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Volume 23 No. 13
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Time for some straight talk on marketing jargon – isn’t it?

Terry Lefton
We like to think, dear reader, that it is veracity we’re getting when we reach out to our oh-so-tangled web of sports and brand marketers on your behalf. Even when it isn’t, we have a BS meter, which, while analog based, generally performs infallibly. Still, even when we can see through the obfuscation inevitably surrounding any new marketing program, avoiding marketing jargon is something we’ve had difficulty accomplishing in more than two decades writing about it. Eluding marketing-speak when you are speaking mostly to marketers is about as easy as avoiding mentions of Jeremy Lin on “SportsCenter”: It probably can’t be done. That’s not to say we won’t try to synthesize a solutions-driven remedy. Sure, we know it’s an iconic problem with a long tail, but we’ve decided to make it actionable; with some luck, it may even be scalable. It’s time to get our oar in the water on this one, if one can do that prior to taking the requisite deep dive.

Let’s re-engineer stuck markets, start high level, drill down and circle back later to prioritize next steps, efforting all the while at creating nothing short of a whole new analytics-driven ecosystem.

Only after the requisite brain dump will we be able to whiteboard this and isolate core competencies. Once we pencil it out, we can achieve seamless integration, productize strategic partnerships with best-of-breed thought leaders, get brand right, drive leading-edge markets and robustly open the kimono. Just don’t make us eat our own dog food.

Sometimes we’re less than task oriented, but when it comes to eradicating marketing speak, we’re looking for a mission-based outcome on a move-forward basis. While our children remind us with regularity that we’re old school, we’ve going real time on this and we’re serious enough that we’ll employ alternative-delivery mechanisms, if necessary.

Sure, we’re pushing the envelope on this and, admittedly, we’re in enough of a silo when it comes to the marketing Tower of Babel that we’re generally covered by its shadow. Nonetheless, our observation from inside the foxhole is that we’ll need incremental runway, because the marketing profession produces more jargon than any other. Maybe that’s because marketing in general and sports marketing in particular seeks to influence a more mainstream audience than many businesses. Whatever the causal modality, there are those who believe that marketing mumbo-jumbo is a stickier problem than a vegan dining at Morton’s — and one that’s no longer under the radar.

Has marketing jargon achieved seamless integration within your linguistic ecosystem?
“The jargon’s getting worse,” said Wharton prof Scott Rosner, who helps foreign-born MBA candidates wade through myriad sports metaphors that abound in business circles with an orientation lecture on the subject. “You’ve got a 24-hour news cycle amped up by social media,” Rosner said. “That means there’s a shorter shelf life, even while everyone’s looking to coin a catchphrase.”

It’s a profound dilemma that’s reached critical mass. So much so that we even know one marketer who keeps a list of banned words on her office blackboard (see photo). Accordingly, embargoing adspeak won’t be like collecting low-hanging fruit. Every marketing shop thinks they could be the next Trout & Ries, who are credited with adding “positioning” to the marketing lexicon. We’re not sure who gets credit for “differentiation,” but when my father and his father were plying their trade at an ad agency they tried to synthesize a client’s “Unique Selling Proposition (USP).” The next generation of marketers asked the same question about brands and differentiation. And there are so many more agencies now, tweeting, posting and lighting up the blogosphere.

“You’ve got this proliferation of marketing agencies looking to distinguish themselves, and they all think their buzzword could be the one that sticks,” said UMass sports marketing prof Steve McKelvey.

Even though the thicket of vernacular has become a pandemic problem, that doesn’t mean we’re ready to punt. After all, this could be a new benchmark. Still, optimization could be mission critical, since we’re a bit above our pay grade here.
Holistically speaking, if we can monetize this, it could be the best cross-platform paradigm since disintermediation.

Actually, it’s unclear that we have a clear line of sight on this, but ping me; we’ll calendar some time, ideate some scenarios, and hopefully move the needle. And we’ve gotten this far without even mentioning the obvious need for consumer-facing synergies.

So let’s add some bandwidth and let time be the variable; that’s the only way to ensure that this goes three-deep. At the end of the day, it is what it is.n

Terry Lefton can be reached at