It must be trade show season. My email in-box is overflowing with press releases announcing the latest cool new products.
Curiously, many of them read the same and use identical buzzwords. Do the PR people get paid on a per-buzzword rate? Here are some of my favorites:
Platform-driven . An example: “…and addition to its platform-driven solution…” Huh? A platform is something things rest on. “Platform-driven” is an oxymoron.
Enables , as in “This new product enables [new product name] to address the needs…” How can it be a new product if it “enables” something already extant? A better choice is word “helps,” which is utterly clear and doesn’t torture the language like “enables.”
Solution . For years now everything new product has been touted as a solution. I don’t know about you, but my problem set still seems quite unsolved. Dictionary.com defines the word as a mixture of two or more chemicals, but it does admit to a jargon variant, very well defined as “A marketroid for something he wants to sell you without bothering you with the often dizzying distinctions between hardware, software, services, applications, file formats, companies, brand names and operating systems.” And, yes, the site does define Marketroid; it’s worth a look.
Disruptive technology . Cool. Just what we need, something to completely disrupt our years of work and million of lines of code. Dictionary.com nails it again: “characterized by psychologically disorganized behavior a confused, incoherent, and disruptive patient in the manic phase>.” That’s exactly the sort of tool/process/service I don’t want to see in a development environment. What’s next? Sociopathic technology?
Exciting new product . Most of the couple of dozen press releases that pop in here each day sport this phrase. Exciting to the marketing folks – maybe. But to most of us? Probably not. Great writers know they should never directly indicate an emotion. “He was sad,” might be accurate but isn’t compelling. Better: “tears ran down his cheeks as he choked a few last words to his dying wife.” Don’t tell me a product is exciting; paint a picture that gets my heart beating faster. If that’s impossible, the thing is probably somewhat banal.
Missing piece of the solution . How could it have been a solution if there was a piece missing? Maybe the technology was so disruptive its “psychologically disorganized behavior” left the users so bewildered they were getting nothing done anyway.
“[Company name] is private so doesn’t release sales figures , but has experienced strong growth.” So if they sold a dollar’s worth of products last year and $5 now, that’s a startling 500% growth. WOW! I give them a strong buy rating as they’ll surely be the next Google.
Framework . See “platform.”
The use of undefined acronyms . A single press release included all of the following: SCARI, JTRS, ORB, SCA, ATCA, and VON.
[Company name] is the global leader in [some technology.] Synonyms: “market leader,” “industry’s premier,” “best in-class solution,” etc. Today I received two press releases about the same sort of product from two companies, each of which claimed to be the global leader. These baseless claims don’t impress quantitative engineers.
Then there are the quotes from company executives . “This is the most advanced total [something] solution of it's [sic] kind on the market today, with the highest ROI to our customers.” Give us substantiated facts, not inflated marketing-hype. These sorts of quotes add nothing to the press release. None of us will buy a product because the vendor’s CEO thinks it’s nice.
The job of a marketer is really hard. It’s tough to make your product stand out in a sea of competition. But to get engineers’ attention be honest, be specific, and use numbers. We consider anything else fluff.
Then there’s the usual concluding sentence: “available now .”
Uh huh. Sure. The sad part is that this phrase is so overused that none of us believe it anymore, even though once in a great while it’s true.
Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .
Your rant is entirely correct, but you missed the reason for it. PR people like myself, and marketing people more often than not do not have what I call the mechanical bent. I am of an older age when things came apart and could be prodded into revealing what made them tick. Nowadays you cannot take a single component apart to see the essential beast in the woods. Point in support of my thesis, I restore and race vintage British sports cars, everything is bolted together, from the fenders through the instruments, and everything can be repaired in some way. (OK, no Lucas electrics joke).
So how, as a writer, can you describe something you have no clue what it's all about? Simple, you just pile on the clichés.
Final note, I blame Regis McKenna for this simpleminded approach to the market. He hired MBAs and other non technical people to take care of business relying on his name to carry the product. If I support this crap, then it has to be great, right?
– Peter Brown
They blame it on us!
Calling all the woes and accusing us embedded types of delivering 'vapor-ware'!
– Ken Wada
There's a similar problem with a few semiconductor manufacturers websites. They are effectively trying to sell to engineers, so the target audience is engineers.. so why on earth arrange your products by market instead of function? I don't care where it's used, I want to find something that fulfills a specific function, so let me search by function! There are also sites that list by part number, or don't let you sort the list of their products by parameter. An example of an excellent website is www.ti.com, and www.national.com. Poor sites include www.freescale.com and www.semiconductors.philips.com
I rarely design in freescale or philips parts, due to to the frustration of finding anything useful, even though I'm sure they make good product.
– Malcolm Humphrey
What is the big deal about “solution”? As a chemist by training, I remember that a solution is what you get by diluting active ingredients into something inert such as water. Perhaps that's what it is – marketing jargons diluting the relevant and specific information that's really meaningful.
– David J. Liu
What were they thinking? I often ask myself. Some ads repel me, like the malnourished, drugged-out Calvin Klein models. Some have no impact whatever, like the credit card commercial during the Olympics, “Life is this; Life is that…” So what? Some ads have an annoying absurd little appendage after the sponsor name:
Wells Fargo Bank, the next stage. (just what I want in a bank)
SRP (Salt River Project, a utility in Arizona), delivering more than power. (but power is all I want them to reliably deliver; why are they spending time on other?)
Cadillac, break through. (break through what? the Doors shouted 'break on through to the other side'.
– Pete Secor
So as I understand from the response of the PR guy, since I don't understand the technology, I don't need to ask questions, all I have to do is make stuff up – and get well paid for it?
I think I need to transfer to marketing and sales….
– tom mazowiesky
You overlooked one of the very valuable contributions that marketing makes to this industry. Think of all the engineers that got up this morning and almost had left over pizza and flat jolt cola for breakfast. Thanks to the power of marketing they were able to start their day with Italian cheese toast and an energy drink.
– Russ Klein
“I think it enabled good solutions for exciting, new, platform-driven frameworks that solves the missing piece of the disruptive technology,” said Joe Nobody, Vice President of Global Leader Products. Available now.
– Joe Nobody
Although I agree with you that most of the jargon on advertisements and press releases sounds like marketing “power talk” – too many words making too little meaning, I feel a little sympathy for the guys in technical marketing. You must give it to them, Jack, that in a limited space of a couple of hundred words(costing a few hundred dollars), how much can you describe? So the best approach is to use the language they do. But yes, if it is false, then they are at fault. It is something akin to writing your resume after fifteen years of experience – you need to tell prospective employers, in a few pages, the gist of what you have done without elaborating the lifecycle activities of each project. It is what you put in the gist that attracts curious employers (read customers)to call you for an interview – which is a platform for you to wax on the real things that you can do for them.
– sreenivasa chary
I'd like to see the “Dick & Jane” approach to Marketing. See product work. Work product work! Else… call this 800 number for support!
– Steve King
A good synonym to “Global Leader” is “World's Foremost Authority”. That implies that I'm looking at the greatest guru in the business. It also sends me another message: that their advice is going to be the most expensive and I can't afford it.
The most ridiculous marketing I have seen are those car commercials where they show you that split second 3D CAD break-apart animation showing you every component of their vehicle. Can you possibly understand the difference between a Lamborghini or a VW beetle on that basis? Does anyone take apart their car to that level? Their car may be the worst pile of junk you could buy, yet the blow-apart animation sure makes it look cool.
– Tiger Joe Sallmen