16 March 2019

Who Needs Competitors When You Have Jargon? Exhibit A

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Guy Who Knows Jargon Enough To Avoid It; image by Mabdul via Wikimedia Commons

Many companies readily blame the competition for their struggles. For example, how many lackluster retailers have you seen blame Amazon? In many cases, it’s their marketing (or lack of it) holding them back…

In business-to-business services, the self-inflicted wound usually consists of vapid, jargon-stuffed marketing. Management sees jargon as “professional” (I shudder at how often that word gets misused), but it’s about as appealing as a bowl of dried mashed potato flakes.

Case in point, I just came across this description on a LinkedIn company page. (I changed their name to Initech, which it seems to be mimicking.)

“Initech transforms how teams build technology. Its customers accelerate the delivery of innovative products with proven solutions, which combine Initech’s intelligent product strategy and roadmapping software with full-stack, agile development services. With decades of experience building disruptive technology in the heart of Silicon Valley, Initech’s team shares a proven track record of enabling companies to achieve breakthrough results with software and services.”

OK, I guess they create software — along with thousands of other companies in Silicon Valley. And Los Angeles. And Toronto. And Bangalore. And so on…

I’m also guessing they had a committee meeting — such writing always smells of committee — where someone said, “Disruptive! We have to use the word disruptive somewhere!” and someone else said “Did we mention solutions? Everyone needs solutions… Oh, and make sure we say results!”

The result: a bland buzzword stew that evaporates from readers’ minds the second they read it. (And that’s assuming they endure more than one line.) For the business, that means having to invest more time and money into sales presentations and demos to simply differentiate themselves from the competition. That is, if they get invited to present and demo at all.

Such vapid, clichéd marketing is the reason many B2B firms credit “referrals” and “word of mouth” for generating most of their clients. That’s not a credit to word of mouth; it’s a sign that the company’s marketing communications are repelling would-be customers. Creativity and daring could generate more leads, but, well, that might be too disruptive.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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