Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Don't Need New Buzzwords, We Need Better Ideas

I'm a hypocrite. In one part of my brain I hate marketing buzzwords, and in another part of my brain I use them.

On this blog I use terms like Experiential Marketing (XM), Advergaming, and Brandertainment. When I use these terms, it isn't to try to convince you these concepts are something so bold and new that no previously known words could possibly describe them. In fact, I've already shared my opinion that XM has existed for centuries and that blogging isn't a trend but a normal extension of the human desire to be heard.

The reason I use these terms is to try to describe a particular marketing concept in as few words or letters as possible. I could say "Brand-sponsored gaming," but instead I say Advergaming. I would never try to claim that using games for marketing purposes is a pioneering trend; if you've seen "A Christmas Story," you know that Ovaltine was using games to market to kids before the advent of television.

But some people use buzzwords for a different reason. They believe they've discovered something brand new, as if some wholly original marketing concept escaped our attention for millennia. Each new buzzword is seen as being distinct from every previous buzzword (and from traditional marketing strategies). This is the thinking that sells books with catchy titles and gives stodgy magazines the opportunity to sell newsstand copies with snooze-and-you-loose cover stories that drive fear into the hearts of CEOs.

But when buzzwords are used as if the concepts are distinct and completely novel, they get in the way of good marketing. The trendy labels cause us to forget that we must base our concepts on solid marketing foundations. If this new concept doesn't adhere to old rules, we reason, why should we bother subjecting our ideas to rigorous and careful consideration?

Too much focus on buzzwords can cause meaningless arguments about what separates one buzzword from another. On an online forum in which I participate, marketing professionals engaged in a debate about the difference between viral marketing, buzz marketing, and Word-of-Mouth marketing. My thought is: Who cares? Does defining and codifying these terms help us to create better marketing ideas? (That was a rhetorical question--the answer is "no.")

And this is where I found my inspiration for my new motto:
We don't need new buzzwords,
We need better ideas.

I created a poster to remind myself of this, and I thought you might want one yourself. Feel free to click on the image below to download a PDF suitable for printing.

I will use buzzwords on this blog, but if you ever catch me trying to claim that something is so bold and innovative that it has rewritten the rules of marketing as we know them, please call "bullshit" on me!

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