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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Marketing Forgery

Written By: Steve Woodruff | No Comments

Forgery, broadly speaking, is the making/imitating of objects or documents with the intent to deceive. You know – counterfeiting. It’s a crime.

Forgery happens all around us, especially in business. For instance, marketers often use obscure jargon as a way to counterfeit actual meaning. Here’s an example:

___________ is leading the development of ‘self-generating markets’ as strategy innovation for economic policy. This is an examination of how the concept of brand can be used to create new economic systems. The implication is that business and government collaboration will be less about managing an individual sector, and more about creating and enabling coordination across new industry ecosystems.

Raise your hand if you have a clue what is supposed to be going on here. This is counterfeit communication. It should be a felony!

Sounding pompously self-important by using business buzzwords and outlining obscure conceptual frameworks is a crime of promotion. If your MOL (Marketing Obscurity Level) is over 0.8 on the Obfuscation scale, you should be detained and publicly flogged. 

Why do people, on websites and slide decks the world over, allow themselves to be seduced by the use of words that don’t have plain meaning? Why does UPS paint on the sides of hundreds of thousands of trucks, “Synchronizing the world of commerce,” when that particular message can really only be appreciated by a small percentage of people involved in supply chain management and logistics?

Now, if you are truly committed to counterfeit communications, you may want to compellingly incentivize interdependent catalysts for change (nonsense phrase assembled by Buzzword Generator – feel free to go roll your own). But instead of surrounding your message with fog, why not communicate clearly? It may not sound as haut-business, but at least you’ll be saying something instead of nothing.

Here are some suggestions to move from forgery to well-minted communications:

  1. Don’t blather on about your platform or your solution. Identify one key business problem that you can fix for your target client and then briefly describe (in clear language!) how you go about solving it. Leave all of the technical details for white papers and appendices on proposals.
  2. Have a regular person – even your mother – be your proofreader. We often don’t take into account the large knowledge context from which we operate, so what seems clear to us can actually be totally obscure to everyone else.
  3. If your offering or service is not self-evident, develop an analogy to help the audience cross the bridge of understanding. Everyone knows what a plumber does. But if you design middleware to create frictionless transactions across multiple e-commerce platforms, you need an analogy or real-life illustration to explain, quickly and easily, what problem you’re solving and how.

If you’re a genuine business with a genuine offering, then eschew the use of verbal forgery. Your customers will buy more readily when your message is black-and-white, not full of grey.

So, what do you think? Have you seen some marketing forgeries that just made you go, “Huh?” Do you agree that plain speech is the way to go? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Article written by Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is the world’s only Clarity Therapist, helping companies and individuals discover their professional purpose and message. Steve is also known in social networking circles as the Connection Agent. He blogs regularly at www.brandwoodruff.com and www.connectionagent.com. He can found on Twitter at @swoodruff .