Hi-Tech Marketingspeak: Making Orwell Proud

Jan 19, 2005
Rick Moss

By Rick Moss

When’s the last time you read a high-tech brochure that did NOT present a “value proposition” to “streamline processes” and “optimize resources” across your entire “enterprise”? Was the “solution” “robust” and “scalable”? Did it create new “business synergies” and “fundamental paradigm shifts”?

If you’ve just about had it with the buzzwordiness in tech marketing literature these days, you’d probably enjoy a good commiseration with Associated Press reporter Allison Linn who, in an article published in The Seattle Post Intelligencer writes, “Euphemism and allegory have always been common in business… but some say the tongue-twisting technology industry has gone too far.”

Linn introduces Alan Freedman, a tech writing expert who’s spending time these days interpreting marketing materials for people…not for potential customers; for people that work for the companies producing the brochures.

“The marketing people are so bad at hyping their products that, with all my experience, I’ll have to read and reread and reread just to figure out what this thing does,” says Freedman.

Linn theorizes that the trend began with the classic Microsoft/Apple marketing battles of the 1980’s. Inventing ways to explain these newfangled devices and software aps to the uninitiated, copywriters began talking about “solutions” to workplace problems. That buzzword begat “experiences” which begat “relationships”, “agility”, “integration”, “migration” and — once the Internet was launched — the universally recognized “E-(any-word-goes-here)”.

Then Apple, apparently buying the next available vowel, brought us the maniacal “i-(whatever).” Can “O-(what-not)” be far behind?”

Now that we’re into the third decade of this hi-tech marketingspeak, are companies detecting a hint of exasperation in their customers? Maybe not. According to Ryan Donovan, a public relations director at HP, “This is the language that they’re comfortable with, and it’s our job to make sure that we’re speaking to them in a language that they understand.”

Perhaps the question then becomes — if everyone’s speaking the same impenetrable language, how does anyone know if anyone else understands anything?

Moderator’s Comment: Is there a solution for hi-tech marketingspeak or are we too far gone to turn back now?

OK, I’ll start. My name is Rick and I’m addicted to buzzwords. Yes, I’ve written my fair share of marketing material for engineers who are, frankly, much
too smart and much too busy designing phenomenal products to explain to me what these “systems” actually do. The “solution”? Hide behind buzz phrases that sound really, really
important. If I do my job well, I succeed in getting the sales prospects in touch with the smart people who explain things properly. Or at least they can show them results and
case studies that will convince them of their product’s value, regardless of the lack of understanding. (Hey… is it possible that they NEVER REALLY need to know what it does,
only that the results are good? Naaah.)

OK, not really. I’m exaggerating. Truth be told, I spend a lot of time trying to convert marketingspeak back into real language. It’s hard work. Much harder
than writing with buzzwords. (That’s why it’s best left to us professionals ; )

Rick Moss – Moderator

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