Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

Inside Baseball

Today's marketing thought of the day comes courtesy of our 4-year-old, Noah, who's request at dinner the other night was:  Salad, but no lettuce, with bangos and white (not dark) caesar dressing.  He wanted to make sure the pasta we were having would not have squiggles in it, and he asked if we had any bread dogs to go with it.

Got that?

Of course, when he made this request, my wife and I understood him perfectly.  Had he said this to anyone else, I'm guessing he would have been faced with some really puzzled looks.

Just like parents and their children, any common community of interest will have its own jargon.  It can serve as a shorthand to help "insiders" communicate easier, and in fact a lot of it likely developed on its own over time as people start using acronyms, abbreviated terms, or just a common lexicon for things that they don't need to explain to each other.  

But it does a lot more than just save a couple of words here or there.  It helps create a feeling of inclusion for the community's insiders, that they're part of something.  Just like a secret handshake, it allows people to self-identify with the others with common background and interests.  Take today's subject line; I'm guessing that some of you are perfectly familiar with the reference, while many of you (especially those outside of the US) aren't.

But jargon can go both ways.  If there's too much, or if it's too hard to figure out what things mean, it can make your community seem too clique-ish.  The key is keeping the barrier to entry low enough that someone new to the community can come up to speed without too much trouble.  

What are the marketing implications?
 Don't be afraid to use and promote your product or industry's inside terms, as it will help you establish a sense of community.  but also make sure you are making it easy enough for outsiders to come in.  Maybe you need a "start here" post in your user forum (you do have a forum, right?) that explains common abbreviations, acronyms and terms.  And keep an eye out for signs that people are having trouble breaking in when they want to.

Oh - and as for Noah's dinner requests?  "Salad, but not lettuce" meant he wanted only leafy lettuce, not crunchy romaine with the spines.  "Bangos" (which also go by "mangos") are how he interpreted Bacos, which he recently discovered.  Somehow, all salad dressing has become variants of "caesar" dressing to Noah.  White caesar is actual caesar dressing, while dark caesar would be italian vinaigrette.  While Noah loves broccoli and other green vegetables, of late he's started complaining at finding any herbs, bits of spinach, or anything else green in his pasta.  And - for reasons even we still don't understand - he calls those little flecks of green "squiggles."  Bread dogs gave us all a laugh when he came out with the term the other night.  We were having some leftover Olive Garden breadsticks and out of the blue he asked "can I have another bread dog, please?"  You've got to admit it, the term fits perfectly!



    Richard Schwartz | Website: | 10/12/2009 10:59:31 AM GMT

    Maybe "squiggles" comes from "sprinkles", because those little flecks look kind of like the candy topping for ice cream? Unless of course you call those "jimmies" in your house ;-)

    Adam Gartenberg | Website: | 10/14/2009 12:27:19 PM GMT

    We do call them sprinkles, not jimmies, and while it's a good suggestion, real sprinkles are "sprinkles" in his book. This may just be a case of Noah's self-assured (and unique) naming methodologies. Back when he was in his Thomas the Tank Engine phase, he would name the trains and their tenders individually as, for example "Gordon" and "more Gordon" or "Henry" and "More Henry." Similarly, he named his two baby dolls "One Baby" and "More Baby," (although, ironically, More Baby was the first one he received).

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