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B2B marketing buzzwords: Who is making all this stuff up?

Gary Slack, CEO of Slack & Co., urges B2B marketers to drop meaningless buzzwords

Ever wonder where marketing terms come from? I do. I have tried to figure it out, but to no avail.

I can only conclude that there must be some super-secret, heavily shrouded committee on marketing technology that invents all these terms and makes us unwitting users.

Either that or marketing consultants and software vendors are behind it all. If so, they could be doing a much better job.

For example, the widely used but roundly ridiculed term “content marketing.”

Besides the fact that marketers have been doing content marketing for years, albeit under different names, it is a very poorly coined term. My good friend Joe Pulizzi, head of the Content Marketing Institute, which has popularized it, tells me he did not invent the term but picked it up from someone else. But who originated it and where and why? Inquiring minds want to know.

I despise the term, as the neutral, pedestrian meaning of "content"  (it’s anything inside of anything else, for crying out loud) goes against everything “content” is supposed to be—differentiated, provocative, attention-getting. Instead, when I think of content I think of chefs stuffing turkeys, upholsterers stuffing sofas, sanitation workers filling landfills. For that reason and because, as even Joe agrees, most content is garbage, I recently joined the term-coiner ranks and came up with my substitute term for bad content, "brandfill."

Next up is the term "native advertising," most assuredly coined, I believe, by our consumer marketing brethren. What is it, really, other than "whored media"? We used to call it advertorial material, and, very honorably, our media friends would label it as such. But no more. Somebody (who knows who?) decided on the adjective “native” to make the term sound, I guess, more palatable. Like native versus invasive or foreign, as in fauna and flora.

Now, let’s shift our attention to the classic term "big data." At a sketch at the big BMA14 conference, which I organized, the comedy troupe Second City renamed it "obese data." Probably more accurate, and certainly funnier, but let's face it, the original term "data" would suffice in most cases. 

Then, there's the LinkedIn phenomenon, whereby we join someone else's network, or they join ours, and we suddenly have a new "relationship." With, at least for me, 95 percent-plus of solicitations coming from people I don't know, I think the better term is "connectionship." Then there is Twitter and its so-called “followers.” Unless you are a celebrity, sports star, presidential candidate or true guru, you can “have” 10,000 followers with nobody really following you.

Here’s another doozy: "account-based marketing." My firm has been doing ABM for years, but we prefer simpler terms, like "whale hunting." ABM is about sales and marketing working in very close partnership to target big, elusive prospects—the kind whose doors are hard to knock down by sales alone. Where the word "account" comes from in ABM is an enduring mystery.

So, you ask, Gary, stop picking on all these terms and come up with some better ones, okay? Well, I don't know if they're better, but here goes:

• Instead of “native advertising” (nobody’s going to use “whored media”) how about "paid editorial." How’s that for oxymoronic simplicity?

• Instead of "account-based marketing," let's take a cue from "big data" and call it "biggie marketing." Though I do use "whale hunting," I would like to retire it, literally and figuratively. The same for militaristic terms like "campaign" and "target" and “target audience."

• Instead of "content marketing," let's call bad CM “brandfill” and the good CM “grandfill.” OK, not gonna happen. So how about "attention-getting marketing”? Or just plain old "marketing."

I am hoping someone on that mysterious marketing terminology naming body is paying attention and will invite me to their next meeting, as I am sure I could help them bollix things up even more!