Terminologies with shared meaning help mutual understanding and better work. With external partners (agencies, distributors…) and within a company (inter departments, affiliates…). This seems obvious and you may ask why a focus on such trivial matter? But misunderstandings happen more often than expected and can create confusion or wrong expectations.
For instance: when asked about “brand positioning” a marketing manager once told me “my brand is premium”, whereas I was interested in the positioning expressed as the key benefit + target audience + reason to believe. She was not wrong, but arguably vague. Or, we often are asked to develop a “brand manual”, which sometimes mean a “graphic guideline”, or a document with a brand history, objectives, strategy and implementation assets. Or, we are asked to “target millennials”, who for some clients are the 18 – 25 years old, whereas this cohort encompasses 18 - 35 years old.
So how does one speak the same marketing language?
1. Identify the context of terminologies usage: these can be internal situations (intra & inter departments, affiliates - in particular after a merger or an acquisition). The situation also arises with external partners such as agencies or distributors (as a test, just ask them to show their “brand plans” and have a look at their “P&L” definitions).
2. Collect terminologies and clarify their meaning: as a project unfolds, collect terminologies that are important and spot understanding divergences. Clarify them with your partner and capture a common definition. Keep it simple (go back to a dictionary!) and keep it smart (tap into marketing books for sharper definitions and examples). This collection process can be on-going, but has to subtle so as not to appear as a lecturer!
3. Define a support and diffusion method: a good way to capture terminologies meanings is a glossary. To ensure use, diffusion can be part of a practical project such as brand plan, brand positioning workshop or a marketing academy which trains and aligns teams on common marketing tools in an organisation.
4. Keep it alive: marketing is an evolutionary discipline, with more and more sophisticated teams and changing partners: new agencies, new distributors, new managers from different backgrounds, mergers… For these reasons alone, it is essential to keep an eye on the glossary and update the elements on a regular basis.
Bumping into situations where words have different meanings for more than one person, happens all the time. It does not have to be a plain lack of understanding but often, little signs of discomfort one does not dare to clarify. In our experience, the best way to avoid a spiralling of misunderstanding is to take the time to clarify these words, and therefore expectations.
Words by themselves have little use, so make sure these terminologies have a practical application in your Company. We often say “the devil is in the details”, but care to details is also what set the great apart from the good. So, do take time to look after your business terminologies, because eventually they will become an asset to build on your brands.