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Andy Crestodina

The ABCs of Marketing Jargon

By: Andy Crestodina | September 16, 2013 | 
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marketing jargonThis post was a collaborative effort by Andy Crestodina and Gini Dietrich.

Have a little fun first, and see if you can complete the crossword *before* you read the blog post below!

This is a word-fill/crossword hybrid: Fill in the marketing jargon, across and down, where you think it fits.

Good luck!

The Clues

  • The old way of measuring PR effectiveness.
  • A form of advertising on the web.
  • The ability to run a program on many connected computers at the same time.
  • Tangible or intangible object produced at the end of a project.
  • Large companies that typically sell to consumers.
  • A proprietary product or service is provided free of charge with money exchanging hands for advanced features.
  • A self-proclamation about one’s experience.
  • A term used when a person actually means web “visit.”
  • Application of consistent brand messaging across all marketing channels.
  • Name given to a person dependent on the general tasks and responsibilities of a position
  • A software that figures a person’s influence based on their online activity
  • Early electronic mailing software that allowed a person to send one email to an entire group
  • The calculation to figure out how many people saw a story about your organization
  • Japanese assassin, dubious synonym for expert.
  • Process of bringing a person into a company.
  • Website that connect visitors to other websites or content.
  • Square, scannable black and white graphic.
  • Process of adding new life.
  • Web page, article or post that is intended to be shared or revisited.
  • Group of people who share interests or ideals.
  • Web address.
  • Message or content that is intended to be shared by huge groups of people.
  • Person who is responsible for a website.
  • The ability to see through things, insight, prescience.
  • Acronym describing the number of times a person lives.
  • Acronym for the instant just before a person becomes aware of a product, service or company.

The ABCs of Marketing Jargon

Ever heard something like this?

Our agile methodology leverages mobile-enabled, geo-targeted analytics and real time multi-stage engagement optimization, all seamlessly integrated with your cloud-based automation platform.

Sure, it’s fun to speak in secret codes, but it’s also a kind of speech impediment.

Here’s the problem: You sound like a schmuck. Plus, people don’t know what you’re talking about.

While marketing jargon may make you feel smart, it can also make your audience feel dumb.

And if a marketer’s job is to inspire action, making your audience feel foolish isn’t a good thing. So try this: Choose words that follow these two little rules:

  • Your entire audience – 100 percent of them – knows what they mean; and

  • None of your audience feels dumb when they hear them.

Ban These Words

Here are 26 examples of jargon that should be banned from your marketing.

A is for Advertising Equivalencies

In days gone by, advertising equivalencies were one of the few ways to “measure” media relations efforts. Measure the size of the article that ran and compare that to the same dimensions of an ad. How much would it cost to run an ad of that size? That is your advertising equivalency. But today, it’s much easier to measure against real metrics, so leave the advertising equivalencies in the 90s.

B is for Banner Ad

Clickthrough rates for online ads started declining the day they were invented. Today, you’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on an ad. Crashing planes aside, “banner ad” isn’t the proper name anymore. They’re actually called “display ads” since “banner” is just one of many sizes and shapes.

C is for Cloud

What do all cloud-based services have in common? They’re all web-based. It’s not a coincidence. Cloud, web and internet are all synonymous. Same thing. To the marketer who got us all to use this new phrase, I nominate you for Jargon Marketer of the Decade.

D is for Deliverables

Yes, we all use the word “deliverables,” particularly if we work directly with clients. But it is jargon. What does it really mean? It means we’ll give you what you need, on time and on budget, every time.

E is for Enterprise

There are lots of words that mean company, some fancier than others. This might be the fanciest, which is why it pops up in product descriptions, on resumes and in pitches. Sales people love it; customers rarely use it. That’s the hallmark of true jargon.

F is for Freemium

The Great Recession is over and the economy is stabilizing. That means the days of freemiums are long gone. Rather than try to suck in your audience with a free product or free trial that lasts only a week, give them something of value they’re willing to pay for. Think about revenue generators versus freebies.

G is for Guru

The social media guru has become a joke. Name yourself guru and you become the laughing stock of the social media world. Like saying you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s not true until someone else says it for you.

H is for Hits

Whenever someone says ‘hit’ they actually mean ‘visit.’ The term was popular ten years ago. Saying it today makes you sound old. The technical definition for ‘hit’ is anytime a file moves from your website to a visitor’s computer, including images, HTML, CSS, PDFs, etc. So it’s not a relevant metric.

I is for Integrated Marketing

If there were still a type of marketing that wasn’t integrated across channels, this term would still be relevant. But because one-channel marketing efforts are completely extinct, we can let this term die as well.

J is for Job Titles

Not all job titles are bad, but too often, they’re inaccurate or incomplete. At worst, job titles are the ultimate ego metric, distracting employees from more meaningful professional development goals. They can also create power structures (and resentment) that disrupt the collaborative culture that is key to great marketing.

K is for Klout

People love to hate Klout. An “influence” measurement tool, it gives people a score, based on their social media activity. Not a real measurement of influence, it has some perceived issues in the marketing industry. But if you want something free from companies, work on that Klout score so you can receive perks.

L is for Listserv

I still hear this one in meetings sometimes. It confused me until I realized it’s just an outdated term meaning email list.

M is for Media Impressions

The formula went like this: If a story ran in a consumer publication, you would take the circulation and multiply it by two and a half. If it ran in a trade publication, the multiplier would be five. The result is your media impressions, which told your boss or your client how many people potentially saw the story about them, the company, or the product. Today we know that doesn’t make any sense, and focus on better data and metrics.

N is for Ninja

Playing with throwing stars in junior high school was awesome. But creating a personal brand that makes you sound like you’re still in junior high is not awesome.

O is for Onboarding

Onboarding really means, “How do we best bring our employees or clients into our culture as quickly and efficiently as possible?” While it’s certainly easier to say one word than an entire sentence, onboarding makes it sounds like you’re going on a cruise ship. Instead, think about something such as, getting acquainted with the client.

P is for Portal

I’ve never been clear on the difference between a portal and other websites. Sure, a portal is a website with information and links to other content, but that definition describes 99% of the sites on the internet.

Q is for QR Code

After years of searching, a few practical uses for the QR code have finally been discovered. But they’re rare. The list of silly uses is long. Ever used one? Was is useful? Probably not. It’s time for these ugly little boxes of visual static to die.

R is for Revitalization

The economy is back and businesses are stabilizing again. Because of that, can we please stop saying revitalization instead of the business is laying off people? It’s not revitalization. It’s letting people go to stay in business. There is nothing revitalizing about it.

S is for Sticky Content

Content that is ‘sticky’ gets visitors to stay on websites longer and visit more often. There’s another term for this kind of content: good.  Let’s stick with that word.

T is for Tribe

I suppose tribe is the same for customer, brand loyalist, ambassador, or community. Rather than make up words, let’s find a common term that makes sense for every industry.

U is for URL

Almost no one knows – or cares- what it stands for (uniform resource locator) but people must think it sounds good. Some people even pronounce it “earl.” Fancy right? But the definition is two short, plain english words: web address. Why switch to jargon?

V is for Viral Marketing

Smart marketers make their marketing sharable. But how many people do you know who can truly claim to consistently make something explode within social media? Imagine a Hollywood producer deciding to make some Oscar-winning movies. Just like an Academy Award, viral is a lovely outcome, but not a plan.

W is for Webmaster

Is the mid 1990’s, ‘webmaster’ replaced ‘computer guy’ as a job title. In the 20 years since, the role has changed a bit. The title should too. There are a dozen less vague, more meaningful titles such as key system administrator, web developer, marketing manager and IT support.

X is for X-Ray Eyes

Gone are the days of baggy jeans rolled up above your socks and plaid shirts. The hipsters are here and they have their own language. The slang they use to see through confusion or to understand something is “x-ray eyes.” How about we just say, “He really helped me to understand that better” instead?

Y is for YOLO

We all know acronyms are bad form in business…so why do we insist on creating them for our marketing purposes? If it requires your customers to use the Urban Dictionary every time they read something you’ve produced, you will lose. And you don’t have time to lose. After all, you only live once.

Z is for ZMOT

Google was clever to get this buzzword going. It refers to the time a customer spends researching and making decisions before they buy. Although it’s fun to say alien-sounding words like “zee-mot” in a meeting, it’s completely unnecessary.

Speak English!

If you’re replacing simple words with polysyllabic nomenclature and verbose euphemism …you’re probably drinking your own kool-aid, as they say. So quit it. Use simple words so people will understand you better.

I know, by now, you have one for us. Just input your user-generated content into the integrated, social-enabled threaded commenting platform below.

About Andy Crestodina


Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago, and the author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. You can find Andy Thursdays after work drinking a Milk Stout at the Long Room on Irving and Ashland.

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  1. […] So I’m offering a list of marketing lingo (thanks to one of my new favorite sites, Spin Sucks) that’s really past its freshness […]