The title gives it away. The main problem with marketers is lingo bingo, the TLA (Three Letter Acronym), the tendency to speak only in a jargon driven language that other marketers speak.
I have recently changed jobs, I am loving my new job, but the TLAs are all different, after 8 years with my last brand this is a challenge.
It stands out starkly when you move job, as frankly even I don’t understand some of the jargon and I have been a Marketer for nearly 30 years. It’s a new language I need to learn.
TLAs were supposed to be a means of making life easier, but I think as a habit it just gets in the way of allowing Marketers to shine, it can appear foolish in the extreme – I was once asked when discussing ATL (above the line) advertising and BTL (below the line) advertising, by an exasperated Finance colleague to just “either tell me where the bloody line is, or better still speak plain English”. Sound advice.
TLAs were supposed to make life easier, they were developed as mnemonics to assist learning initially. The idea being, in biological sciences, that they would make learning easier. The irony of that objective is not lost on me.
They can assist in marketing only conversations, but there is a clear risk with new starters in a business that a TLA in one company can mean something different in another. I also think they can belittle. It is hard to be honest and say “what on earth do you mean?” unless you are either confident or senior.
The IT industry really took to their use and so it’s no surprise that the worst offenders in marketing are the on-line boys and girls. They just proliferate each year and it makes it inordinately difficult to break out of that world. Currently the worst offender for me is SMM – Social Media Monitoring. It really doesn’t need to be abbreviated – it’s a task that is basic and will be universally understood if you say it out loud. If you say I am about to engage in some SMM – people will either mis hear you and think it’s a S&M party or just plainly have no clue. If they ask you what it stands for they may be expecting grandiose IT developments, revolutionary techniques, a ground breaking IT solution … but monitoring? Really?
So, given that I have in the past been very very guilty of the extensive use of MTLA (Marketing Three Letter Acronyms), which is in fact an ETLA (extended Three Letter Acronym) can I change? I am reminded of the book of memories that my last team gave me (thank you so much if any of you are reading this .. I love it !) when I left that I once ran a Lingo Bingo session in one of the quarterly huddles – I won !! I did it to poke fun at Marketers, done gently it does give you permission to use our secret language, but I think I’m going to try to reduce my use of it.
Marketing should be about great communication and we strive to do that for our customers and members, so why should I knowingly make that less of an objective within my business.
I will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, an observation, in Manchester, Barclay’s Bank have a concept branch which has reduced branch collateral (ok … leaflets for customers). They are brilliantly written in plain English – even the small print. I aspire to that level of simple communication.
Check out how they label their ATM (Automated Teller machines) BTW (by the way) and why not let me know you favourite, ridiculous or otherwise, TLA.
My long-term pet hate is CSR – a hugely important social change, a movement in fact (Corporate Social Responsibility) that is belittled by its abbreviation in my view.
Now … over to you !
18 May 2013