Paul Long shares his raw notes from a Margaret McGill (gravitytank) presentation at MRA's 2016 Corporate Researchers Conference, called "Beyond Buzzwords – Uncovering Meaningful Insights From Your Consumers"

Much different meaning between companies and their customers,

So what is a buzzword? Buzzwords permeate culture for a short period of time with a quick rise and fall.

There is a power in buzzwords because they are sticky..but making assumptions about what a word means without knowing it’s context shows the dark side of buzzwords

Context changes meanings: 

  • “clean” – different in food industry, cleaning products [my note, in design e.g. for websites means something quite different]
  • “holistic” – companies mean taking care of whole body, whereas consumers accupuncture, teas etc.

Your definition isn’t wrong … but neither is the consumers. So, how do we bridge the gap?

Step 1: Understand your organization’s meaning – even internally different departments could have different meanings

  • Tactic – Get alignment from many places
  • Tactic – Build a hypothesis but don’t get attached to it

Step 2: Understand your consumer’s meaning

  • Tactic – things before words – get people to describe the experience: before they know how to describe a new product or experience, they have their participants do it for them
  • Tactic – words before things – to understand differences between premium, ultra premium and luxury they gave participants tangible examples to sort and compare (a picture is worth a thousand words)

Step 3: Build the bridge

  • Tactic – Single words can’t stand alone, they need support – storyboards, visualizations, frameworks, personnas, they all add depth and clarity to the definition you’re trying to convey (let’s get visual)
  • Tactic – Talk like your consumer – role-playing: having team members take on the consumer role helps them emphathize. They won’t even notice they’re using consumer language.

Step 4: Lather, rinse repeat

Things change rapidly (slang keeps changing)


  • Understand your organization’s meaning
  • Understand your customer’s meaning
  • Build the bridge
  • Lather, rinse and repeat

- Originally published at Paul Long's blog on September 26, 2016 as "2016 MRA CRC – Beyond Buzzwords"