Words and metaphors are great when used properly – they can also severely limit our views and thinking around certain topics.
Look at marketing as an example. There are a ton of words that we use as part of our jobs that are actually limiting our capabilities to think differently and to innovate. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
By definition, a market is any place where the sellers of a particular good or service can meet with the buyers of that goods and service where there is a potential for a transaction to take place. The buyers must have something they can offer in exchange for there to be a potential transaction.
So by thinking about markets we are automatically focusing on the transactions, and forgetting about the behaviors that causes people to buy products in the first place.
As I said in previous posts, a better alternative is tribes.
As I was talking with Joel Rubinson yesterday, the Chief Research Officer for ARF, he said “Your focus on the human, and the emphasis on tribes rather than segments caught my eye.” continuing “We do not like the word “consumer” since that is really a state of being in the context of what you (the marketer) care about.” BINGO!
If you think about your prospects as consumers, you are thinking about it in a way that is way too narrow. If you can expand your view and think of them as humans, people with other needs, wants and problems besides the need for your product you may be in for some surprises.
Let’s use the the real estate market with consumers for rental units as an example. Thinking about it that way will lead you to match an apartment with the needs of the renter. Thinking about the consumers as humans, with their specific ethnic backgrounds, family configurations, love for animals, and history, you will recommend a rental unit within a specific neighborhood that has neighbors who love animals and is located within an area that has the right school system – a much richer match.
So the alternative to consumers is humans or people.
This is a new one, and most people focus on the media part of social media. Doing so automatically triggers thoughts around a channel for communications, a way to reach people, and other spam-like activities. What is really important about social media is of course the social – how the social with all its messiness is invading all business processes but also offering tremendous opportunities to those who can harness what emerges from this chaos.
So don’t think about social media, focus instead on social media.
There are other words like that which are causing us to have blinders when we think about marketing. Another obvious one is product, which automatically makes you focus on the features of the product instead of the human who might buy it from you. A much better term would be solution, which includes the buyer as part of the thinking.
Do you know of other words or metaphors that we should try to change in the world of marketing?