Friday, April 19, 2024
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Marketing Penalty Cards

You know you’ve been there.  You’re in a meeting with some marketers and someone starts throwing words around like “next generation”, “game changing” or “leverage” just once too often and you start wondering if there is such a thing as marketing jail and if so, how exactly do you send someone there.  Well my dear readers I too feel your pain and have come up with just the solution for you: Marketing Penalty Cards.

So here is what you do.  Get some yellow cards and some red cards (What?  You need me to do *everything* for you!?).  In a pinch you can print out this page and cut out the little pictures of the referees, OK?  Now read the rules below and when you witness anyone committing a Crime Against Marketing, whip out your handy card, get your referee face on and show it like you mean it!

The Yellow Card

This is the warning card, to be used when a marketer (or heck, anyone for that matter) gets a bit out of line and needs a little gentle prodding to get back on the right track.

Yellow Card Offenses:

  • Awful Jargon: Use of any of the following terms: leverage, next generation, synergy, paradigm, innovative, viral, new media, leading edge and my personal favorite – robust (which is a fancy way of saying “not buggy, we promise!”).
  • Meaningless Claims: claims that don’t mean anything and could be applied to almost any product on the planet such as “We provide robust, leading edge solutions” or “Our innovative capabilities make us one of the leading providers of new media capabilities”.  Your customers translate those statements into the language Charlie Brown’s teacher speaks “wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”
  • Targeting the Universe: If a marketer says the words “This product is perfect for everyone!”, you can pretty much be guaranteed that exactly the opposite is true.
  • Ignoring Your Segmentation: Your home page says you offer solutions for Transportation companies but you still have a little drop down menu called “Industries” that lists 7 others, none of your lead generation is focused on Transportation and your sales folks haven’t seen a deal they didn’t like in any industry under the sun.
  • Sneaky Tactics: Paying folks to pitch your stuff without disclosing it, fine print that puts folks on your mailing list when they are trying to download something, changing your terms of service without telling people, all of these things are just plain sneaky.  They aren’t against the law but they show that you are not entirely to be trusted and that customers should keep their eye on you.
  • Annoying People: This could be as simple as sending way too much email to folks on your opt-in list to things that are tasteless, insulting, annoying or just plain goofy.  Oh yeah and I almost forgot to mention this – Interruption marketing in any form sucks!!!
  • Oprah: If Oprah wants to buy something from you, for Pete’s sake let her! (Oh and imagine how happy your customers would be if you treated them all like Oprah)

The Red Card

This is to be given out when someone has made a serious Offense Against Marketing.  This is the sort of behavior that is so vile, so rotten, so utterly *wrong* that witnessing it makes you makes you want to scratch the word marketing off of your business card.  This type of behavior requires serious action.  Whip out your Red Card and blow that whistle baby!

  • Lies: Other than the fact that generally it’s *illegal*, there is nothing that could ever justify telling a lie in your marketing.  Customers aren’t idiots.  They will notice that you didn’t deliver on your promise and tell their friends about it and trust me, negative word of mouth is much more powerful than positive word of mouth.
  • Spam: Do you like to receive spam yourself?  Do you like being called a spammer?  If you answered yes to one of this questions, we’ve got your card right here.
  • Something That Might Make a Customer Want to Sue You: this would include not honoring your contractual obligations, using their name/logo without their permission, leaking confidential information (double points if it is to a competitor), all of which might result in your getting your corporate wrist slapped not to mention the fact that THESE ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS.  You know, those people that give you money?  Actually getting sued by a customer is not only a Red Card Offense Against Marketing but also qualifies you for the Marketing Hall of Shame.

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  1. Come on. What’s wrong with every startup company’s boilerplate claiming “we are the leading provider of xxx,” when they don’t really have a single customer.
    You make some really good points. Sometimes it just really tough to get a tech company to use a genuine voice and be authentic with what they’re are trying to communicate.

  2. Thanks for the comment Robert. It’s a shame but I agree with you that some folks at smaller companies think an authentic voice makes them sound “small” or “unprofessional”. I think we will gradually see this type of thinking shift as larger companies use more of an authentic voice but meanwhile we will have to keep fighting the good fight.

  3. Hi,
    Thanks for the comment. I worked at a couple of big companies where if I had a buck for every time I heard the word “robust” I would have been able to buy myself a golf course 😉

  4. Thanks for the post April. Like Robert, I’ve seen a lot of companies claim success but they are truly starting out. Is is better to claim your expertise and success in your email list marketing/social networking or is it better to state the truth. Do you think you lose credibility by saying your my first but most important client? Do you think someone would go with you being honest about starting up or would prefer to go with someone that claims to be the best?

  5. Awesome post – I was just searching for examples of goofy marketing jargon. I’ve been making my coworker giggle by repeatedly using variations of “synergy” in totally inappropriate context. We even came up with a fake company just to proliferate the jargon jokes.
    If I hear one more person say “plug and play” in relation to anything except computer based hardware, I’ll have a fit.
    I fully believe you can have fun with these terms, exposing their absurdity. Product demos are the best place – if someone says “paradigm” then you should one-up them and respond with the question, “would you differentiate between your particular paradigm and a general multiparadigmatic approach?”
    Thanks –


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