I recently heard the way marketers speak described as “Jargon-Monoxide Poisoning,” which made me laugh.
I think “Jargon-Monoxide” is produced by every part of a business, but marketers are particularly adept at “Jargon-Monoxide Poisoning.” It’s ironic that the business discipline in charge of communications has such a hard time communicating what it does without jargon.
There are multiple varieties of “Jargon-Monoxide” — from overly technical acronyms like the ones in this cartoon to technical buzzwords to the rainbows-and-unicorns poetry that often comes out in conversations on brand purpose.
The first time I realized I was guilty of “Jargon-Monoxide Poisoning” happened as a marketer of a yogurt brand, visiting a manufacturing facility in a rural part of Michigan. After a tour, we took turns presenting parts of our marketing plan to different shifts coming straight from the production lines. Much of the language we used regularly in the marketing ivory tower back at headquarters fell flat.
To be more effective, marketers need to remove themselves from the silo of marketing and learn the speak the languages of everyone else. This is important across the whole span of the organization — from the factory floor to the board room.
I like this insight I stumbled across from former Aetna CMO David Edelman:
“If the CFO wants to talk about return to shareholders and the CMO is talking about number of followers, you’ve got a communications problem. If the CEO wants to talk about business strategy and the CMO wants to talk about TV advertising campaigns, you have a communications issue. CMOs need to become fluent in the language of strategy business goals, business KPIs, return on sales, and business ROI if they want to have the influence they should be able to exert in the C-suite.”
But the main antidote to “Jargon-Monoxide Poisoning” is just re-learning how to speak like actual humans.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years.