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Who’s coining all this lame marketing terminology?

Who’s coining all this lame marketing terminology?

Slack and Company | October 26, 2017

It must either be technology vendors or some mysterious cabal laughing up a storm as we compliantly adopt their subpar terms.

Do you ever wonder who coins all the imprecise and often confusing marketing jargon and industry terms we toss around like stationary lemmings every day?

I'm referring to terms like “account-based marketing,” “programmatic advertising,” “native advertising,” “content marketing,” “big data” and more.

A few years ago, at BMA15, the seventh of seven consecutive annual global conferences I organized for the Business Marketing Association, we had Second City actors do a hilarious sketch about a very secretive “Committee on Marketing Terminology,” whose job was to coin such terms and then laugh uproariously when they somehow caught on with their victims—us.

In so many cases, the new terms being promulgated by software vendors, marketing consultants, academics and who knows who else are just new fancy-pants names for existing and well-understood and widely used techniques.

Account-based marketing

For starters, take “account-based marketing.” Marketers in the b2b space have been doing ABM for decades, if not longer. We certainly have been—for virtually all of our 30 years. Better known as “key account marketing” or as “whale hunting” by the politically incorrect among us, ABM simply means sales and marketing working extremely closely together to target and land often very large prospects through individualized efforts.

ABM is the antithesis of mass b2b marketing, where you’re targeting hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands or, if your target is small businesses, millions of business buyers—at generally a very low cost per impression. In contrast, a company could spend thousands—even tens of thousand—of dollars via ABM-style targeting of single prospects.

Yes, ABM is account-based, but targeting down to audiences of one or 10 or 20 is the key to the technique. “Account-based marketing,” as a term, is sloppy, imprecise and confusing. “Key account marketing” is much better.

Programmatic advertising

A newbie term within the past five years, “programmatic advertising” is a problematic term because no one really knows what “programmatic” means.

Here again, what’s at the heart of the term—and the capability it describes—is targeting. As in, “targeted messaging.” Of course, because technology is behind it, what is even more definitive is “targeted one-to-one messaging.”

“Programmatic,” in conjunction with the term “advertising,” is a relatively new marketing capability that lets us b2b marketers target messaging to just the 1,952 or 345 or 672 decision-makers and influencers that we want to reach through advertising instead of just, for example, email.

Maybe “programmatic advertising” ought to be called “no-waste advertising.”

Content marketing

Well, you may regret you got this far with me, because my biggest peeve is with this term, for which even Joe Pulizzi, popularizer of the term and founder of the Content Marketing Institute, denies any paternity.

Of course, as with the above capabilities and a few more to follow, we’ve all been doing “content marketing” for years. It’s just that it used to be called “marketing” or “marketing communications.” Putting high-quality, value-drenched, captivating information in front of buying audiences at every major stage of the buy cycle is most definitely nothing new.

Unfortunately, “content marketing” does not conjure up quality. It conjures up, at least for me, an image of just plain stuff ... or stuffing. As in what goes into a sofa, a turkey or even a landfill. Content can be good, bad or indifferent—a thought that led me two years ago to do some coining of my own: “brandfill,” for boring, bland or bad content marketing.

Native advertising

Native advertising is just “whored media,” the replacement term the Second City actors behind the Committee on Marketing Terminology coined in their BMA15 sketch.

More seriously, it’s just a newfangled term for “advertorial,” a long-lived term for advertiser-sponsored material pretending to look, feel and read like independent news content.

Damn, there I go using that word “content” indiscriminately.

Big data

We’ll end today’s rant or diatribe with “big data.”

The Second City players coined a replacement term—“obese data”—and, yes, it got guffaws. In reaction to the term, I actually had another BMA15 speaker give a presentation about “little data.”

Just as “preventative” is not a word (but “preventive” is) and “very” is used way too often as a modifier, why don’t we just call data by its real and best name—“data”?

How new marketing terminology and jargon come to be—first use, spreading to others and then adopted by all of us, no questions asked—is a great puzzle to me. When I figure it out and have a plan to “sunset” the coiner cabal, I’ll let you know.

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