Marketing Voodoo

The few marketing people I read with any regularity (and here I use marketing in the widest possible sense) include Shel, B.L. and Jeremiah. I read them because they are usually free of cant, are genuinely interested in what they talk about (which, in the end, boils down to people) and are afflicted by terminal Common Sense.

Marketing, like many social sciences, is more social than science. In an age obsessed with cabalistic knowledge and credentials, many marketers feel compelled to use jargon and paint their profession as a mysterious one, open only to Mithraistic initiates, which you (the client) will never be.

The other day, while meeting with the head of a software firm and his deputies I swear to G-d I used the phrase “thought leadership.” Later that day, having withdrawn the gun from my mouth and unwound the piano wire from my neck, after a long, hot shower (which may never completely remove the dirt), I realized with some humility that it’s too easy to do. So, me not withstanding, here are some things to watch out for when you’re dealing with marketers.

  • Excessive use of jargon. Some activity-specific language is unavoidable. But especially with marketing communications professionals, if they can’t use normal language, they will find connecting with a wide swath of customers pretty difficult to do.
  • Secret Knowledge. Marketing is a combination of practice, dedication and Common Sense. A marketing person should be able to explain everything to you. I’m not going to put myself out of a job if you can understand me.
  • Amazing claims. Your business is no different than any other aspect of life when it comes to one thing: If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true. A good marketer should get you results. He or she should have an idea of what kind of results to expect. But that’s as far as it goes. Marketing is a matter of dialogue, between the marketer and the company, between the changes and the product, between the product and the market, between the company and its clients.

There is no magic involved and marketers are not magicians. Hopefully, they know more than you do about their area of expertise because they’ve spent time in dialogue with the constituent elements (language, design, etc.) of their jobs.

Marketer’s music is plainsong.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful observations… I just subscribed to you.

    It’s about people connecting to people.

    Jeremiah, a Person

  2. B.L. Ochman says:

    thanks for putting me in such good company. and for your BS-free explanation of marketing.

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