June 19

How Many Languages Do You Speak? – Is Marketing One of Them?


We All Need a Common Language to Communicate.

English, French, German, Spanish, - How many languages do you speak? Is marketing one of them? What, you thought marketing wasn’t a proper language? Well - it is, sort of.

Now, let me tell you about a time I found out the embarrassing way why it’s crucial that we have a common language when we’re speaking (communicating) with other people. Why is it important? -  so we can understand what each other are saying.

It’s important to be able to communicate with other people  to avoid misunderstanding, so that we work together toward a single goal. That might be a marketing project or…just choosing lunch. Anyway, let me tell you about a time when I “failed to communicate”.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself? Maybe a bit of background to this will make it a bit easier to understand? Would that help?

So, Where & When Did All This Happen?

So, it’s 1999, I’m on a sales training course in St Louis, Missouri, USA. Just for interest it was a biochemistry course as I worked for a medical diagnostics company at the time, and we’d just finished the morning session.

There I was, just waiting in line in the cafeteria, waiting to pick my lunch. Unknown to me something was about to happen that stays with me now even though it’s about 23 years down the line.

There were participants from around the world, along with several local people (local, as in from across the USA) and we were just about to sit down to lunch. This is where it gets interesting for me – and no doubt amusing for the others who were with me.

Well, that was a strange choice!

So, I reach the head of the queue, or top of the line if you’re reading this in the USA, and the young lady serving asks what I’d like for lunch? Not an unreasonable question. I consider my options and eventually choose a very juicy looking burger. She, being the consummate professional that she was (as far as I can remember lol) asks “What would you like to go with your burger?” And I, being from Scotland answer “Chips” – Are you sure she replies? – I’m half thinking of the pounding my brain is going to get in the afternoon session still to come so I’m not really considering the implication of the girl’s very polite query. “Yes please” I confirm, and she’s probably thinking “Well that’s a strange selection to go with his burger but who am I to upset an international guest” In reality I’m sure she had other thoughts and more in line with “Stupid idiot, but it’s his lunch – makes no difference to me”

Same language, different meaning.

And with that, she opened a packet of what I call crisps – chips in the USA – and goes ahead and adds them to my plate. I can only image the look that must have been on my face, but from the giggles going on around me it must have been a picture of confusion. In that moment it dawned on me what had just happened. I apologised for the confusion and, just in case you’re interested, I finally got my fries to go with my burger – all’s well that ends well.

Why was this important?

Anyway, what’s the take home message from my short but memorable period of embarrassment?

It’s that we need to be speaking the same “language” as the people we’re communicating with. To make sure that when we use a particular term, it means the same to them and us. In short, to make sure that we don’t want fries and end up getting chips.

I can save you the same embarrassment.

Anyway, I’d like to make sure that  the same thing, or something similar, doesn’t happen to you.

I’d love to send you a free glossary outlining some of the commonly used marketing terms and abbreviations. This is not every single one you’ll ever come across but should be a good grounding to get you started. Just as in any other business, there’s a learning curve and part of the process is mastering the terms and concepts you need for success.

Click the button below and you can download your very own free copy of my marketing terms and phrases glossary.

Finally, I'd really like to know how this site can provide even more value to you. Perhaps there's something you'd like me to help you find? Maybe a topic you feel we can help with, or perhaps even something you feel you'd like to share with others? Even if it's just to say "Hello" - that would be great too.

Send us an email, or leave a message on our contact page.



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