my turn


Eschew The Paradigm Of Obfuscation

In the marketing world, as in most other industries, there are two types of people. There are the complicators. And there are the simplifiers.

The complicators can make even the simplest marketing concept sound like something akin to mapping the genome. They throw around buzzwords like "target market archetypes," "crowdsourcing," "brand-based consumer insight" and "habituated conversations" the way a sailor spews profanity.

The simplifiers? They're the ones that usually cut through the crapola, boil the problem down to its simplest terms, then solve it. No muss, no fuss, no references to "cross-platform fluency."

Sadly, most people who know about our business primarily by reading about it think we're all complicators. "I don't understand exactly what it is they're saying," they might say, "but they sure sound smart. They must know what they're talking about."

And they're right. People in this business are smart. Very smart. Some of the smartest people I've ever met. And in this regard, many of us may just be too smart for our own good (or at least our clients' good).



Take, for example, the following passage, which was lifted verbatim from an article on a leading industry Web site: "A multimedia mix framed to spark conversations requires a compelling message concept that can work across a multimedia platform." My guess is what the author is trying to say is: "Great content will have people talking about you."

Of course, say it like that and you can forget about collecting your $3,000 day rate or enticing information-hungry executives to sign up for your webinar.

As an industry, we need to ask ourselves if all this "marketing speak" helps address our clients' problems. Does it add clarity or confusion? Does it provide new insights? Does it help us solve anything? Or is it merely the complicators taking over the conversation?

Clients aren't looking for fancy terms, as far as I can tell. They're looking for real solutions to real marketing problems. And the simpler, the better.

Simple is the antidote for a complex world. Simple has always trumped complex. Simple does things that complex can't. Our lives are filled with complexity. Simplicity stands out and demands our attention.

In the commencement speech he gave to his old preparatory school in 1941, Winston Churchill epitomizes the power of simplicity. Here's his speech in its entirety:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Of all the great speeches Churchill gave during his lifetime, this one is arguably his most memorable. All because of its simplicity.

So as the title to this column says, I urge you to eschew the paradigm of obfuscation. In other words, keep it simple.

3 comments about "Eschew The Paradigm Of Obfuscation ".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, November 10, 2009 at 10:32 a.m.

    I'm wondering if the clients hiring these corporate-speaking marketers have gotten so used to it, they expect it and would not quite be ready for simple talk. It's almost as if we need a significant corporate culture shift to occur, so that both marketers and clients agree that speaking in a less corporate, non-obfuscating tongue is the choice for a solid, working and communicative relationship.

  2. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION, November 10, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.

    Far easier to spread and be paid for bullshit when cloaked in layers of "special language".

    We've exceeded the carrying capacity of our own species' waste. This includes the ways in which we communicate.

    Thanks, good reminder taken.

  3. Walter Sabo from HitViews, January 29, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.

    Good, I thought it was just me. Often when presenting to "digital marketers" I want to dive across the table and say...

    "Have you ever sold ANYTHING? Do you want to sell ANYTHING? I can help you sell stuff. Do you want to sell stuff?"

    Thank you for this simple, clear article.

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