Thursday, November 1, 2007

Marketing marketing or our unique proprietary exclusive something or other

Paul Soldera has a timely post on incomprehensible marketing language. He quotes a passage from a so-called Business Intelligence or (BI!) company which he pulled from the company's website (he generously removes the company's name) in order to represent an excessive use of marketing jargon, which I'll quote in full:

XXX is the first and only business intelligence (BI) platform to deliver a complete set of market-leading, end-to-end BI capabilities: best-in-class enterprise performance management (EPM), dashboards and visualization, reporting, query and analysis, and enterprise information management (EIM). XXX introduces significant innovations that deliver BI in new ways to a broad set of users.
These things happen, Paul suggests, when we try too hard to claim some unique or proprietary benefit for something that we'd be better off just trying to describe clearly.

It's a legit point, and these absurd, hyperbolic assertions make me cringe precisely because they resemble claims made by organization I've worked for and have probably made myself (though I've tried to block them out.) But as Paul also acknowledges, it's not quite that simple, as any of us in the client-service business know only too well.

The truth is that it's very hard to differentiate one kind of client service from another, which is another of saying it's very hard place a value on "thinking" (a point I've raised repeatedly here under the heading "getting paid.") One way, of course, is to sell a process rather than product, another is rely on past clients/work/results to do your talking for you, the third is some clever articulation of how what you do is a different and better version of what everyone else does--usually with a lot of "proprietaries" thrown in. It's this third way which usually leads to passages like the one above as we strive to differentiate our offerings.

I guess a fourth way would not to differentiate in kind but in quality, by building value through execution, though that's equally hard to articulate and assert


Beecham said...

"BI" sounds like some unmentionable illness or condition!

Paul Soldera said...

I have this theory that the value of a 'thought' is tied directly to it's perceived scarcity - people value ideas more if they know they would have never come up with them themselves.