A Word About The Importance Of Words

It was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this weekend.

It’s quite an achievement to be remembered for what you wrote over 400 years later. The British bard was obviously an enormously gifted wordsmith.

I was reminded of the importance of wordsmithing as I was working with a client on process, architecture and organizational structure.
We jointly created a new approach to allocating budgets, defining target audiences and creating integrated marketing plans. But we soon realized that language stood in the way of clarity.

Our problem was similar to what another great writer, Irishman George Bernard Shaw, said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” Here were several different departments separated by a common language (marketing).

For instance: what I call campaign might have a very different meaning from when you say campaign. I might be referring to the actual content and elements that make up advertising, whereas you might actually refer to the time period when an activity will take place.
When I say “big idea,” you might say “campaign platform.”



I worked for a company where the “customer” was the person buying the product — and then I worked for a company where the customers were the middlemen that sold the product to the (end) consumer.

Many meetings are spent with people talking about the same thing without knowing it — because they each called it something completely different. Other meetings end in disarray because even though we used the same words, they hold a completely different meaning to the participants.

When you talk about digital with the PR department, the IT department, the media department or the brand manager, the definition of each might be completely different, and absolutely valid, but not helpful.

One example of when this becomes a real burden is when discussing ROI on invested budgets. The way IT, PR, media or brand teams evaluate the ROI of the “digital budget” will be 100% informed by the definition of what “digital budget” covers, and by what measure it should be evaluated. IT might be jumping for joy because their investment in servers and software worked really well and delivered a cost reduction. Meanwhile, the PR department talks about a digital budget disaster because influencers simply did not pick up on the activity.

A further complication of definitions is that much of our old marketing terminology simply does not cut it anymore in our always on, uber-connected world. Consumers do not live by a simple-to-follow linear marketing process no matter how much we, marketers, wish that were true. The only calendar or timing consumers care about is their own.

There are loads of companies out there that offer marketing or budget ROI solutions. But once you look closer, you may find what they really offer is typically a form of ROI measurement for only one touchpoint (e.g., paid social media) or a touchpoint collection (e.g., all social media touchpoints). The definition of ROI itself needs definition!

Ultimately, you have to look at marketing investment ROI from two angles. First, how did the totality of the investment do — that is, all touchpoints in concert, covering the budgets to create, distribute and activate everything. And secondly, what was the contribution and performance of each touchpoint individually? In order to do any of that, spend a little time on wordsmithing the definitions of all that you wish to measure.

1 comment about "A Word About The Importance Of Words".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, April 26, 2016 at 8:45 a.m.

    As I point out on "AdScam" amongst the more than 1700 words Shakespeare suposedly invented are "Advertising" and "Puke." A fitting combination.

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