Marx Communications, B2B Public Relations

Confusing Jargon And The Branding Challenges Of B2B Companies

This post originally appeared under a different title on Fast-Company-logo

confusing-street-sign1Why do so many B2B companies, especially those in the fiery ad-tech space, talk as if their mouths were stuffed with chewy caramels? That is, their websites and marketing copy, laden with jargon, require a mega large cup of java to get through.

Now, I know these companies are filled with lots of highly intelligent people who can walk circles around the average person when it comes to technology. In fact, they may be too smart for their own good. They don’t know how to write about what they do in a way that’s easy to understand…that stands out…that engages…that begs you to want to know more.

I thought I would have a little fun and took a look at some of the websites of ad-tech companies on the famous Luma Partners landscape. That’s the ever expanding diagram of the ad-tech space popularized by Luma Partners Chief Executive Terence Kawaja that gets more and more difficult to read as more companies enter the space. Names here have been purposely omitted since the purpose of this is not to point the finger but to demonstrate an endemic problem.

Here are examples of how a few ad-tech companies talk about themselves on the homepages of their websites:

We don’t just press a button and let the technology do the work. We drive media campaigns with intelligence and finesses to reach your targeted media objectives. And, ultimately, help brands reach consumers smarter and more efficiently.

X enables advertisers and agencies to Build, Run, Measure and optimze retargeting-driven display campaigns from a single platform. Now that’s efficiency.

Do Better Advertising. Do X.
X’s mission is to help brands execute better advertising. Better advertising starts with good customer insights and X provides the tools to make those insights actionable.

Part of the problem in my experience is that B2B companies are often insular. They are so accustomed to talking about themselves one way that it sounds perfectly normal. It reminds me of what my husband says about his Queens accent. He never realized that he had an accent until he left Queens and people informed him he sounded “funny.”

There is also the mystique of jargon and highfalutin’ language. Creating your own nomenclature and acronymns like DSPs, SSPs, RTB, DMPs, and DDM, as the ad-tech world has done, provides a veneer of arcane magic that intimidates the outsider. Ultimately, however, it makes everything more complicated than it needs to be.

On the other hand, B2C companies sometimes indulge in jargon, but it’s jargon everyone gets. It’s all part of the fun. After all, how difficult is it understand Starbuck’s Tall, Grande, and Venti designations for the size of its coffee? In that case, it’s good branding and differentiates Starbucks from its competitors.

The best B2C marketing companies also have memorable slogans. Think Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think Different.” They simplify while defining the product and ethos. B2B companies, especially ad-tech firms, would be well advised to take a lesson or two from their B2C brethren, and Just Do It!

4 Responses to “Confusing Jargon And The Branding Challenges Of B2B Companies”

  1. Joe Stamler Says:

    Kudos on a good piece, Wendy. I got a real chuckle out of “Build, Run, Measure and optimze retargeting-driven display campaigns from a single platform”! And I’m glad you didn’t include McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” in your list of memorable slogans!

  2. Penny Haywood Calder Says:

    Spot on Wendy! I once had a tech client with a website full of gibberish. When I sought clarity on the benefits to the buyers, I was told, their equivalents in the buyer companies expected this jargon – and lots of it.
    I pointed out that the ones who spoke tech were probably not the ones signing off the checks: they were vulnerable to a bean-counter at board level asking: what are we buying? If they were fobbed off by this guff, it would be an emperor’s clothes moment, and one that was unlikely to bode well for the client relationship in the long term. All for the want of a good clear overview in layman’s terms. I suggested layering the information so the tech specs were included, but a click or two down from the top level on the home page.
    I pointed out that even engineers with the same degrees specialized and were unlikely to admit they didn’t fully understand all the terminology in what was a very narrow specialism.
    They didn’t buy that at first but came back later and really applied their first class minds on clarity, so something must have sparked them off. I was too polite to ask!

  3. Wendy Marx Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Penny and glad to hear of your persuasive skills getting techies to make their copy more understandable.

  4. Wendy Marx Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Joe!

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