Tuesday, October 16, 2012

These Filler Words

We marketers live by making up names - names of markets, products, and technologies. In the English language, names are easily created by chaining words together. New terms can be created very easily: mountain standard time (MST), automated teller machine (ATM), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are just a few examples of how nouns and adjectives can be strung together in English to create smart sounding new terms and names. Acronyms such as NBC, CIA, NFL, LAX, JFK, SAT, BTW, CEO, and USA are part of our everyday language.
Technology marketing often resembles the Alphabet Soup. (Source)
The problem is that technology marketers like to fall in love with three letter acronyms. Consequently, the terms and names they coin have to consist of three words. Random Access Memory, Content Distribution Network, Subscriber Identity Module are just a few examples of such three word names. Consequently, we have three letter acronyms such as RAM, CDN, SIM that dominate our technology language. We love it so much that we even have an acronym for the term ‘three letter acronym’: TLA.

It seems that sometimes we even add an unnecessary word just to make a name consist of three words. For example, I think that Enterprise Content Management could do without the word ‘enterprise’. Since there is no Consumer Content Management (unless you count Picasa and iTunes), we could easily get by with just Content Management. Similarly, I don’t see much difference between Business Process Management and just Process Management. Indeed, the words ‘enterprise’ and ‘business’ are often being added without much reason. We say ‘business ethics’ where just ‘ethics’ would do perfectly fine.

But there are even worst transgressions of this kind. When I hear Advanced Case Management, I have to chuckle. ‘Advanced’ as opposed to Retarded Case Management? Or, how about Extended Data Processing? ‘Extended’ as opposed to Limited Data Processing? And then, there is the omnipresent word ‘Management’. Marketing Automation Management? Hmm... Marketing Automation would probably do. Customer Experience Management? I vote for Customer Experience!

Don’t take me wrong, I am not saying that all three letter names are wrong. Supply Chain Management is a perfectly good term and none of the three words can be dropped. Similarly, there is a difference between Asset Management and Digital Asset Management. There is definitely a place for three and even four letter names. But what I am suggesting is that we should examine the meaning before we get carried away by the language rhythm, melody, or whatever it is that makes us construct sometimes ridiculously sounding names.

Yet, there is hope. I see examples of new industry terms that consist of just two or even one word. Cloud Computing, Virtualization, Analytics - here are some very new industry terms we have settled on without messing them up. I’m sure that we could have coined Advanced Virtualization Management or Extended Information Analytics but we didn’t. Simplicity and logic have prevailed.

I know, it’s too late to reverse the course of history. The 10-year old terms such as Enterprise Content Management or Business Process Management will hardly be changed at this point. Although, if you follow my blog, I usually write just ‘content management’. Yes, with lower case characters because back in school I learned that only proper names should be capitalized. (Sigh...) Anyway, let’s create names and terms for new technologies that are simple, easily understandable, and free of redundant words!

Here is to good marketing!


  1. We say Business Ethics to remind business people that ethics apply to them as well.