Curiosity and the Power of the Liberal Arts

Falling into an Echo Chamber of Meaningless Buzzwords

Chor Boogie
Chor Boogie mural at Wynwood Walls in Miami by Flickr user @stephrog

Have you read Samuel Scott's latest piece on Techcrunch?

"Everything the tech world says about marketing is wrong."

It's a provocative headline, with an equally strong point of view on how the latest generation of marketers - digital and tech marketers in particular - are getting caught up in buzzwords at the expense of following basic marketing principles.

“The biggest problem in marketing in the tech world today is that too many marketers do not know the first thing about marketing...The use of buzzwords has caused a new generation of marketers to enter the field without knowing even the basic terms and practices that underpin our industry."

While I don’t necessarily agree with every point in here, it’s worth reading. Scott mentions the recent Hubspot tell-all as a case in point. I’m not sure where I fall on that particular controversy (haven’t read the book yet, although I thought Darmesh Shah handled it well in his response), but at the end of the day what really good marketer wouldn’t try to create their own category - potentially even a buzzword - in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace?

Hubspot has had runaway success with the term “inbound marketing” because they made it their own. They didn’t invent the concept of content marketing, they were just shrewd enough to package it up with the latest tools available (the Internet, plus a keen understanding of not only SEO/email/content marketing but also the marketer's desire for a simpler way to manage and report on those things) in a way that made it very appealing to the marketplace. Of course, if you hang your hat on a certain positioning, you need to make sure your brand/product/service can deliver on it (and from what I’ve seen of Hubspot, it is a nice little product), or the phrase means nothing.

That said, it’s critical for us as marketing professionals to recognize that there are a lot of buzzwords out there that can overshadow the basic marketing principles we need to employ for success. As Scott points out, most of what we do falls into "one or more of the five frameworks within the promotion mix: direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity. (The promotion mix itself is under one of the four Ps of the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion)." This is marketing 101, and a good reminder of it at that.

Inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, search marketing. Most online marketing tactics are really just direct under another name…highly targeted and designed to elicit an immediate response that can be measured. Direct marketing is appealing to brands that are increasingly under pressure to show results quickly. But it is typically is used in conjunction with the other pillars of the marketing house (advertising and publicity) in order to build/sustain a brand and move product. They are different things, used for different purposes and (should) have different goals and success measures.

I think the buzzwords are OK, provided they aren't used as a crutch to avoid a more thoughtful approach that's grounded in marketing fundamentals. What do you think?

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