Is your tech jargon costing you customers?

You want to tell customers about your product’s technical details. But do they want to hear it? In this two-part post, we ask whether your tech jargon is costing you money.

Tech marketing — a lesson from Apple

Remember the Apple iPod ‘dancing silhouette’ ads from the early noughties? We know that seems unconnected with tech jargon — but bear with us!

Produced by agency Chiat/Day, the silhouette ads were suddenly everywhere, and they acquired instant iconic status. What’s more, they worked. In the three months after the first silhouette ad campaign was launched, iPod sales went through the roof, notching up a 50% increase on the previous quarter. Now there was an incredible piece of tech marketing!

The irony is that tech god Steve Jobs hated the concept.  According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, the great man complained, “It doesn’t show the product…It doesn’t say what it is.”

But Chiat/Day dug their heels in and, with a small compromise, the ad campaign was approved. If they hadn’t argued their case successfully, Jobs would have ended up nixing a stupendously effective ad.

Jobs’ reaction is understandable. Apple had just created this stylish, innovative, ultra-usable piece of technology. Naturally, his instinct was to show it, to tell people what it was. But the ad agency were following marketing 101: sell the benefits, not the product. Their brilliantly minimalist ads focused on what the iPod would do for anyone who bought it. The dancing figures were effectively saying that an iPod would bring exuberant happiness, freedom and the chance to join the ranks of the effortlessly cool.

We think that this little story tells us something important about technical jargon in ads.

The jargon connection

The iPod ad campaign is a worthwhile reminder of three things:

  1. You care about your tech product.
  2. Your potential customer doesn’t care about your tech product.
  3. Your potential customer cares very much about what your tech product can do for them

As passionate as you are about the fantastic specification of your tech product, there are good reasons not to share all of that in your advertising copy. And that leads us (finally!) to the topic of jargon.

Jargon makes our over-describing tendencies a hundred times worse, and it’s such an easy trap to fall into. After all, when you live and breathe a tech product  and spend your day talking to other people who do the same),  you’re bound to develop your own vocabulary for describing it.

The problem comes when you start assuming that your jargon is second-nature to everyone else too. You may be familiar with single pane of glass management, clusterless resource pools and elastic block storage, but that doesn’t mean your prospects are.

The iPod Dancing Silhouettes is a powerful reminder that in certain circumstances, marketing can succeed with minimal product information, provided the benefits are expressed powerfully enough.

That’s all very well for B2C, but…

Now, there’s one problem with this anti-jargon line of argument: does the same really apply to B2B*? Perhaps a B2C* giant like Apple can get away with making customers feel groovy, but doesn’t a B2B audience needs some solid information? Don’t they expect to be told about your product, and they’re familiar with all the technical terms terms as well?

Well, we’d definitely agree that B2B and B2C are two different animals, so in part two, we’ll look at whether there’s also a case for B2B tech businesses cutting back on jargon.

With 20 years’ industry experience, the CEC Marketing have worked in a range of sectors. However, we specialise in marketing for technology companies. Whether you’re looking for help with an email campaign, ethical telemarketing, sourcing data or anything else marketing-related, we’d  love to talk to you.

*Yes, the irony of using business jargon like B2B isn’t wasted on us!