Jargon is a tell for marketing cluelessness

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In the world of stage magic and especially close-up, table magic, magicians can suffer from what’s called a tell. This is an error, a performance flaw in the trick that gives the whole trick away. It’s the egg you didn’t have fully tucked up your sleeve, or the coin peeking out the bottom of your hand. It’s the misdirection that wasn’t convincing enough to draw your eyes away from the pocket. One tell and the illusion crumbles. This gets trickier and trickier the more you perform for other magicians, too – a very minor tell to the layperson becomes a glaring error to a fellow magician.


The other day, I listened to a vendor’s sales pitch say – earnestly, with a completely straight face – “This is a turnkey solution to future proof against verticalization of the sector”.


Here’s the basic lesson: corporate jargon is a tell. It’s a tell to the laity – the CEO or VP who may not necessarily know the exact industry terms, but can smell BS. It’s a glaring tell to fellow marketing and sales professionals who not only call BS, but realize that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing or what you’re talking about if you have to resort to language like that.

As with stage magic, the simpler you can make your show, the cleaner you can make your presentation, the more amazed people will be when you surprise and delight them. If you can’t explain why someone should do business with you in a jargon-free tweet, then you either have a marketing problem or a product problem (and if the latter, you will have a marketing problem too).

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