One of the great charms of being a nerd journalist is that you get to meet a lot of smart people, see what they’re making, hear about their new product plans, and write knowing and insightful reviews about them.
The downside is wading through the bad PowerPoint presentations and confusing press releases that stand between you and the aforementioned smart people.
I like marketing people; I really do. I was a recovering marketing person myself before I discovered drink and turned to nerd journalism. Mar-comm people are universally polite, prompt, and cheerful under the worst of circumstances. And they tolerate ink-stained wretches like me poking fun at them in a public forum.
This is all part of my job. I do it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
This week was spent at the annual Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), a yearly showcase for all things embedded and a regular pilgrimage for tech journalists from all parts of the world. A nerd hajj, if you will.
Amidst all the exciting bits, bytes, and buzzwords were some bewildering product announcements. I couldn’t help noticing how difficult it was to decipher what some of the product pitchmen were saying. I thought at first that I must be losing my hearing or that early-onset Alzheimer’s had at last arrived. (ESC is a lot like having Alzheimer’s: you get to meet new people every few minutes.)
And yet, for all the inscrutability of the presentations, our industry is doing pretty well.
Booming, in fact. So, putting two and two together, I finally figured out that it must be the press releases and the product pitches themselves that are the causes of this success. We’ve obviously moved on to a different stage of growth that requires a new vocabulary. It all became clear.
Nobody makes chips anymore; they make “programmable code engines.” Network equipment becomes a “seamless connectivity solution.” This week alone I heard about enablement bundles, leverageable solutions, technology continuity, solutions-focused agnosticism, go-to-market strategies, and optimized cost solutions. Oh, what a brave new embedded world that has such products in it.
So as a public service I’ve decided to offer this modest primer in Embedded Newspeak. Study up, and maybe someday you, too, can be a marketing-communications professional for the embedded industry.
Very, Very Important
It’s important to say “very, very” before every adjective. Words like critical, important, and significant don’t work by themselves anymore. It’s not enough to be important; it’s always very, very, important. Otherwise your doltish audience might miss the point and think “important” means “unimportant.” Be sure to overdo it by saying everything is very, very, critical or very, very significant.
Unique Is Actually Unique
In olden times, unique meant “one of a kind” or “the only one in the world.” That doesn’t matter anymore. Now, unique only means good, or maybe just kind of unusual. Be sure to say your product is “totally unique” or “more unique” or (best of all) “very, very, unique.” That’ll close the deal.
Our industry is always reinventing itself, so we’ve reinvented the word “literally.” Now when you say “literally the tip of the iceberg,” you don’t mean icebergs at all. No, you mean a metaphor, a simile, an analogy, such as a big problem masquerading as a little problem. So “literally” now means “not literally.” I thought that’s what “figuratively” and “metaphorically” meant, but we’re not using those anymore, I guess.
I’m not sure what you’d say when you really do mean the tip of a big mountain of ice floating in the ocean. But that’s science, so never mind. And with global warming it won’t matter soon anyway.
“Motivate” is such an old-fashioned word. We use “incentivize” now. Because it’s a lot like incentive. Except, you know, it’s a verb. Much simpler to remember-ize.
Impact Effectiveness Impactfully
Ever since “change” became too short and common, we’ve needed a much more pretentious word to replace it. Thankfully, “impact” was handy, and so now everything impacts everything else.
And when that’s too clear, we can rely on “impactful” to really get someone’s attention. Very, very good PowerPoint is impactful. Or so I’m told.
Nobody likes to talk about price, so “price point” avoids those awkward conversations. Now it’s all just business and reaching a certain price point is the new go-to-market strategy. When you point at the price, is that a price point?
The Functionality Paradigm
Products don’t have features, they have functionality, which is way better because it’s got way more syllables. And big multisyllabic words show that you’re a professional. You went to college. You got a degree in something other than English. That’s why you’re in charge of communications.
Math is messy. It’s much easier to just say a number is “significant” when you don’t really know what it is. Nobody cares anyway, right? So your product’s 5% reduction in power consumption is “significant.” Just like your 10% increase in performance is significant. In fact, we can use “significant” as a catch-all term for “any vague number greater than zero.” It’s kind of like third grade when they taught us about “integers.” It’s all just numbers, right?
Your Seams Are Showing
Everybody hates seams, so it’s important to assure everyone your product is seamless. Seams are icky. Seams are seamy. We’ve never seen a high-tech product that had seams in it, but we’re sure we wouldn’t like it. Better to play it safe and make sure everything you offer is very, very seamless.
The Solution Engine
Those poor customers; they have so many problems. Good thing you’ve got the solution! In fact, everything you make is a solution! Your chips are connectivity solutions. Your software is a time-to-market solution. Your EDA tool is a productivity solution. In a world full of solutions it’s a wonder anyone still has problems.
And engines! They drive the industry forward. New processors are execution engines. New video chips are chock full of graphic engines. Network engines power seamless internet connectivity solutions, all without generating an ounce of carbon exhaust. It’s a miracle.
A Methodology to the Madness
We’re told that people ignore half of what we say, so it’s important to say twice as much and use big words in place of small words. Otherwise the simpletons might miss the point of your “method,” so it’s important to talk about “methodology” instead. You see? The bigger word makes more of an impact (oops: it’s more impactful).
I know “methodology” sounds like the science or study of methods. But that’s old thinking. Methodology means exactly the same as method, but better. Because it’s got three extra syllables. And sounds kinda scientific.
And don’t forget that ideology is the study of IDEs and that apologists study apes.
When in doubt, call it technology. After all, isn’t that what we all do? If it’s not a chip, a box, a board, or something else tangible, just call it “technology” and figure the other person will nod knowingly.
It’s so gauche and clumsy to say a customer bought your widget. Better to say they applied your technology. That makes them sound so much more clever, and you more inventive. It also totally clouds the mind of the journalist and obscures your real product. A win-win.
If you’re not robust you’re toast. Wimpy products fail; robust products prevail. Eons of evolution have taught us (well, some of us) to prefer healthy, hairy-chested, robust mates. Columbian coffee is robust. French mimes are not.
Robust is especially useful if you’re a PR writer paid by the word. You can insert it as many times as you like, for any type of product that you like, and it’ll make sense. After all, who’s going to prove you wrong? How can they say your product isn’t robust? Have you seen our hairy-chested user’s manual?
For extra credit, here are some very, very impactful verbiage solutions you can use in your go-to-market press materials to literally incentivize your target market: full-featured, scalable, powerful (and its slow cousin, simple-yet-powerful), platform, address (as a verb), optimized, integrated, market-leading.
This was just a primer to get you started, but it should be enough to get you a high-paying job with a high-tech PR agency. Apply soon, before your position is filled with a random-word generator.