The Devil’s marketing dictionary, Part One

I’ve been thinking about the real meaning of the words I hear every day. If you like this, please comment with new terms you want me to define or indeed add your own definitions.

  • Return on investment. An imaginary number that is equal to or greater than the cost of purchasing a solution.
  • Best practices. don’t do as I do, do as I say.
  • Case study. evidence that you have at least one customer with a pulse. Actually, pulse optional.
  • Press release. PRs pretend to be excited. Journalist pretend to be interested. Quotes are made up.
  • News conference. a cruel hoax played on journalists by the PR industry.
  • Blog. A website written by people with nothing to say for people with nothing to do. (Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for this)
  • Call to action. The mating cry of a salesman in written form.
  • White paper. A vendor’s objective opinions or opinionated objections.
  • Enterprise. Any company big enough that your CEO has to take their CEO out for lunch.
  • SME. Any company too small to have a dedicated account manager.
  • Midmarket. All the businesses in-between.
  • End-to-end. A solution that connects all the IT systems in your business from A to Z, except B, C, D, E, F etc.
  • Synergy. The mystery factor that will balance the books, make the solution work and get the project done on time. See Kryptonite, Philosopher’s Stone, Unobtainium and XYZZY.
  • Web 2.0. A website where readers do most of the work for you and you don’t have to pay them a penny.
  • Solution. A product plus an unlimited expense account.
  • Vice president. The minimum qualification required to be quoted in a press release.
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13 Responses to The Devil’s marketing dictionary, Part One

  1. Pitarou says:

    I think you’re being too kind. Consider the word “synergy”:

    Old-meaning: The whole is more than the some of its parts.

    New-meaning: After the merger, we can get rid of some people. The whole is *less* than the some of its parts.

    Am I the first to notice this reversal?

  2. Managing Expectations – “it’s going to be delayed..”

  3. A blog is a whole lot more than that though isn’t it? It’s not just a site written by people with nothing to say for people with nothing to do…it’s also for people who don’t know it exists not to subscribe to its newsfeed and not read that either…as well..?


  4. “Suitable for framing!”

    Translation: “You have to get your own frame.”

    “Some assembly required.”

    Translation: “You’ll need a degree in mechanical engineering to put it together.’

    “Quantities are limited, so act now!”

    Translation: “We’ve only got a couple of million still in stock.”

    “Operators are standing by.”

    Translation: “No one has called so far.”


    Translation: “Um, what was the question?”

    “And more.”

    Translation: “That’s all.”

    “3 out of 4 doctors agree”

    Translation: We surveyed four doctors.

    “Not available in stores”

    Translation: “They didn’t want it.”

    “Your mileage my vary”

    Translation: “We just made up these figures because they sounded good.”

    “No purchase necessary.”

    Translation: “Although we wouldn’t mind.”

    “All other trademarks or registered trademarks belong to their respective holders.”

    Translation: “We don’t have the time or the energy to keep track of all that crap.”

    “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

    Translation: “I am getting my revenge on everyone who ever crossed me.”

    “No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture.”

    Translation: “Unless you count the ones we ate, and the ones that were made into boots and clothing.”

    “Our people are our most important assets.”

    Translation: “But, we’ll lay them off so fast it will make your head spin.”

    “Professional driver. Closed course.”

    Translation: “You wish.”

    “Don’t try this at home.”

    Translation: “Go ahead. You know you want to.”

    “This site contains material which is adult in nature and intended strictly for mature adults. All sex stories on this website are fictional sexual fantasies and are published here for adult entertainment and artistic expression only! If you are not of legal age to view adult material in your area or you find pornography or any other type of…”

    Translation: “Don’t judge me.”

  5. On Bruce’s theme – I really love “your call is important to us” when my brain has gone numb whilst holding. I think it means “but not enough to employ sufficient call handlers and anyway you might just go away and leave us alone, especially if you really want something.”

    Then there’s consultation, stakeholder engagement, dialogue and numerous variations on the pretending to have discussions but getting them to do what we want. Especially in the case of employees “who are our most important asset”.

  6. Garry says:

    Key Performance Indicators – targets that can only be achieved in an ideal world where everything works perfectly, customers pay on time (and never complain), and everyone knows what they’re doing.

    Focus group – the collective name for a a meeting of managers in the local Starbucks.

  7. Matthew, very funny. And accurate. I put together a comic strip about marketing gurus who live on the latest buzz words that might give you a giggle. Check out


  8. You have to watch this video folks – it sums up a load of the issues and dangers we all have with using and understanding this language:


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