Buzzword Series

BuzzWord Series :: Week 1

First of all, this is not an indictment of Buzzwords, Jargon or neologisms. Even when this type of language is used with malice (to seem smarter and artificially elevate an argument), I believe it has its place. It serves as a verbal “handle” that aids in the uptake of ideas. Please read on.

Why Buzzwords: I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco recently visiting companies like Skully Systems, Monster Products and Intuit and I’ve noticed that there is a professional equity attached to knowing and using certain terms. They serve to afford instant validity when wielded properly.

Personally I’ve always been a student of industry jargon – in fact, I wrote a final paper about its use in professional poker for my English 5190 class. It’s inherently interesting to me. However, my real motivation here is to offer a resource for those that might not be connected to this world and/or don’t have the natural interest or access to the language. I may shit on it from time to time, but I promise to be a good guide.

For one month, I will post one word a day. Let’s get started:

MONDAY 1/18/16: Customer-Centric Marketing
This is the marketing equivalent of Mass Customization – however, rather than producing unique versions of the products themselves, Customer-Centric marketing delivers marketing experiences tailored to a unique target segment. What the shit does that mean? Simple. Instead of using “Spray and Pray” tactics when creating email outreach, social campaigns and traditional advertising, you spend most of your time gaining insight on the people that you’re talking to – and ultimately splitting that group into segments – all getting their own messaging and design. Bottom line, your effort goes into telling your brand story in 6-10 different ways that talk directly to a particular user persona – rather than crafting 1 story that you hope works for everyone.

TUESDAY 1/19/16: Thought Leader
This phrase always makes me think of the Simpsons episode where they join the Movementarians. The head of the cult is named “The Leader” and drives around in a limo waving to his faithful followers as they toil in the fields. He claims that they will soon enjoy a trip to the planet, Blisstonia (not unlike the beliefs of our friends the Mormons by the way… just sayin’). Anyway, what the hell is a Thought Leader?  In the most basic terms, it’s an authority on a certain subject – with the reach and influence to affect change. This could be an F.I.T. student talking about Fashion via a youtube channel with 2 million followers or a someone like Brian Solis who writes books and flies around the world speaking and directly influencing people.

Can anyone be a thought leader? Sure but there are a few ingredients that must be present: 1.) Unique ideas that resonate and strongly influence. This means you have to be ABOUT something specific. For this reason I don’t consider Malcolm Gladwell to be a thought leader per se. He’s influential and has a strong following but he’s not really about one or two specific things. On the other hand, Donald Trump, as much as you might disagree with him, is a thought leader. How is that possible? Well, his position is that all politicians are full of shit and we need a ruthless business man to make America great again – by being tough on our enemies, tough on immigrants and cutting the budget to the bone. 2.) The means to spread and disseminate said ideas. This could be traditional media in the case of someone like Bono and his crusade to eliminate AIDS or some kid on YouTube that we haven’t heard of yet taking on LGBT causes 3.) A strong following who support and parrot the person and ideas- spread the message.

Bonus Material :: A favorite thought leader of yours truly:

Luke Sullivan is a personal hero of mine. Unlike Kevin Roberts and Lovemarks, the man behind this great book is also a great guy (instead of a world class asshat). Luke’s book, like Lovemarks, was given to me during my five-year stint at Saatchi and Saatchi in NYC. It’s the Ogilvy on Advertising of the X generation. It literally defined how many of us in our 30s and 40s approach the business of selling things for our clients – calling bullshit on the notion that “If it pushes units, it’s good advertising”. Simply put, bad ads, bad websites, bad social campaigns are bad for the industry at large. They serve to foster negative sentiment and reduce the effectiveness of even the best ads. Regardless of whether it works or not, bad advertising is bad for business in the long run.

In addition, he provides some great intel on the various types of clients that you’ll run into, what makes a good vs bad ad-person and why this is still the best business in the world for creative people of all types. When I meet a cohort or a client who’s read this book, we have an instant rapport and a shared understanding of how things should be done. This is what makes Mr Sullivan a Thought Leader. He not only has great ideas but he articulates them in a digestible way and gets them into the world where they crack open minds and push positive change.

WEDNESDAY 1/20/16: Inbound Marketing
If you ask Brian Halligan of HubSpot, he invented the notion of Inbound Marketing. This dude is brilliant but kind of a douche, so who knows. Regardless of it’s origin, it’s basically the idea of your phone ringing with a potential customer on the other end rather than you jumping on the phone, reaching out trying to sell. Not a new idea but new as a specific discipline and dominant marketing tactic.

Famous Example: If you’re able to make consumers fall in love with your brand, to create an afinity that transcends reason and leads to loyalty and evangelism, they’ll come to you – establishing this elusive sentiment is called Inbound Marketing. Perfect example here is always Apple. Apple people don’t shop for computers, when they need a new one, they go to the apple store and buy one. The reasons behind this fact are varied but the result is always the same – they don’t need stats or reviews or to ask their friends what to get, the inbound marketing of Apple is so effective, it’s created the infamous Cult Of Mac.

So, what’s at work here: The reasons that the Apple brands speaks to people in such a profound way are as unique and varied as the users themselves. Some will say it’s the design, some say it started as a rebellion to the shitty DOS/Windows OS, some think that it says something about them and their appreciation for the finer things and still others might tell you that their values are aligned with Steve Jobs and the founders. In the case of Apple, good luck recreating this magic – but there are concrete ways to start the phone ringing that require little effort and almost no money.

  • Research and create your buyer personas. You need to intimately understand your consumer before you can talk to their hearts.
  • Understand the language of your target customer. Are they pragmatists, romantics or grumpy old ladies? Understand the way they communicate to each other and absorb their parlance.
  • Create a strategy that puts you in front these people regularly with content that is relevant and meaningful. This content includes but is not limited to: Social / SEO / Pay Per Click / Segmented Email campaigns / Educational outreach / Community sponsorship

THURSDAY 1/21/16Growth hacking
This is one of those falsely hip terms that invented itself within the cozy confines of a tech startup somewhere, escaped and then infected real marketing teams around the country. I say falsely hip because any time hack is used as a descriptor it’s not a good look – especially when there’s no reasonable correlation to the act of hacking. Instead, as a growth hacker you are simply using inexpensive and short-term tactics to push a product or service with the desired result of driving quick growth. In many cases, the term is used at the launch of a new company when trying to establish a base user group.

Examples: Viral, customer-base drivers like referral campaigns, affiliate programs, product review incentives and other CRM driven customer outreach. Most application examples are software and internet services but my personal favorite real-world success story is Sono’s refer a friend program. However, it’s hard to ignore the success of Uber as the quintessential growth hacking champion. Using a combination of high-profile city-by-city launches, experimental word of mouth promotions (like on-demand Uber Ice Cream, on-demand roses for Valentine’s day, on-demand barbecue in Texas) and an incredibly aggressive affiliate program, UBER shot to Disruptor status in no time.

I love this advice from Joe Lazauskas: “Let’s reserve this buzzword for real growth hacks, like breaking into The Economist‘s Sailthru account and stealing their mailing list. But we won’t. We’ll call every mildly competent thing we do as content marketers a “growth hack.” Because we are monsters. Buzzword-spewing monsters.”

FRIDAY 1/22/16Social Nicheworks
Seemingly coined by my friend Brian Solis, this term, like many buzzwords, describes something that’s been happening since the dawn of the internet – but only recently has its own verbal handle. Nicheworks, as Brian describes them are specific to Facebook groups but in fact any enthusiast blog like or is a NicheWork. It simply refers to a collection of people using the internet to communicate, share ideas and describe their experiences with other, like minded enthusiasts. Most hobbies, professions and interests have user forums and they get pretty obscure – as is evidenced by the Ice Chewers forum at (WTF?)

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