Yesterday, I spent all afternoon in a brand strategy meeting. It was one of those once-a-year-let’s-all-boost-each-other’s-egos kind of affair with the entire brand team and all agency partners involved. When the senior most people in the agency rise from the dead and sober up for a day to act like true business partners. (To any clients reading this - Not us, never us, pfff). Anyway, this meeting went on for four slow painful hours and while I tried my best to stay awake, I realised that the meeting involved less conversation and more inane exchange of jargon.
I finally got done, came home and crashed on my bed for some idle social media browsing. And as if with some karmic symbiosis, this was the first post that came up on my feed (maybe Mark Zuckerberg can read minds too, I don’t know).
So the good news is that I’m not alone and I can go back to feeling confident about my intellectual abilities. Well as confident as one can feel anyway. The bad news, though, is that this jargon epidemic seems to be big enough to become meme-worthy. What’s worse? It’s quite self-fuelling. It’s like any term in the jargon world is an empty vessel. The more you use it, the more you fill meaning into it. Just try this social experiment – Say “Integrated Modular Capability” in your head. It probably sounds like an absurd oxymoron.
Now use it in a presentation with at least five points justifying it.
Now keep doing that for the next five presentations.
I bet you will find several others, and maybe even yourself, convinced that Integrated Modular Capability is totally legit. And possibly that it’s the only way to salvage ad agencies. It’s probable that you will think – hey I just came up with my own model. Like a modern-day Bernbach. But, I’m sorry to break your Systemized Reciprocal Projection. You’re wrong.
Now when I further think back to my meeting today, it’s revealing an even more disturbing thing. Not only has this self-fuelling jargon epidemic spread widely into our industry, it has also convinced its victims that those who don’t use these terms are somehow inadequate. So somehow saying ‘your Net Promoter Score will increase due to a movement of consumers to the top quadrant’ makes you smarter than saying ‘more people will like and recommend your brand.’ I feel like from now on in office, I should things like, “this aesthetic arrangement does not achieve the symmetrical harmony needed to create a convertible maneuver” in stead of saying “this layout is crap and no one will look at it.” You would call my faff right? So why not theirs?
This flame is sadly fanned further by the decreasing voice of creative people in the room, fewer creative people taking calls and Excel sheets turning into decision makers under the garb of media and digital agencies. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against metrics or accountability. I’m against the use of any of these to fill a meeting or a lack of vision. I’m against the fear of calling a spade a spade, just because the word ‘spade’ does not take up an entire PowerPoint slide and I’m against the notion that mindless jargon can save you in the business of influencing emotional decisions.
(The author is founder and and chief creative officer at Famous Innovations.)