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A translation guide to marketing speak

Jargon, corporate speak and cliché in general indicate either an inability or unwillingness to take a stand and articulate a position. Language that is saturated with platitudes and "safety words" obfuscates issues and generally prolongs the arrival of a solution to a problem. The purpose of jargon-speak is to enable the speaker to go on the record and say he/she contributed to the conversation. This use of cop-out language does not add to the body of knowledge and no one is smarter or wiser for the effort. How many times have you rolled your eyes, shaken your head, looked to the heavens and held your breadth when someone pontificates the obvious?

Talking is not the same as communicating. Talking is talking. Communication is effective, two-way discourse designed and intended to arrive at a conclusion or resolution that best serves the organization. Along the way, all variables and their relevancy are to be addressed and debated. Safety-speak and otherwise sidestepping the truth in favor of diplomacy and compromise only delay results and can lead to strategic errors. As George Kennedy said to Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Below are some of the items I have heard over the years during meetings attended by all levels of management and their translation.

Recognize any? Agree/disagree? Other items to contribute?

  • We are uniquely positioned in the industry = We are a commodity.
  • We do not have any competition = We don't know our market.
  • Our chip/software/device will be available in Q1 = Probably Q2 and quite possibly Q3.
  • Revenues are forecast to model a hockey stick with the blade curving to the right = We intend to lose money for the foreseeable future.
  • We are pre-revenue = We have no sales.
  • We have several customers evaluating our technology = We have sent reference designs to numerous companies but have no idea when or if they will evaluate or adopt the technology.
  • From the senior executives of an agency during a new business pitch: This is the team that will manage your account = You are not likely to see us again and most of the work will be done by junior executives.
  • We have a backlog of customers. = We have sent customers evaluation units but have not been given any indication of adoption or an actual sale.
  • We have conducted field trials but the results are proprietary. = The results are so bad and the technology is so flawed that we are not going to publish.
  • We will spend money on marketing when we have sales. = We will not generate any sales as we have no marketing.
  • We have solid relationships with our customers. = We had a meeting.
  • We know our customers. = We had a meeting.
  • We are aligning our cost structure with revenue. = Layoffs coming.
  • We are maximizing shareholder value. = Senior executives will continue to make money while staff will be subject to wage freezes and possibly layoffs.
  • We have a diversified board. = We have one board member who is not a white man in his 60s.
  • We have a social media strategy. = Posting non-confrontational and meaningless material on LinkedIn.
  • Although I was caught in flagrante delicto with a video that went viral, I can explain. = Talk to my lawyer.
  • We are putting growth before profitability. = The business model is flawed.
  • I am leaving to explore other opportunities. = I screwed up. I am bored. I have been fired.
  • I have more than 20 years of experience. = I have more than 30 years of experience but I do not want to give away my age.
  • Smart Resume from Comcast = DVR interruption so you can't fast forward and are forced to watch the commercials.

— Rob Gelphman, Marketing and Investor Relations Consultant

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