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B2B Landscape

The Impact of Inappropriate Language

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In B2B marketing, a hidden issue is causing significant problems – the overuse of industry jargon. This overreliance on specialized language is leading to unclear messaging, negatively impacting customer relationships and financial outcomes.

Marketers are known for transforming ordinary concepts into compelling stories. However, their dependence on jargon is creating communication barriers, alienating potential customers. This issue goes beyond simple word choice; it reflects a deeper misunderstanding in how companies communicate with their audiences. By using industry-specific language, they unintentionally create exclusivity, failing to connect with a broader customer base.

For marketers, the challenge is to balance specialized language with clear, meaningful communication.

Language choice can profoundly shape a brand’s perception and its customer engagement. A 2013 McKinsey study highlighted a disconnect between what B2B companies emphasize and what customers value. Companies often focus on buzzwords like “innovation,” while customers prioritize more practical aspects such as supply chain efficiency. This mismatch, driven by jargon, weakens brand perception and obscures true value propositions.

A survey by Bospar and Propeller Insights found that 88% of B2B decision-makers believe that clichés and overused buzzwords diminish a company’s credibility. Words meant to impress, like “disruptive” and “world-class”, can actually create a sense of insincerity and disconnect.

The use of jargon, while intended to demonstrate expertise, often limits engagement with important decision-makers. Clear and inclusive language is essential, especially as industries and their vocabularies evolve.

The misuse of jargon not only hides the real value of products and services but also undermines the trust necessary for strong business relationships. In a field where clarity and authenticity are crucial, falling into the buzzword trap is a costly mistake.

Jargon is not just a communication issue; it’s indicative of a larger problem – a lack of genuine innovation. Marketing can’t compensate for mediocrity or lack of features in products. Analyst firms, with their tendency to create acronyms, have contributed to the overabundance of specialized terms, leading to confusion.

Marketing departments, often smaller in B2B companies compared to B2C, are not as involved in product development, leading to missed opportunities for input and marketing strategies. This separation results in inefficient processes and a lack of cohesive marketing thinking.

For effective B2B marketing, companies should adopt clear, simple language that resonates with their audience. IBM’s “Outthink” and Cisco’s “Internet of Everything” campaigns are exemplary, using accessible language to communicate complex ideas.

B2B companies can implement several strategies for improved communication:

  • Embrace Clear Messaging: Focus on straightforward, jargon-free messaging that directly addresses audience needs. Encourage all departments to adopt a clarity-first approach to communication.
  • Use Story-Driven Creativity: Employ narratives that reflect common experiences or challenges, making offerings more tangible. Use customer success stories and strong imagery to engage audiences.
  • Seek Regular Feedback: Create a feedback loop with the audience, using surveys, social media, and customer feedback to refine messaging.


McKinsey study:

Bospar and Propeller Insights survey: 

IBM’s “Outthink”:

Cisco’s “Internet of Everything”:

Wawa Gilewski Market Intelligence