Avoid “Marketing Speak” like the Plague


Unique, one-of-a-kind, best-of-breed and on it goes. We see this type of marketing speak over and over in marketing materials. And let’s be honest, we’ve all used it at one time or another.  When you’re writing about your own program product or service, it’s easy to fall into the habit of hype and hyperbole. It’s understandable. After all, ultimately you’re hoping your ad, pitch, brochure, email or website marketing copy will capture attention and get readers to do something. So, you have to impress with your words.

However, you are probably well aware that your audiences are more skeptical today, than ever before. Everyone has become more attuned to marketing and promotion efforts. Many marketing adjectives are so used that the words no longer have any real meaning. In fact, they do nothing except maybe hurt your reputation and that of the products and services you are selling.

Mike Williams of Ring Partners suggests that you think twice before using these “fluff” words in your marketing

Advanced: This word is applied to nearly everything from advanced technology to advanced ingredients. This word is a prime example of being overused to the point that all value has been eroded.

Best: Using this word really makes marketers look dumb. You’re much better off letting your audience figure this one out. Instead of saying that you’re the best, get a quote from someone else who compares you to your competitors and labels you as the best.

Cutting Edge: This phrase is absolutely done. Anytime this is used it just sounds like drivel. Your audience will look over this and their eyes will literally glaze over.

Bleeding edge: This is a favorite in the technology industry. Apparently when “cutting edge” wasn’t enough, marketers started using “bleeding edge.”

Exclusive: Really? How do you plan to make any money if your product is that exclusive? Unless you are marketing your services as being available to only one person, whatever you’re selling isn’t really exclusive.

Groundbreaking: (or its cousins, breakthrough and late-breaking): Unless your product is up to par with the iPhone, sliced bread, or the Model T Ford this label isn’t really applicable. Very few products are actually groundbreaking. Don’t claim to be this when you know that’s really not the case.

Pioneering: This term always elicits lots of eye rolls. Unless you’ve got groundbreaking research to back up your product, or your product has never been available in any form or fashion, steer clear of using this unimpressive word.

Revolutionary: This term isn’t only overused, it’s inappropriate. Unless your product or service has resulted in starting a revolution, you shouldn’t be adding this to your list of marketing adjectives.

Unique: Yes, all marketers think their product or service is special. But like the term best, it’s better if you let your audience come to this conclusion. Try describing features and benefits instead of claiming uniqueness. Claiming originality rarely convinces anyone.

It’s true that most marketing professionals have been guilty of using these phrases and terms at one point or another, and sometimes even after being warned, these words often sneak through.

However, being aware of these marketing faux pas will help you avoid using these terms when you make a pitch or publish content. Frankly using these type of words amounts to “lazy marketing”. Your audience will always see right through this.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a marketer I’ve used these words a number of times in my writing throughout the years, and sometimes they still sneak through. But as long as you’re aware, you can hopefully catch yourself before you publish a piece of content about your groundbreaking, revolutionary program, product or service.


Marketing to Canadians of South Asian and Chinese Origin – An Update

One of my first blogs eight years ago was Marketing to Canadians of South Asian and Chinese Origin… a hot trend. I have had many requests to update the blog. So here goes.

Chinese and South Asian Canadians are an increasingly important audience in the market, with populations expected to grow by 80% and 130%, respectively, over the next 15 years.


But according to IPG Mediabrands, marketers have very little resources on the audience’s attitudes towards brands as well as their media consumption habits.

Closing that knowledge gap is the aim of the IPG Mediabrands Multicultural Media Study 2016. The study included 1,250 Chinese and South Asian respondents living in the Toronto and Vancouver area, and were surveyed last July.

According to the results, Chinese and South Asian Canadians have a different relationship with brands than the general Canadian population, believing more strongly that ads help them stay up-to-date with new products. Both groups were also more likely to buy based on quality rather than price and also considered themselves to be very brand loyal in higher numbers than the general Canadian population.

Chinese Canadians were more likely to report feeling closer to brands that use ethnic languages and pay more attention to those ads than South Asians.

Both Chinese and South Asian Canadians are more connected consumers than the general Canadian population, with higher rates of device ownership and time spent online.

The IPG Mediabrands report looks at the attitudes and media habits of two growing audiences, South Asians and Chinese Canadians. The study, which also sourced data from Statistics Canada and Vividata, was first conducted in 2012 to better understand these significant audiences. Stats Canada forecasts that by 2031, the Chinese population will increase by 80% and the South Asian population will increase by 131%.

The study found that 64% of Chinese and 69% of South Asian Canadians believe that ads help them keep up-to-date with new products, compared to 44% of the general population.

In addition, 61% of Chinese and 64% of South Asians tend to buy on quality, not price, compared to 54% of the general population. What’s more, 52% of Chinese and 58% of South Asian consumers consider themselves to be very brand loyal, compared to only 44% of the general population.

There is a significant reliance on advertising amongst these two particular groups, and that’s very likely to turn into a loyal consumer.

51% of Chinese respondents tend to stick to brands that they’re familiar with from their home country, and 46% pay more attention to advertising that’s in their own ethnic language.

“There are, of course, going to be new brands that they don’t recognize when they come over to Canada and that does present challenges for many advertisers. According to the study “One way to get over that is the fact that the Chinese population is more likely to pay attention to advertising in a Chinese language.

While they stick to brands they’re familiar with, that’s just a starting point, “The shorter amount of time that Chinese group has been in Canada, the more likely they are likely to stick to familiar brands. But the longer they spend in the country, the less likely they are.”

South Asians are more likely to be early adopters than Chinese Canadians. In the survey, 58% of South Asians said they are first among friends to try new products, compared to 43% of Chinese consumers. In addition, 59% of South Asians agreed that people expect them to provide good advice about products and services, compared to 51% of Chinese; and 53% of South Asians said they’re more of a spender than a saver, compared to 37% of Chinese consumers.

The study also looked at Chinese and South Asians’ media habits and their different communications preferences.

Chinese consumers are more likely to feel closer to organizations that advertise in their own ethnic language (45%) than South Asians (39%). In addition, 45% of Chinese consumers agreed they have a “strong affiliation” with brands that advertise in their own ethnic language, compared to 36% of South Asians; and 38% of Chinese consumers think ads in their home language are more meaningful to them, compared to 34% of South Asians.


“Chinese Canadians are much more dependent on in-language advertising compared to South Asians, and that’s very heavily tied to the prevalence of the English language in South Asian countries.

The study also found that Chinese and South Asians are very digitally savvy groups compared to the general population. The average number of internet-connected devices owned by the general population is 2.4, compared to 3.6 for Chinese consumers and 3.2 for South Asians.

Citing Vividata figures, the study notes that Chinese consumers spend 24 hours a week online and South Asians spend 19 hours a week online, compared to 17 hours for the general population.

For Chinese consumers, time spent on digital media is about the same in a Chinese language as in English. For example, they spend 12.6 hours a week on Chinese social media sites and 12.8 hours on social media in English. But more time is spent with Chinese online magazines (7.1 hours) and newspapers (7.1 hours) than in English (6.2 hours for each).

Another study by Environics Analytics states that South Asians passed the Chinese as the largest visible minority in Canada almost 10 years ago and over the next five years their population is projected to grow 19% to reach 2.5 million people.


What is less appreciated, analysts will tell you, is that this group – which currently makes up almost 5% of the Canadian population – is becoming “a marketer’s dream,” says Rupen Seoni, vice-president and practice leader at Environics. “They are one of the fastest-growing, more affluent, educated and media-savvy groups.”

Some marketers still know very little about this vibrant consumer group, tending to lump them with other Asians or simply ignoring them altogether but that would be a $46-billion mistake, for that’s the total estimated spending power of Canada’s South Asians.”

For info on the Social Asian market see South Asian Market You can find more info on ethnic marketing here. Also check out http://media-corps.com/south-asian-and-chinese-canadians/




Marketing 101 (for Marketers and Non-Marketers)

March 29, 2017

343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,

This workshop will provide participants with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing. The workshop will teach participants how to develop a marketing  strategy and plan as well as how to transform a government/nonprofit organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach.

The workshop will focus on:

  • An overview of marketing;
  • Systematic processes and strategic elements for developing and implementing an action-oriented strategic marketing plan;
  • How to set realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals;
  • How to evaluate marketing efforts with practical ideas on how to improve execution;
  • How to develop a client-based mindset in a public sector or non-profit organization;
  • How to use market research to support a decision-making framework;
  • How to develop a system for measuring progress and monitoring performance.



Intro to Social Marketing Planning for Attitude and Behaviour Change

March 9, 2017

343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,

Awareness.  Are you getting tired of hearing that word? If you want to move your marketing and communications efforts beyond merely public education and awareness campaigns and into the realm of action-oriented attitude and behaviour change then this workshop is for you

The workshop will focus on:

  • How to use a step-by-step structured approach to prepare a social marketing plan that is actionable, has maximum impact, and leads to successful implementation;
  • How to present and “sell” your social marketing strategy to management;
  • How to implement a social marketing program on a very tight budget;
  • How to monitor and evaluate your inputs/outputs, outcomes and impacts;
  • How social marketing gives you a single approach: for mobilizing communities; influencing the media; activating key stakeholders; and building strategic alliances with business.




Role of Advertising in Government

I spent many years directing major government advertising campaigns for the federal government. I am a very strong believer in government using advertising campaigns to promote programs, motivating audiences to improve their health and other important issues. During my career in government, I can honestly say that the motivation for the campaigns my team were involved with focused on important topics and issues particularly social marketing campaigns in the health area whose main objectives were to change attitudes and behaviours.

I have always felt that the advertising techniques used to promote commercial goods and services can be used to inform, educate and motivate the public about non-commercial issues, such as health, energy conservation and the environment. Advertising, in its non-commercial guise, is a powerful marketing tool capable of reaching and motivating large audiences.

However there has been some controversy in recent years on how advertising is being used by the Canadian government. Bruce Anderson recently wrote in the Globe and Mail “I’m not naive about government advertising or against it in every form. Earlier in my career, I worked on ad campaigns about the deficit, national unity and the GST, among others. Looking back, I’m not certain that some of the campaigns I worked on didn’t cross the line I’m drawing in this column. But each of those campaigns was at least about trying to build momentum behind an important and difficult change for the country.

But an ad campaign to vilify cellphone companies? To tell us something vague about a war fought 200 years ago? To let me know, just in case I was wondering, that the government truly cares for veterans? I’ve no quarrel with governments advertising to make people aware of programs and services, to encourage socially useful behaviour, and to build knowledge around important national issues.”

Government advertising can be controversial if it conflicts with citizens’ views about the proper role of government. Yet some government advertising is accepted as a normal part of government information activities.

According to the federal government website the Government of Canada’s approach to advertising is guided by the principles of value for money, transparency and accountability. According to the federal Treasury Board directive, advertising is an important way for the Government of Canada to communicate with Canadians about policies, programs, services and initiatives, public rights and responsibilities, and risks to public health, safety and the environment.

So one has to wonder why the government has launched a $4-million national ad campaign celebrating the Fathers of Confederation and a country that has become “strong, proud and free” more than two years in advance of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

Alex Marland, a political science professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., is currently doing research on how the brand message of governing parties gets entwined with government advertising.

He compared the current Canada 150th birthday ads with those commissioned for the country’s 125th anniversary under the Brian Mulroney government in 1992. Marland states that “the Canada 125 ads were designed by politically correct bureaucrats; the 150 ads are designed by experienced marketers.”

He goes on to say that “It’s very smart marketing because it’s reinforcing other messages the government is sending out.” The ads emphasize the importance of strong leadership, highlight hockey and embraces the Conservative party history-based patriotism. Source

The government has spent more than $7-million on a 10-week, anti-drug advertising campaign. The TV and Internet ads by Health Canada ran parallel to a partisan radio ad campaign, paid for by the Conservative party, which attacked Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over his promise to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

As someone who was very involved in Health Canada campaigns dating back to 1981, there is no question that Health Canada has been communicating the dangers of drugs for many years and should certainly continue to support parents with the tools they need to ensure children to live drug-free lives. This is a very important mandate. This is particularly important now because Canadian youth are the biggest pot consumers in the western world, according to the United Nations.

What is unfortunate is politicizing an important effort to reduce drug use. The government which has for decades involved health organizations in their health campaigns attempted to involve three very prominent health organizations in the campaign, however, they publicly distancing themselves from the campaign because they felt they were political in nature. Source

The government spent $14.8-million in 2013 promoting “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” a catchphrase first created by the government to promote stimulus spending. As I pointed out in a previous blog this campaign has clearly not been very successful and has been tainted as partisan advertising.

The $2.5-million campaign to advertise a job grant program that did not exist is also questionable use of advertising by Government.


SCREEN GRAB - Canada's Economic Action Plan website -   video still -The Canada Job Grant  0520-jobs-grant-ads

This past week we learned about a multimillion-dollar campaign to market Canadian oil in the U.S. The Maple Leaf was plastered on the walls of subway stops in Washington, D.C., and it popped up in all sorts of American publications with messages such as “America’s Best Energy Partner” and “Friends and Neighbors.”



The $1.6-million (U.S.) ad campaign launched in 2013 was followed up by a $24-million, two-year international program. One can dispute if this was an effective use of ad dollars and perhaps there were better communication tactics that could have been used in this campaign.

The results of the campaign showed most D.C. respondents had seen the ads. They didn’t quite agree, however, on what they’d seen. The most popular take-away message, at 17 per cent, was that Canada and the U.S. were friends and energy partners. Building Keystone XL got 11 per cent.

One federal government official stated the ads were never designed to sway people about Keystone. They were there to spread a broader message people could remember and repeat, about an energy partnership with Canada. According to the government the ads were there to help create the political space for a (Keystone) approval which Canada has not yet received.

Let me know what you think.


Register by April 10 for Early Bird pricing MARCOM 2015

Check out our Workshop Program

Check out our Professional Certificate in Public Sector & Non-Profit Marketing, @ Sprott School of Business, Carleton University. Dates for 2016 to be announced soon.