Jargons May Fail To Highlight Your Biz USP

By Mukund Mohan

  • 21 Jun 2011

I was in a bus, going home from work the other day, when I noticed an ad for yoga and Satsang session by a guru. What struck me first was it did not talk about yoga or meditation, but about 'Inner engineering' and 'Technologies for well-being.' My first thought was to laugh at the description of the yoga class. But then, I thought more about the target audience and the cognitive dissonance of the medium used for advertising with that audience. Now, I am not an expert on Satsang and the people who attend those sessions. But clearly, the audience who rides a local bus may not necessarily appreciate the use of jargons to describe the gathering that was my thinking. So I did a quick poll among the 5-7 odd people standing next to me about what they understood about 'Inner engineering.'

It turned out that most of them actually did not notice the ad until I pointed it out to them. This, given the fact that the ad was inside a bus, with posters surrounding the entire top half, was surprising to me. Upon closer questioning, most admitted that they did not actually understand any other word except engineering on that ad, and were too embarrassed to admit it. They had seen photos of the guru with a flowing beard and assumed it was another of those 'religious gatherings.'

As marketers, most of us are constantly looking for ways to educate our target audience and also look for ways to differentiate our offerings. The unfortunate part of being in generic, well-understood spaces such as mobile phone services, yoga classes and restaurants is that most people "know what you do." So, mobile Internet connectivity is now "3G hyper speed connectivity," a regional restaurant offers "Nouvelle Haute Kerala cuisine," and of course, yoga is "Inner engineering."


I notice, though, that this level of specificity is not limited to technology companies. It permeates our consciousness with titles Barista for a coffee-maker, sanitation engineer for a janitor and productivity associate for an admin assistant.

There are multiple reasons why we do this, I believe, and here are the ones I have heard.

First, the increased competition for any given space now versus a decade or two ago, means you have to clearly differentiate among several similar offerings, with very little possibility to be actually different. So, what better way to be different than to position your product as 'unique' that's how the thinking goes.


Second, it is the rise of search and the need for marketers to "not want to compete for the generic keywords." These words are very expensive and so, we look to make up our own words to describe offerings, which, albeit generic, are very jargon-heavy.

Finally, there is the rise of the tech-savvy generations, mostly young audiences, who have grown up with the Internet, Facebook, mobile phones and tablet PC's. They are often looking for specific descriptions of products and services and get quickly bored with yesterday's terms.

I do wonder, though, if marketers will end up with unwieldy product names and get a backlash against the use of technical but unnecessary jargon. And I'd love to hear your opinion on why we are accepting more jargons in our lives as consumers.


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