Monday, October 24, 2011

NMA (No More Acronyms), Part I

Stuart Elliott dropped a new marketing acronym on me this morning.  Buried about halfway into this article, Mr. Elliott quoted Dana Anderson, senior vice president of marketing, strategy and communications at Kraft as saying “we are living in a ‘VUCA’ world.”  “VUCA,” you see, stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.”

All at once, I realized what I hate about marketing acronyms and why we, if we truly want to understand our audiences as marketers, should avoid them.  Today, I’d like to discuss why acronyms fail marketers.  In a later post, I’ll discuss the cure, which I suspect may make some of you wonder what I’ve been drinking.  (Disclosure: this stuff)

As with most marketers, I’ve lived with acronyms for years:  BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), DINK (double income, no kids), WOMM (word-of-mouth marketing) and my favorite, the lost continent of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa).  Some marketing acronyms have gone mainstream; remember, “Yuppie” stemmed from the marketing acronym for “young urban professional.”

When I first started in Internet marketing 13 years ago, I got a crash course in acronyms and they always seemed vaguely funny to me.  EMEA, for instance,  made me wonder if marketing executives homogenized Swedes, Saudis and Somalis into one group.  Of course, EMEA probably had more to do with a time zone-based view the world, but even so, it seemed like a cockeyed way to look at it.

However, VUCA really threw me for a loop.  For the first time, I felt as if I were on the receiving end of an acronym rather than on the bestowing end.  As with anyone else who doesn’t have a multi-million-dollar trust fund, I feel VUCA.  In all probability, so do you.

It feels condescending, doesn’t it?  Some of you may feel VUCA because the economy still hasn’t settled down three years after the mortgage crisis.  Some of you may feel VUCA because you disagree with the partisanship that reduces politicians to squabbling rather than fixing things.  Some of you might feel VUCA because you have mommy issues.  

We all may feel VUCA, but we all might have different reasons for feeling that way.  However, to marketers inclined to use the terms, you all fit the category VUCA and thus fit neatly into one box.

Dehumanizing, isn’t it?

Sociological conclusions aside, the dehumanization inherent in acronyms, I believe, hurts marketers more than it helps them.  When marketers stick consumers into boxes, they lose in detail what they gain in the ability to categorize them.  Do we really do right by our marketing by focusing on single aspects of consumers’ demographics or attitudes?  By putting a consumer in the DINK, box, for example, do we miss opportunities that we would have if we knew that they loved art or sports or vintage motorcycles?  In a broader sense, does the colloquial homemaker 18-34 really fit into a box at all?

Marketers might correctly point out that they need these buckets to create effective communications.  After all, marketers can’t very well have segmentation without segments.  However, in my next post, I’ll argue that while they can’t do it, there is something that can.

No comments:

Post a Comment