Are You Marketing to Your Competitors?

Are You Marketing to Your Competitors?

Let me take you back. Back to 1999. Back to a movie called Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore.

In case you missed this classic, the plot is simple – a journalist (played by Barrymore) goes undercover as a high school student to research a story. Never Been Kissed is packed with ‘90s nostalgia. High school awkwardness. Journalistic hijinks. True love.

There’s a part in the movie where the cool kids are pushing the use of their made-up word “rufus” to describe something as being cool. Nobody outside of their circle really knows what it means or why they’re using it. They just know that if they want to be seen as relevant, they need to say “rufus.”

I’ve seen the same groupthink in marketing. It’s particularly common in professional services and industries that are heavily technical, but any business can suffer from it.

In conducting industry research, we’ll often find every competitor using the same jargon and buzzwords to describe a service they offer or benefit they provide customers. Sometimes, the phrasing is nearly word-for-word identical.

But what do those phrases really mean? Often, we find that no one can consistently define the buzzwords or jargon being used, or explain how the business delivers on said promises differently from other competitors.

They are, in essence, marketing to each other.

That stock phrasing becomes table stakes. There’s fear around not using that language, lest you be seen as not measuring up. Marketing efforts are then focused on one-upping the buzzword claim, instead of defining the true value you provide.

Be careful that you’re not caught in this cycle. You could end up wasting valuable time, money and resources positioning your brand in a way that only a very narrow part of your audience understands. Or worse yet, in a way that only your competitors understand.

(Here’s a good test: Find the commonly used words or phrases in your marketing or industry, and try to define them… without using other commonly used words or phrases. You may find it’s harder than you think.)

We get it, avoiding jargon is hard.

Describing complicated processes or benefits in a simple way is no easy feat. Oversimplify and you risk insulting your audience or compromising accuracy. But too much jargon may leave your audience confused or with only a vague understanding of what you do.

There’s a reason why the KISS principle is still widely cited in business and marketing today. No matter how technical your industry or complicated your processes, the best marketing language and brand positioning should be easy for your audience to understand.

And who knows – perhaps cutting the jargon will give you the edge you need to stand out from competitors. Now, that’s some really rufus marketing.

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Beth Bennett

Beth Bennett

Beth Porter joined Atomicdust as a design intern in 2011 and has been designing here ever since. Beth grew up on a farm not too far from Southern Illinois University, where she earned a BFA in communication design and took home the university’s prestigious Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award her senior year.

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