A few years ago I delivered a presentation at my friend Drayton Bird’s European Academy of Direct and Interactive Marketing. The attendees were mostly Eastern European, but there were also two delegates flying the Aussie flag.

Another Aussie patriot flying the flag

Another Aussie patriot flying the flag

Direct marketing is now taking off in Eastern Europe and a few things were obvious from the outset. One being how the delegates just assumed the interweb is simply a digital channel for direct marketing – end of discussion.

Another is that we probably take for granted just how good our infrastructure is in terms of media, lists and distribution services. For example, most of the emerging countries don’t have address lists – mail, e-mail or sms – so they are hamstrung before they begin. Much of their activity is aimed at building lists through direct response advertising with landing pages as the response device.

One Slovenian marketer is having great success using former Soviet currency as an involvement device. Apparently you can buy old bank notes in bulk for a few cents per thousand. He uses them in customer mailings and handed out dozens of notes to the audience to prove his point. An old trick, but not when it’s in a new market.

The other thing that became immediately clear was how much jargon our industry uses. It’s not until you’re trying to translate to a room full of people from non-English speaking backgrounds that you realise how much doublespeak we blather.

Try explaining TARPs, CTR, SEO, SEM, CPL, CPA, RFM, CRM, etc to people who haven’t been trained in western marketing practices and for whom English is a second language.

jargon comic

I also tried out my (excuse the jargon) tipping-point questions that I’ve been asking Australasian audiences. One question I asked was; “who doesn’t own or wear a watch?” The answer is usually between 20% and 40% of the audience no longer wear a watch. So we’re getting close to the tipping-point where more people won’t wear one, than do wear one. You’ll be glad to know that about 30% of the European audience didn’t own or wear a watch either.

Another question I asked was; “what do you think of when I say multi-channel marketing?” The answer was similar to audiences here; campaigns across numerous media such as TV, radio, press, outdoor and the interweb. Although you will get more people including mail in their answer here. The term ‘digital print” is never used when answering the multi-channel question.

Which brings me to some of the jargon being used by the local digital print industry. As you may be aware there is a push by digital printers (and also digital art studios) to position themselves as marketing service organisations. One of the reasons is that because some of them now send e-mail and sms, they call themselves providers of “multi-channel marketing services”.

Let’s get real here – just because it’s new for a printer to offer more than printing, doesn’t mean a multi-channel campaign is new to marketers. In fact, marketers don’t order a multi-channel campaign from their agencies. They simply ask their agency to produce a campaign in the media required to get the job done – whether it’s one or many media. Multi-channel isn’t marketers’ jargon.

I cannot recall a marketer briefing an agency with; “can you create a $100,000 multi-channel campaign thanks?”

$100,000 worth of multi-channel marketing please...

$100,000 worth of multi-channel marketing please…

If printers and digital ‘agencies’ are going to provide marketing services, then they need to understand the language of their customers and not try to force their own language onto the market. Many also call direct mail campaigns “DM campaigns”. DM is jargon for Direct Marketing, not for Direct Mail – so please get the jargon right if you’re going to use it.

But who really knows what’s right and wrong when it comes to jargon? Recently I was in a meeting where the marketing manager started talking about their CRM programme. Expecting a discussion around single view of the customer, software programmes and the like, I was preparing my two cents worth, when I realised I was in a parallel universe.

The marketer was talking about Cause Related Marketing, not Customer Relationship Management.


Although as an ‘old dog’ (or should that be Auld dog?) I shouldn’t be surprised. Years ago when addressing the new recruits for the ADMA Certificate Course I asked if anyone in the class knew what RFM stood for. One lady held up her hand and asked rather sheepishly, if I was sure I wanted her to explain it to the class. I encouraged her to stand up and enthusiastically explain the meaning of RFM and why it was so important.

I assumed she knew it stood for Recency, Frequency, Monetary – the 3 pillars of calculating customer value.

Instead she promptly told the room that RFM stood for Read the F****g Manual. She worked for IBM and that’s what RFM stood for in her world.

The poor gal was so embarrassed she never answered a question again the whole semester.


(in case you’re confused, that’s Laugh Out Loud, not Lots Of Love. Although I suppose if you want it to be Lots Of Love that’s OK. WTF does OK stand for?)