Oh why cahn't the marketers ... learn ... to ... speak
David Weinberger on Humor
An AP article run by the Boston Globe yesterday points out that marketing-speak in the tech world is abysmal, singling out the words 'enterprise,' 'scalable' and 'solution.' The same article could have been written ten years ago, which is less a criticism of the article than of tech marketing.
It does continually surprise me how badly marketers communicate. I was struck the other day by this when I went to Autonomy's site after interviewing its articulate and provocative founder for an article. I went precisely to see how Autonomy describes what their about since it's hard to characterize an innovative company. And there, dominating the home page, was the headline: 'What does Autonomy do?' Wonderful! Then there's the answer: 'Autonomy is the leading provider of software infrastructure that automates operations on unstructured information.' All too typical, I'm sorry to say.
In every twist of that sentence you can hear the marketing committee meeting. I know. I've been to too many of them. They go like this:
Scene: A windowless meeting room on the 6th floor of Integgrity, Inc.'s headquarters. Bodron Humpert, Marketing VP, is standing at the front. Behind him is a white board blank except for the upper right which has scribbles marked 'Do not erase!' that have been there for 19 months.\n\nHumpert: I just came back from a sales call and the sales guy couldn't explain what Integgrity does without getting into the bits and bytes. We really need to go up a level. This is our chance to define ourselves and our market. We get this right, and we lock the Other Guys out. They won't even be in the same playing field. So, go ahead and do it. I'd help but I have to go to a conference on how to make bloggers say nice things about us. \n\nBetsy: Ok, so, what do we do? Our software helps people remember their appointments. \n\nAl: (snorting derisively) Puh-lease! 'Remember their appointments'! It's not just appointments. It's meetings. It's travel times. It's dental appointments. It's business, Betsy! It's life!\n \nMac: Besides, remembering appointments isn't a benefit. \n\nAl: Right. The benefit is organizational efficiency. Bottom line: Lower costs, higher revenues.\n\nHerb: That's good, but it doesn't get at the emotion of our product. We make anti-embarrasser systems.\n\nMac: A love affair with time. We're sexy!\n\nAl: Going down the wrong road, Mac. Save it for the trade show both. What are we a leading provider of? We have to leadingly provide something.\n\nMac (massaging temples): Yeah...Leading...Leading...Leading provider of on-time-ness...\n\nHerb:...for enterprise-class punctuality systems...\n\n[Four hours pass] \n\nAl: Ok, almost done. Let's see how it looks: \n\nAl writes on white board:\nInteggrity is the leading supplier of enterprise-scalable solutions that maximize time leverage in today's global economy of time-based business. \n\nMac: Don't forget the benefits\n\nAl: Oh, right. [He adds 'making business more efficient and effective by providing significant ROI and global competitive advantage in today's global economy.']\n\nMac: That nails it.\n\nAl: Yeah, I have to say it really sings. \n\nBetsy: But it doesn't say what we do.\n\nAl [Shooting her a pitying look]: It not only says what we do, it says what we are. What we stand for. How the world embraces us and how we embrace the world. If I may quote from the cover of a Whitman sampler, It sings our body electric. And that is what marketing is all about. Now, from the pounding on the door, I can tell that our meeting has run over by several hours and we must relinquish this room, confident that we have created a new room, a new space, if you will, for our beloved company, Integgrity: The World's Leading Supplier.\n\nCurtain comes down as the audience is peppered with buttons that express the company's new self-description in 4 point type.