Marketing jargon translated into English

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I know I’ve gone on semantic rants before, most recently with regard to the marketing acronyms that make us all sound silly or needlessly confuse one another. Frankly, such rants are fun because it’s about calling myself out on my marketing jargon as much as it is about calling out others.

We all know we have a problem with silly buzzwords and ridiculously flowery language sometimes. It’s part of the job, and we spend so much time around each other that we sometimes forget how absurd we sound.

We’ve all also at some point tried to explain our jobs or recent professional activities to our non-marketing friends. Or our mothers. Or, worse, our grandmothers. That’s when we realize that a lot of the words and phrases we use every day don’t mean much outside our own walls.

We’re not doctors. What marketers do each day is relatively straightforward. So why all the industry-specific expressions? When you try to explain a facet of your job to an outsider and they stare blankly at you, the gut reaction can be to simply change the subject. If you would like a better shot at communicating with normal human beings again, read on for some ideas on how to rephrase your profession for the layman.

Technical confusion

Sometimes we need words or phrases to explain complicated concepts. That’s OK. That’s why there are words at all. But these ones probably don’t mean much outside our industry.

Programmatic buying
Robots. We let the robots decide which ad placements to buy, when, and for how much. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but this explanation makes us sound way cooler than we are.

Augmented reality
This is when marketers want to slap their computer-generated information over your real view of the world. Kind of creepy, sure, but think about it as Terminator vision, minus the killing.

Transactional
You know those emails we send you after you buy something from us? The ones with information about your transaction? That. That’s basically what we’re talking about.

Gamification
You know all those little badges you delight in earning when you check in a new beer on Beer Advocate? Or how you obsess over making sure your entire profile on a network is filled out so that it shows as “100 percent” on the progress bar? Well, marketers try to add those types of features to campaigns and apps, too. Sometimes completely needlessly.

Showrooming
You go into a store. You look at something. You check its availability on Amazon from your phone. You find it cheaper. You buy it there. That’s what people do now. Depending on the brand you represent, that bugs some marketers, and they want to figure out ways to make you buy in store or at that brand’s own website. (Good luck, everybody.)

Newsjacking
This is when a marketer pays attention to current events so they can jump into the social chatter in order to force people to talk about their brands. Sorry about that.

Responsive design
You know how you sometimes view websites on your phone and they suck? If the brand built its site with responsive design, that theoretically wouldn’t be the case.

Needlessly flowery

Some terms are prettier than their more logical counterparts. So we use those instead.

Key performance indicators
Goals. They’re goals. Specifically in terms of how effective we were in parting you from your money or attention.

User centric
It means we actually think about you before we do stuff. We’ll rarely admit that we don’t do this. (But sometimes we don’t.)

Bleeding edge
This isn’t necessarily marketing’s own term, but we love it because it means being at the way-way forefront of technological development. We all like to think we are.

Big data
Data. We have lots of data. Mainly about you. We have so much data we don’t know what to do with it most of the time.

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Native advertising
We pay to put content that we think you might like in a space that kind of looks like something you might read on your own. We hope it’s good enough that you won’t care that it’s an advertisement. We label it as “sponsored” just in case.

Optimization
Make-it-better-ization. This mainly means we just change things while we go so we don’t waste more money. In terms of search engine optimization, we just want to pop up high when you search for things.

Boring, but confusing

We use these terms a lot. There’s no way around it. But no one else knows what we’re talking about it.

Paid media
We paid money so you would see that.

Earned media
People talked about it on their own (well, we probably asked them to in some way), and that was awesome. It might have been members of the media or just regular folks in social media channels. Whatever. We earned that chatter.

Owned media
We built this website or page ourselves, and we can say whatever we want on it. If it’s a social media page, you as a customer might be able to say something nasty on it. But I own it, so if I want to, I can say, “Up yours. Deleted.”

Social commerce
You know those social networks you use to stay in touch with people and network? Well, this is how we try to make money off of that.

Advertainment or branded entertainment
My brand would like to make something so entertaining that you’ll watch it without caring that it’s kind of an ad. Oh, what’s that? You don’t think that’s cool? Well, go see “The Lego Movie,” and then get back to me.

Omni-channel and multi-channel
These two phrases are not actually the same thing, but you don’t care. The idea is that we simply think your experience, as a potential customer, should be consistent and seamless whether you’re in-store, on your phone, on our website, in Times Square, or wherever. Again, sorry, but we rarely deliver on this one.

Seems obvious, but maybe not

Sometimes you think everyone understands certain terms because they kind of define themselves, but that’s not really how it works. These terms might need more explanation than you think.

Return on investment
We paid $ 40 to market something to you. You spent $ 60 because of it. We made $ 20! Hooray!

Strategic partnership
Our companies can’t do everything on their own. Sometimes we hire people to do stuff for us. We call them “partners” because it’s nicer than “lackeys.” And we hate saying “outsourced.” And “strategic” makes it sound like we put lots of thought into it.

Business to business
This means you don’t really care about it. These are people from companies trying to sell stuff to people at other companies. They don’t care about you as an individual.

Business to consumer
Oh, you care about this one. This is when companies market directly to you.

Brick-and-mortar
Stores that people still actually walk into. (Those still exist, right?)

User-generated content
This is when we ask you to do work for our brands or you do it on your own. Like when you posted that hilarious version of yourself singing the “Oscar Mayer Wiener” song to YouTube.

Engagement
You acknowledged our brand. You really did! That’s it. You paid any attention. At all. We love that.

Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie. A version of this article first appeared on iMediaConnection. 

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