A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Jargon

A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Jargon

Every field develops its own arcane language.  This usually starts as a shorthand to make it easier for those in the field to communicate economically and efficiently.  Inevitably, however, the shorthand acquires a life of its own.  It becomes a way to separate the “professionals” from the “non-professionals,” those “in the know” and those who are not.

 Every once in a while, it becomes useful to take this jargon out of the rarified air of the “professionals” and bring it back down to earth.

So, with all due respect to the profession (and the online marketing glossaries), here’s an English translation of some key (or current) marketing jargon:

-        Branding:  “A name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

Meaning:  Your prospect says, “Hey, I recognize that product/company.”  Notice that “branding” depends upon the customer’s/prospect’s recognition.  If no one recognizes your “sign, symbol or design,” there is no real branding (or, as the jargon would have it, no “brand recognition”).  A differentiation unnoticed by the marketplace is a distinction without a difference.

-        Identity:  “The ‘persona’ of a corporation which is designed to accord with and facilitate the attainment of business objectives.”

Meaning:  Branding and Identity are usually used as a single term.  However, “identity” has been largely co-opted by the graphic designers and, in practice, has come to mean a logo.

-        Differentiation:  “The process of distinguishing a product or offering from others, to make it more attractive to a target market.”

Meaning:  “See why I stand out from the crowd!”

-        Value Proposition:  “A promise of value to be delivered.”

Meaning:  “This is why you should spend your money with me.”  You should be saying what problem you solve or the need your product answers. It is probably useful to point out here that saying that you are honest and very good at what you do (as a number of clients have mentioned as their value proposition) is not particularly useful.  My first question after this statement is always “which of your competitors says he is not honest and not good at what he does?”  A value proposition should also be a differentiator, i.e. a way to distinguish yourself from the others in your market space, one that your audience will recognize as important.

-        Content Marketing:  “An umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases.  Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.”

Meaning:  You are talking to the customer/prospect, by whatever means – social media, web sites, ads, etc.  It is best to have something to say that he or she wants to hear.

 The list could go on and on, of course.  There are whole sites on the Internet devoted to defining and explaining marketing jargon.

Personally, I believe that if you can’t explain something in simple terms, then there is reason to question just how well you actually know it.  Most marketing terms really come down to how you choose your target audience and how you talk to – and with – it, in the most meaningful way.

Basic marketing concepts are not particularly obscure and are not particularly difficult to understand.  They are not even particularly new (as I discussed in a previous blog:  Medieval Marketing).

Implementing them effectively, however, is an entirely different story.  But that is a discussion for another time.



2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Jargon

  1. Interesting post, and well-written. Jargon has taken over almost all marketing conversations, and the poor client is either trying so hard to showcase their knowledge that they overuse or misuse terms and cause a misunderstanding with the other marketer or consultant, or they simply nod and smile as if they were visiting a foreign country . . .neither accomplishes the goal of jargon, which is to expedite communication and speed action toward success.

    Keep up the good work.

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