue. In fact David Ogilvy, the Godfather of advertising said “our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

If this is what’s going on, if marketers, who should be the best in the world at conveying their message and their value are using pretentious jargon to impress, or worse they’re using complicated language so that you don’t feel that you’re in a position to object or to challenge them, this is why these marketing projects aren’t persisting. If your buyers can’t challenge you, they don’t feel comfortable with what they’re buying, if they don’t feel comfortable and happy with what you’re delivering then your projects will fail. 

There are two things going on here.

The first is perfectly justifiable. Marketing is becoming more technical and I have no objection whatsoever to technical marketing teams using their marketing jargon or vocabulary to work effectively and efficiently, that is absolutely fine. Where it descends into pretentious jargon or unintelligible meaningless talk, or talk or writing that people don’t understand, or pretentious vocabulary which is vague in meaning – this is where marketing jargon becomes a real issue.

What should marketers be saying if they don’t use marketing jargon?

If you are hearing me and you’re thinking okay we need to cut out the marketing jargon the next question becomes what exactly is it that you should be saying if you want to be an effective marketer?

Well, we are still good because David Ogilvy also had something to say about this. What David Ogilvy said is “if you’re trying to persuade people to do something or buy something you should use their language, the language in which they think.” This makes absolutely perfect sense to me. If you have to use jargon in your marketing, in your sales, it should be the jargon of your market that you are selling to, it should be the jargon of your customers.

If you are selling to the medical profession learn the medical jargon. If you’re selling to the legal profession learn the legal jargon. If you’re selling to engineers learn the engineering jargon. If you’re selling to IT learn the IT jargon because when you communicate with people in a language that they understand and they understand the value that you’re delivering then your customers will persist. 

The whole point of sales and marketing is to have ongoing customer relationships so people are happy to buy from you over a period of time and buy different things and happily  refer you to their friends and their colleagues and their customers.

Are we done with this Marketing Jargon thing?

If you are still with us well done. Now you understand the problem with marketing jargon, you understand that we really are in a WTF situation, you know what jargon is, you know that jargon all on its own is problematic, you know why marketers use so much marketing jargon and you know what you should be saying instead if you want to be an effective successful marketer.

If you have found this interesting or useful why not take a second to like, share, subscribe, maybe comment maybe there’s a piece of marketing jargon that you would like to

see defined in this fashion. If you found it really useful why not across to the effective marketing company blog and subscribe there so you get this marketing jargon, bullshit busting goodness in your inbox 🙂 

We are done here Ricky.

Martin Henley

Martin Henley

Martin has built a reputation for having a no nonsense approach to sales and marketing and for motivating audiences with his wit, energy, enthusiasm and his own brand of audience participation.

Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.



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