August 04, 2009

Why Can't Marketers Talk Straight?

I sometimes play a game. As I'm walking down a street, I look at how people are dressed and divide them into two categories: those who are trying to stand out, and those who are trying to fit in.

I do a similar thing when I interview people. I listen to their language and analyze whether they are trying to cloud or clarify.

One way we can tell that the marketing and advertising industries are in dire straits is by listening to the language.

From the HP website:
"... (HP's) collaborative approach is tailored to a customer's ecosystem to create adaptive infrastructures that use leading software products and architectures and leverage HP's own expertise in the creation of adaptive infrastructures."
Spend time at a conference, read a trade publication, listen to a presentation and it soon becomes obvious that speaking plainly and clearly has become anathema to most marketing practitioners.

Instead, we have developed an appalling lexicon of contrived phrases and dreadful gibberish meant to confuse rather than elucidate.

Our most popular words have vague meanings and fuzzy definitions -- branding, engagement, conversation...

It's my belief that a sure sign of a deteriorating discipline is that the participants have agreed on a system of imprecise discourse to replace clear thoughts and exact meanings.

On the value of speaking plainly, Einstein once said, "It should be possible to describe the laws of physics to a barmaid."

One of my heroes is Richard Feynman. Feynman was a genius. He was a Nobel prize winning physicist, he translated Mayan hieroglyphics, he uncovered the cause of the Challenger disaster, he was a best-selling author, a bongo player, and an all-around nut.

As brilliant as he was, he hated complicated, imprecise language. He once defined "hypothesis" as "a fancy word for a guess."

To see how a brilliant mind describes an esoteric phenomenon in the simplest terms, here's Feynman talking about inertia.

By The Way...
Feynman went to Far Rockaway High School, where so many of America's great thinkers were educated.

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