10 marketing buzzwords. Now you can sound even smarter at cocktail parties.

I’m going to say right up front that most of the buzzwords that are hot topics in the marketing and advertising world right now are not all that new. Many of the concepts they represent have been around for years – some for decades – in one form or another. There’s nothing new under the sun, as the expression goes. Nonetheless, these buzzwords are trending high in marketing circles, and if you don’t want to run the risk of sounding clueless at all those Mad Men-esque cocktail parties you undoubtedly go to, then here’s your chance to study up. It’s sort of a CliffsNotes, oversimplified-but-just-right-for-cocktail-party guide to 2013 marketing buzzwords. There will be a quiz at the end, so pay attention.

Here they are, and in alphabetical order, no less. Cheers!

Addressable Marketing

An oversimplified definition might say that addressable marketing is just a new word for direct marketing, CRM, personalized marketing or one-to-one marketing. The nuance is that whoever coined the phrase “addressable marketing” seems to be prompting us to expand our thinking well beyond traditional direct marketing activities (like direct mail or email) and encompass every possible tactic that can be addressed to an individual rather than to the anonymous masses (like traditional TV, radio, print and outdoor). By one definition, ALL marketing activities fall into one of two categories: addressable and non-addressable. From that point of view, banner ads that follow you around the web based on your individual web browsing activity could be considered addressable, even though they don’t say, “Hey, John, we saw you shopping for flights to Chicago, so now we’re going to put ads for Chicago flights on every website you visit.” The promise of addressable marketing is that attribution is more accurate, so therefore it is easier to calculate ROI and improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness. 

Content Marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is such a thing), content marketing is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” In case you missed it, there’s been a paradigm shift over the past few decades from marketers talking at people to people pretty much ignoring what marketers want to say about them and Googling stuff to find out for themselves. Just the fact that Google is now a verb tells all. What do the folks at Google (the noun) want to do for us after all? Find the best, most relevant, most helpful content, of course. And so it’s been game on for marketers for years now. SEO and PPC tactics are worthless without good content. To do content marketing well, the key is understanding the personas of the audience and what kind of content they want. Then the marketer’s job is to create that kind of content across every online channel — especially websites, blogs and social media — to engage all those Googlers and Bingers (more nouns) out there.


Remember back to addressable marketing? How do those marketing guys know it’s youthey are addressing when they want to? Up until now, it has largely been through the use of cookies (in use on the web since about 1996). If you follow the online privacy debates that have been raging for years, fingerprinting will seem like the next chapter in the same book. As “do not track” laws are being considered in legislative bodies around the world, and as more web users try to protect their own privacy by not allowing cookies and even subscribing to services that promise to protect their online privacy, marketers are trying to say one step ahead. The hunt is on for any new technology that will allow more and better addressable marketing and more relevant content marketing (see how it all ties together?). For those of you who are creeped out at the thought of marketing Big Brothers invading your privacy at every online turn, then you’re not going to like fingerprinting. It’s the newest way for marketers to track you across the Internet without using cookies. Fingerprinting also extends the ability to identify you beyond desktop web browsers to mobile devices and email software for which cookie tracking has never been possible. The concept behind fingerprinting is the same in the digital world as it is with the physical world: as no two people have identical fingerprints, no two computers have exactly the same configuration of hardware and software features. The fingerprinting server scans the user’s computer and creates a profile based on those unique hardware and software features. Welcome to 1984 again. If you like fingerprinting, you’re going to love marketing based on your DNA profile. Find out about your own computer’s fingerprint at Panopticlick.


Unlike “native advertising” (below), which I think is rather unclear, gamification is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. In the simplest terms, it’s making a game of something that is not normally a game. More properly, it’s applying game thinking, game dynamics and game techniques in non-game situations. The idea is to encourage participation and engagement in activities that might not otherwise be, well, fun. According to Gartner Research, 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies plan to use gamification for marketing or customer retention, and if you can trust that number then gamification is a pretty big deal. A simple marketing example would be to present a consumer with a banner ad that consisted of a game to play rather than a more straightforward marketing message. Like many other buzzwords in my list, gamification is not really a new idea. It’s just a hot topic as marketers stretch to find every way possible to engage people with their content.

Native advertising

In my mind a better phrase that means the same thing as native advertising is “sponsored content.” I like sponsored content not just because it’s easier to understand what the heck it really means, but also because I want to get references to addressable content marketing into as many definitions as possible. So then, native advertising is a commercial message that is sort of “disguised” as content. That includes sponsored content in your Facebook news feed (marked “Suggested Post” — suggested by whom is unclear…), as opposed to Facebook “ads,” which appear in the right column (see below). Native advertising also includes promoted Tweets, contributed editorial on some news sites, and now Tumblr and Linkedin are jumping into the fray with sponsored posts. When done well the content is relevant and targeted and ostensibly gets more attention, because it’s placed where users are consuming their personal content.

Native Advertising

On-Demand Marketing

On-Demand MarketingThis one may be the hardest to define in one paragraph because the simple version leaves a lot to be desired. But here’s the simple version anyway: on-demand marketing is the use of advances in technology and marketing techniques to provide consumers only with marketing messages/activities that they truly want, because they are so perfectly targeted, relevant and timely. If you believe McKinsey&Company, the very future is of marketingis on-demand marketing. It’s like the scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise is walking through the store and the ads are all targeted just to him — only in this version of the movie he actually likes it, because he wants to see those ads and not all the other stuff that isn’t relevant. It’s like all the buzzwords in this entire blog post — addressable gamified content fingerprinted to your neocortex, working together in a kind of marketing nirvana where people actually want it. Check out McKinsey’s picture of the consumer in 2020. And check back with me in 2020 and we’ll all see how close they came.

Responsive Design

This one’s pretty simple to understand: responsive design is creating websites in such a way that they automatically adapt to fit the screen size of individual user’s device. You and I and a third person could all be looking at the exact same website ( is a good example) on three different devices and each be seeing a slightly different view of the same content (notice how I get the word content into every definition).

Apple Devices

In responsive design, style sheets are used to reconfigure the content on the fly so that the user experience is optimized for any and all screen sizes. Prior to responsive design, the proliferation of mobile devices in many different screen sizes made it very difficult to create just one website that looked good in all cases. Earlier in the mobile revolution, the solution to this problem was to create two websites: one for desktop browsers and one for phones. Then the iPad came along, followed by literally hundreds of other tablets, phones and e-readers. It quickly became impractical to make a separate website for each device, so some genius created responsive design. To see how it works, go to on your desktop computer and manually shrink the size of your web browser’s window. Watch how the content and navigation rearrange and adapt as the window gets smaller. Brilliant! This is all pretty new stuff — the term was coined in 2010 and Mashable called 2013 The Year of Responsive Web Design.

Top climbers

According to a Google Search Trends report, the terms “gamification,” “content marketing” and “responsive design” have gone from near zero to being fairly high in awareness over a three-year period. “Native advertising” has materialized from nowhere in less than 12 months.

Three also-rans

Here are a few bonus words. When I was researching terms for this post, I turned up some words that, even though they are not new, are still hot topics in the marketing business and might just come up at one of those cocktail parties. Consider them CliffsNotes for your marketing history class, because new they are not, but some of them may be new to you.

Earned media

You may also hear this term in the context of “earned, owned, bought” or “earned, owned, paid” or even “earned, owned, paid, shared” media. Earned media is an umbrella term that covers traditional PR (the press talking about/covering your brand orFacebook Likepublishing/broadcasting your press releases) as well as word-of-mouth (WOM), both offline and online. It’s any message about a brand that is transmitted from the media to others, or from one individual to another, by any means without being paid. Paying people to write about your brand on their blogs is not earned media. Earned media does include people writing about your brand on their blogs without being paid, as well as individuals (or the press) writing reviews and giving ratings, talking about your brand on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media site. (Personally, I don’t like the phrase “earned, owned, paid, shared media” because sharing via social media is, to me, simply a subset of earned.)


HTML 5HTML5 is simply the newest version of the programming language used to create web content. In most respects it’s a lot like good old-fashioned HTML (HyperText Markup Language), but it provides the web developer with features not possible in previous versions, including animation and multimedia content that would previously have required Flash or other plug-ins. Many of the animated Google Doodles are good examples of what can be accomplished using HTML5 that would previously have required Flash. The stubborn refusal of Steve Jobs to allow Flash on iOS devices may have been the single biggest impetus behind the sudden growth and importance of HTML5.


Last but not least we get to one of my favorite subjects, user experience design (UXD). First I’d like to clarify that UX means user experience. Often that phrase is used (incorrectly) as a verb; for example, “We need to do UX.” But more properly, a user experience is something that a person has, and user experience design (UXD) is what professionals do to create positive user experiences. The kinds of experiences we are usually referring to when we say UX in the marketing context are those that people have when interacting with a website, app, banner ad, email or other digital marketing tactic. In actuality, UX can apply to any experience a person has with a product, service or company — digital or in real life. UXD is a broad umbrella that covers a range of disciplines including user research, information architecture, prototyping, interaction design and usability testing among others. In marketing, UXD is becoming more important all the time as more and more of consumers’ engagement with brands occurs through digital channels. A bad user experience can drastically diminish brand equity, while a positive experience can help build loyal customers and brand advocates.

So now you’re equipped to sound smart in the most serious marketing conversation. As I look back over the list I’m struck by how much the industry has changed and how quickly it continues to evolve. A few years ago we were talking a different language. In today’s marketing discussions the word “advertising” may not even come up. It’s a brave – and exciting – new world.

And now the quiz. What one word represents the recurring theme or trend in nearly all these buzzwords?


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