The most misused and abused marketing buzzwords

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On a daily basis, I hear marketing buzzwords bantered about and it becomes obvious people say them and don’t really even know what they mean. I think people use sacred marketing words like relevant, equity or insights because they figure no one will challenge them. Of course, everyone puts “strategic thinker” on their LinkedIn profile. The problem I see is that a generation of Brand Leaders have not been properly trained and it’s starting to show. 

For the past 20 years, companies have said “on the job” training is good enough. But now the lack of training is starting to show up. The misuse of these marketing buzzwords can be linked to the lack of understanding of the fundamentals of marketing. Words always matter, but in marketing, the misuse of a word can send your brand on the wrong pathway.

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The 10 most abused marketing buzzwords

Relevant

I once banned the marketing buzzword “relevant” because it was so abused. I found that when a marketer would say “we need to make sure it’s relevant,” the room would go silent.

Then there’s a pause, and someone would add their brilliance, “yeah, we have to be relevant.” 

The room went quiet again. 

So then I would usually ask a simple question, “so what do you mean relevant?” and sadly, that question seemed to stump most of my marketers. 

Yes, of course, marketing should be relevant. 

What exactly do YOU mean when YOU say the word relevant? When you answer the question, you likely just came up with something better. So use your specific answer of how you will be relevant instead of just blindly saying, “we need to be relevant.”

The overuse and vague definition of “relevant” can make it difficult for marketers to effectively communicate the value and benefits of their products and services. In addition, using the word “relevant” without clear context or definition can make it difficult for consumers to understand the actual value proposition of a brand.

 

2. Awareness

Just like the word relevant, you’re just forcing me to ask, “so when we get awareness, what do we get after we get awareness?” Once you spend money, you should be able to get awareness–it’s just a question of how much money you spend. In brand terms, we don’t make any money from awareness–we only begin to make money as we can move our consumer through the consideration-search-purchase stage. So, let’s save the word “awareness” for lazy brains.

3. Brand equity

There is a good chance you are using the term “brand equity” completely wrong. This marketing buzzword was first coined in the 1980s as part of the RJR Nabisco take-over when they couldn’t explain why they were willing to pay a higher price than the actual book value of the assets. They didn’t know how to explain it, so they called it “brand equity” and put a dollar figure to it. 

The word has strayed since in two different directions: those like Brand Finance and Interbrand who still use it to correctly attribute it to the DOLLAR VALUE of the brand and those who misuse the word when they attribute to the HEALTH or CONNECTIVITY of the brand. 

Where brand equity becomes an abused marketing buzzword is when it has become a catch-all statement for the “unexplainable” feelings about a brand. 

Most get brand equity wrong.

People will say, “the final scene of the TV ad is emotional and should drive brand equity.” You might mean emotions. Just say, “create an emotional bond.” 

Or even worse, “It’s an equity spot.” You might mean tangible brand assets (colors, logo, slogans). Just say, “utilize our brand assets.” Or you might say, “it’s a master brand spot.”

You should look at brand health and brand wealth separately. Brand equity is brand wealth with a dollar figure. There are eight ways to drive brand wealth: premium pricing, trading the consumer up or down, reducing both product costs and marketing costs, stealing other users or getting current users to use more, entering new categories, and creating new uses for your brand. Brand wealth is not unexplainable at all.

4. Target market

I’m in shock at how badly we define the target market in the creative brief. I once read a brief with a target that said “aged 18-65, new customers, current customers, and even employees.” That pretty much covers everyone but prisoners and tourists. A well-defined target should be a combination of demographics (age, income level, male/female) and psychographics (attitude, beliefs, and behaviors). I try to put an age demographic on every brief.
The media you buy, the talent you put in the ad, the stores you choose to sell to, or even the claims you make are likely going to have an age component, so you’re just kidding yourself by saying, “we are more about psychographics than demographics.” When it comes to age, I try to push for a maximum of a 5-year gap. This type of target doesn’t mean you won’t sell to people outside of this target, but it does help give focus to you.

5. Alienate

This word drives me bonkers, and it seems to be growing, or at least I keep hearing it. Your advertising, your new products, your customer experience should ALIENATE. You should alienate those who aren’t going to buy your product so it can focus on those who are already motivated to buy what you are selling. 

The best brands have focus. And, the worst don’t.

The best marketing programs have focus, and the worst don’t. 

If you want to be a great marketer, you must have focus–defined target, positioning, strategies, and execution. Stop being worried and cautious that you alienate older consumers or your current consumers, that you water down your marketing programs to the degree that we have no clue whom you’re talking to or what you’re even saying. As long as you are staying consistent and true to the brand, no one should be alienated by what you have to say and whom you tell.

6. Benefits

There’s an old selling expression: “features tell and benefits sell.” But I’m seeing that Marketers have become so obsessed with shouting their message as loud as they can, most brand communication is wall-to-wall claims about how great you are. Brand Leaders should be organizing their Customer Value Proposition into rational and emotional benefits. What I recommend you do is list out the brand features and put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and ask, “what do I get?” (for rational benefits) and “how does that make me feel?” (for the emotional benefits). Your brand’s communication should be a combination of the two.

7. Brief

Not really a marketing buzzword, but it is certainly an abused process. It is called a brief because it should be…BRIEF. I saw a creative brief last year that was eight pages long. Moreover, even that length, I couldn’t find one benefit or one consumer insight. Every brief should be one-page maximum. I’ve done a 1000 briefs at this point, and it is pretty easy to nail the one-page brief.

8. Brand

Too many companies have separate brand and product marketing teams, especially on the master-brand type companies. The “Brand” department handles PR, brand advertising, websites, and events. The “product” department handles new products, pricing, distribution, and product-oriented or promotion-oriented advertising. Brand and Product should NEVER be separated. It’s crazy. 

My definition of a brand: “A brand is a unique idea, perceived in the minds and hearts of the consumer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power, and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve.” 

To have a successful brand, you need to connect with consumers based on a BRAND IDEA and then line up the five connectors (promise, story, innovation, purchase moment, and experience). With two separate departments, who is making sure everything is aligned? The CMO? I would hope not. Force your brand and product to work as one. In terms of organizational structure, force them to bump into each other, debate and battle it out, and gain alignment, rather than operate in silos.  

Defining a brand
This is the work you need to build a brand includes strategic thinking, brand positioning, building a marketing plan, marketing execution, and brand analytics. Our marketing training teaches how the best marketers think, define, plan, execute, and analyze. To illustrate, click to zoom in.

9. Strategic

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. Strategic thinkers reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. 

Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. Strategic thinkers get to answers quickly and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking. They think doing something is better than doing nothing at all, and opt for action overthinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. And, they are frustrated by strategic thinkers. However, to be a great marketer, you must be a bit of a chameleon. While pure strategy people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without ever taking action. 

10. New media

New Media has been around 15-20 years old now. Maybe you don’t use the term “new media” but if you are saying “traditional media” then you are indirectly using the term. I bet you don’t call it “non traditional” do you? I’m not sure I hear the term “new media” on Mad Men when they talk TV ads, but that’s how crazy it sounds at this point. 

In today’s cluttered media world, the brand idea should help organize all four types of media, including paid, earned, shared, and owned. Instead of misusing a marketing buzzword, try to use it right. 

It is OK to use these marketing buzzwords. Just make sure you use them properly.

Marketing Excellence

We empower the ambitious to achieve the extraordinary.

Without a doubt, our role at Beloved Brands is to help the ambitious marketers who are trying to improve their marketing skills. Most importantly, we will prepare you so you can reach your full potential in your career. You will learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, marketing execution, and marketing analytics. As well, we provide a suite of marketing tools, templates that will make it easier to do your job, processes that you can follow, and provocative thoughts to trigger your thinking. 

Have you gone through an assessment of the marketing skills of your team? Take a look below:

The fundamentals of marketing matter.

Our Beloved Brands marketing training programs cover different streams to suit the type of marketer you are. For instance, our marketing training covers consumer marketing, B2B marketing, and Healthcare marketing. 

The marketing fundamentals that we show in this article are part of what we use in our marketing training programs. Ambitious marketers will learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, marketing execution, writing creative briefs, advertising decision-making, marketing analytics, and marketing finance

Importantly, when you invest in our marketing training program, you will help your team gain the marketing skills they need to succeed. Without a doubt, you will see your people make smarter decisions and produce exceptional work that drives business growth. 

Finally, I wrote our Beloved Brands playbook to help you build a brand that your consumers will love. If you are a B2B marketer, try our B2B Brands playbook. And, if you are a Healthcare Marketer, try our Healthcare Brands playbook.

We designed our brand templates to make it easier for you to do your job.

Moreover, we provide brand templates that help you run your brand. For instance, you can find templates for marketing plans, brand positioning, creative briefs, and business reviews. Altogether, we offer brand toolkits with all the presentation slides you need. 

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Everything a Marketing must know about.

Importantly, Brand leaders need to know how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze with the best of them. Moreover, while the brand leaders don’t really know how to do anything, they are looked upon to make every decision. Have a look at our five minute video on everything a marketer must know. To read more, click on this link: Everything.

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If you are looking to make your marketing team smarter, we can help. To get started, email Graham Robertson at [email protected]

Marketing Careers

On a classic marketing team, there are four key levels:

  • Assistant Brand Manager.
  • Brand Manager.
  • Marketing Director or Group Marketing Director.
  • VP Marketing or CMO.

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the brand management career pathway. 

In simple terms, the Assistant Brand Manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.

At the Brand Manager level, it becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.

When you get to the Marketing Director role, it becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.

And finally, at the CMO level, you must create your own vision, focus on your people to make them better and shine, drive the business results, and run the processes.

Our Beloved Brands Marketing Training program will make your team smarter.

If you are running a marketing team, you will always benefit from having a smarter team. When you invest in our marketing training program, you will help your team gain the marketing skills they need to succeed. As a result, you will see them make smarter decisions and produce exceptional work that drives business growth.

We’ll work with your team to help them learn more about the five core marketing skills: Strategic Thinking, Brand Positioning, Marketing Planning, Marketing Execution, and Brand Analytics. Most importantly, your marketers will learn new tools, concepts, and ideas to trigger new thinking. To help their skills, we get participants to take each tool on a test run. Then, we give feedback for them to keep improving. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the brand management career pathway. 

Strategic Thinking:

Our marketing training teaches brand leaders how to ask tough strategic questions to slow everyone down and engage in debate of options to move forward. To start, you will be given various tools to approach strategy in a thoughtful, analytical way. Importantly, marketers need learn how to change brain speeds to move from a strategic thinker style to uncover what is holding back a brand, and onto an instinctual thinker style on marketing execution. 

We introduce our Strategic ThinkBox that allows marketers to interrogate their brand. Importantly, our ThinkBox pushes you to take a holistic look at the brand’s core strength, competitive landscape, tightness of the consumer bond, and business situation.

Brand Positioning:

Our brand positioning process teaches how to decide on the target market, consumer benefits, and reasons to believe. To start, you will learn to define the ideal consumer and frame the definition with their biggest needs, consumer insights and their enemy. Then, we provide our benefit cheatsheets to help learn how to discover the functional benefits and emotional benefits that a brand can deliver. Importantly, marketers need to make a decision on trying to stake out a unique space that is motivating to consumers, and ownable for the brand. 

Learn to use our brand idea tool and see how it helps to communicate the brand idea to everyone across the organization. Finally, marketers will learn how to take the brand positioning work and translate it into a brand concept, brand story, and a brand credo.

Marketing Plans:

We see the marketing plan is a decision-making tool on how a brand will spend their limited resources. Moreover, the marketing plan communicates the expectations to everyone who works on the brand. Importantly, we teach marketers how to put together the vision, purpose, goals, key issues, strategies and marketing execution plans

Learn how to write key issue questions and strategic statements that forms the foundation of the marketing plan. In addition, our marketing training provides various marketing planning templates including our one-page brand plan and ideal Marketing Plan presentation deck

Marketing Execution:

Our marketing execution training starts with the concept of our Marketing PlayBox that matches up to the Strategic ThinkBox. To keep marketers on strategy throughout the execution stages, our Marketing PlayBox helps find in-the-box ideas that meet four dimensions: they are focused on our target, fit with the brand, deliver the message, and execute the strategy. 

To start, we show how the creative brief sets up the PlayBox, serving as the bridge between the plan and execution. We go through the creative brief line-by line  and give you examples of the best and worst. Importantly, you will learn to use our Creative Checklist to help make smarter decisions on creative communications. We workshop how to give feedback to your agency based on gaps you see with the checklist. 

Learn to make media decisions that match up to your consumer’s purchase journey. In addition, we provide a similar Innovation Checklist to compare innovation ideas. 

Brand Analytics:

Our comprehensive brand analytics training teach brand leaders how to lead a deep-dive business review. We outline the best analytical thinking so you can become a well-rounded marketer. 

Learn to look at the marketplace, consumer analytics, channels of distribution, competitors or other brands in their industry. And, learn assess the brand itself. Importantly, you will learn how marketing funnels can help assess the brand’s performance. We provide 64 analytical questions that marketers can ask of their brand. Finally, we show how to understand the financial performance indicators of the brand.

Our training looks at three specific streams; Consumer Marketing Training, B2B Marketing Training, and Healthcare Marketing Training. With each program, all the of the examples are tailored to the type of marketer. Undoubtedly, we believe marketers will be at their best when the can see the concepts or tools working on their type of brand.

For more information on our Beloved Brands Marketing Training programs, click below or email Graham Robertson at [email protected]

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