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There’s nothing like a global financial crisis, or new technology, even a pandemic to release the jargon-monkeys and cyber-hustlers from their lairs. Like a zombie invasion, they just appear from nowhere, spraying unsubstantiated platitudes and buzzwords-aplenty to position themselves as knowing not what we know, but more and better secret stuff.

And the COVID-CRISIS has them appearing in droves. Buzzwords are spreading like a… well you can guess how fast they’re spreading dear reader.

One of the most popular and unnecessary buzzwords you’re probably hearing is “PIVOT”. It is spoken in revered tones, as if it explains some miracle new COVID business strategy. The word gained notoriety in the book “The Lean Startup”. The premise is simple – it must be, as I teach a capstone subject at university based entirely on the book. It is good guide for inexperienced young entrepreneurs who don’t have much marketing expertise.

In jargonised terms, find a problem that needs to be solved, then start solving it with a (digital) Minimum Viable Product – known buzzwordingly as a MVP. (not Most Valuable Player as MVP has been known for decades in the sporting world). The MVP is partially developed and tested in the market. It is then reiterated (further developed) based on how customers/prospects in the market use the MVP. This technique, a common function of basic marketing, is labelled “Build, Measure, Learn”. True – it even has its own acronym – BML.

Eventually, after lots of testing and learning – sorry BML – when you have a well-developed MVP (Maximum Viable Product?) that appears to have commercial potential, you raise funds to develop it fully and launch the business to the market. Instagram started this way. The subtle difference in the start-up world is that you don’t start the business by creating the final product and launch it to the market.

Instead, you create a MVP, then BML, reiterate, test and learn some more, reiterate and BML again until the final product is in sight. In the real world this is the part of marketing called product development. For decades it was known as dry-testing. Marketers advertised different versions of products, with different features, then produced them based on customer feedback – known as sales and research.

We’re doing some BML on our MVP…

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people caused this practice to stop (sounds digitally-familiar) so you can no longer advertise a product that isn’t in stock, as a way of testing the market. Yet you can sell an incomplete digital product that may or may not deliver what it claims, as it’s still being reiterated using BML.

But here’s the big reveal. If the final solution you invent is different to the first solution for the problem you identified as needing to be solved, you are deemed to have “pivoted”. That’s right folks – if you change direction and develop a different product to your original intention, or create one that solves another problem, you say you’ve pivoted. You haven’t just developed a product as part of your product development. Instead, you use a jargoniser to explain this simple business function.

I’m sure the scientists at 3M screamed at the top of their lungs ‘we have pivoted‘ when they discovered they could apply one invention to another product, that was eventually branded as Post-it Notes.

So what has this to do with pies I hear you ask?

Well, an old school mate of mine owns a pie shop up the hill from my place. I dropped in last week to see how his business was coping in the pandemic. He greeted me with a big grin. Business was booming and he’s employing people.

The reason is simple. Thanks to the lock-down, he’s now selling lots more family pies and quiches than usual, so he displays more of them in the store. And, he has a chalk board outside his store advertising “Family Pies & Quiches”. “What a PIVOT!” I hear you shout dear reader.

He is also supplying family pies to a bunch of butchers, so they have additional products to sell. “What another brilliant PIVOT” I hear you shout again. You’re probably musing “he’s a marketing genius to PIVOT like that”.

My local craft brewer and gin distillery (you have one, don’t you?) is selling less beer during the pandemic, as pubs are closed. The market has temporarily shrunk. So it is using its equipment to do what it has always done – manufacture products to sell to consumers profitably.

Yes folks, there is a short-term demand for hand sanitizer, so like many breweries and distillers, the company is using ingredients in their equipment to make sanitizer and sell it to consumers. Hold yourself back dear reader, I know you just want to shout “What a PIVOT!” But it’s simply another day at the office.

Marketers either seize opportunities or solve problems – best if they can do both at the same time, as there is less sale/marketing cost. So these pie purveyors, brewers, distillers and many other manufacturers, are simply doing what they are supposed to do – create and sell stuff to customers profitably.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not a PIVOT. It doesn’t need a jargoniser to explain itself. It’s just the common sense business practice, known as “marketing”.

So if you hear some jargon-monkey use the word “PIVOT” in a meeting, please poo-poo them and save them from their follies. Ask them politely to stop using buzzwords. If you’re in a video conference and they refuse, maybe mute them or place a funny filter over their face. If they insist on preferring PIVOT, ask them to leave the industry – they are just not meant for it – and it’s for their own good.

When we return to face-to-face meetings (I can’t wait for a conference-room gathering) you might have a jargon-monkey in there with you. The best way to make them stop posing with PIVOT, is simple. Grab a copy of The Lean Startup, pivot in your chair, and clip them over the ear with the book. If they don’t get the message – just ask them to leave the industry – see previous paragraph.

The same goes for people who claim they have a side-hustle. If you’re a hustler, leave now! You’re not wanted in any industry. You’re just freelancing, nothing new. My former boss, David Ogilvy, used to encourage staff to freelance as it broadened their experience – as long as it didn’t interfere with their salaried job at O&M.

When I was a National Marketing Manager at TNT I freelanced as a copywriter and marketing consultant – more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t a side hustle – it was freelancing. Still is. Doesn’t need a buzzword to pretend it’s something special or different. When jargon-monkeys use such weasel words they expose themselves for the fakes they’re pretending not to be. So please help the poor sods and educate them.

Hmmm, gotta go as I’m getting hungry. Will grab some of last night’s leftovers. No I’ve changed my mind, I’ll have a pie. I’ll heat it up while doing some copywriting. Wow, a PIVOT and SIDE-HUSTLE in one move. Bloody genius…