Editorial note – this is a post from Matt, one of our 26 Characters.


The brief was explicit in its ask yet still read like Greek. Suffice to say I do not speak Greek. Luckily, however, I was fluent in Marketingese.

I know what you’re thinking: Marketingese? That’s not even a word, let alone an actual language. I beg to differ. After all, for years it’s been my job to simplify the complex, to – for lack of a better term – dumb down what on the surface appears to be content only a Mensa member could fully understand. That, my friends, is Marketingese.

And the best part about it? It’s as much a customizable dialect as it is a universal one.

Any copywriter worth their salt – and, frankly, several who are not – speaks some form of Marketingese (or its sister language Advertish). In some cases translation comes as easy as simply reading and repurposing, while others not so much. Fluency is oftentimes as dependent on one’s willingness to learn as it is the channel it’s being presented within.

For me, taking a fully immersive approach seemed to be the most successful. Outside of a couple of introductory courses taken in college, my marketing and advertising experience prior to working within the industry firsthand was similar to most others: I learned by way of consumerism. Even at a very early age I absorbed ads like sponges, dissected their messaging, wallowed in their image choices, filed their logos into my memory banks. And so it made sense that when I was presented with my first brief umpteen years ago, I relied as much on my intuitions as I did the skill set I was already comfortable with.

As one who’d studied creative writing in college with dreams and ambitions of becoming a novelist, yet working as a copywriter for a dotcom, I wanted to find a way to marry my love for the written word with my proclivity (and responsibility) for analyzing communicative trends. Along with time and practice, I knew it would take a bit of what I like to refer to as “Frankenstein-ing”: merging different parts to create a greater whole. Thus, my first of many lessons in becoming fluent in Marketingese.

What I learned throughout my years as a copywriter was that consumers respond to language that’s both appealing and understandable. No surprise there. No one wants to read an ad (or social post, or blog, or billboard, etc.) and feel as though they got nothing out of it; or worse still, feels less informed than before seeing the ad in the first place. People want to be drawn in, engaged.

And so now, when presented with a brief, I try to apply the same 3 principles to each task at hand:

1.) Understand and appreciate your audience by becoming part of them.

And by “audience” I don’t just mean the target market. I’m also referring to the client who assigned the task in question. After all, you’re speaking to them as much as the folks you’re targeting. Ask questions. Dissect the brief for pertinent facts, reasons to believe. Take into consideration your audience’s knowledge, behaviors and interests, and put yourself in their shoes. What would appeal to you? How would you want to be served up this content? What’s the best way to articulate the facts and figures and crucial data without it reading like motorcycle instructions?

For me the best approach has always been taking a fully immersive one, diving head first into whichever brand I’m tasked to develop content for. I’ve often joked it’s not unlike what Method actors do. If consumers expect expert content, shouldn’t it come from an expert?

2.) Develop content that’s easy to understand, even if the topic is not.

The conceptual phase is very crucial as it’s when creatives determine the idea behind the content piece as a whole. Just as crucial is the ease and appeal of which this content is presented. And so when you’re pulling the data out of the brief and thinking about the various ways to put it back in to your content piece, it’s important to simplify, simplify, simplify. Don’t copy and paste the specifics and plunk them into the body copy (unless explicitly instructed to – hey, we’ve all been there). Take those facts and find a way to make them more appealing. Better still, build a framework around these facts that consumers will find engaging and memorable. Ask yourself: what’s the common theme of the information you’re tasked to market? Can you build a story around it? You’ll find you can build a story around just about anything. You just have to put your mind to it. For example… … a few years ago I had been tasked with creating a video script about IT services for a leading technology provider.

The brief was as dense as a Tolstoy novel, but I knew how to tackle it. I pulled apart the details and tried to find a common, relatable theme. In tandem with an art director, we came up with a few ideas on how to better serve up the content without losing any of the facts or the provider’s offerings. We asked ourselves: what would audiences respond to? How do we make this easier to understand? It felt like a no-brainer that determining a few metaphors that could be applied to the subject and establishing a narrative around these metaphors would be the best approach. Once the theme was in place the details could be sprinkled throughout. Content would no longer seem like a series of buzzwords or an endless spew of jargon. At best, audiences would understand the overall picture, regardless of their knowledge about the finer points of IT services. At worst, they’d get a compelling story. It was a win-win. Luckily the client felt the same way.

3.) Be explicit. What’s most important about the content developmental process is being as explicit as possible.

Yes, establishing a device is important, but you’re ultimately selling something tangible, not conceptual. This is where clarity is key; audiences, whether B2B or B2C, need their content to be clear and concise. Ask yourself: what action do we want audiences to take? Once that’s been determined, use simple, direct language to light their path. The last thing you want is for consumers to get lost; you need to be their GPS system.

Mind you, every project is different, unique in their own way. But applying these three principles in some way, shape or form is the most surefire approach to becoming fluent in Marketingese. At least it has been for me. It’s made me a better writer because of it; I’m confident it will do the same for others.