The Fun of Marketing Lexicons

The first time I heard Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie referred to as “Brangelina,” I admit I laughed out loud. Not only did it reflect the “mergement” of their individual brands and personalities, but it was the perfect way to describe the famous “let’s-do-everything-together” couple

The first time I heard Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie referred to as “Brangelina,” I admit I laughed out loud. Not only did it reflect the “mergement” of their individual brands and personalities, but it was the perfect way to describe the famous “let’s-do-everything-together” couple.

From Bennifer to A-Rod, many clever neologisms have crept into our everyday vernacular—but these new portmanteaux (a combination of two, or more, words and their definitions into one word) are not just for celebrities any more.

The history of portmanteau words is a long one. Words like “smog” (coined by blending smoke and fog), “motel(motor and hotel) and “newscast(news and broadcast) have become familiar and instantly recognizable parts of the English language.

More recently, portmanteaux have crept into our marketing speak, as they can provide the ideal way to describe a complex idea in just one or two cleverly crafted words that will be instantly understood by readers/listeners.

Call it creative grammar or the result of a 140-character limit, these new memorable mashups are rapidly becoming part of our cultural landscape. While you may not find these useful in your day-to-day copywriting, I promise you’ll find a way to incorporate them into your everyday conversations:

  • Glamping: Headed on an African safari? Who would choose to sleep on a bedroll on the hard ground when you can spend the night in a beautiful white tent, on a raised platform (to avoid snakes!), tucked into a cozy bed covered in a down comforter? The word has become so popular an entire travel company took ownership by rebranding itself.
  • Frenemy: You shared your big idea with your boss. They sold it up the food chain as their idea and got a raise, a promotion and the corner office. You hold friends close, but hold these folks closer.
  • Hangry: How you feel at 7 p.m. after you learn what your boss did with your idea. Pass the ketchup.
  • Fauxthority: Just because they wrote a book on a topic doesn’t mean they know anything about it. (Can you say “ghost writer”?)
  • Fandemonium: Fans of a celeb/performer/event take over the sidewalk, road, and surrounding area.
  • Socially bipolar: You’re successful, popular and well paid. You get to a business conference, don’t recognize anyone and stand alone, sipping your Merlot. Okay, perhaps not an official portmanteau, but you get the picture.
  • Scentsational: It smells as good as it looks and tastes.
  • Sexting: Um … I think this is self-explanatory.

And, of course, what list of portmanteaux would be complete without the word “Wikipedia”—the blending of the Hawaiian word “wiki” (which means fast) and “encyclopedia.” Interestingly, if you search the word “wiki,” you’ll find that it now refers to a web application that “allows people to add, modify or delete content in collaboration with others.” That definition, of course, comes from Wikipedia.

The LinkedIn Endorsement Smackdown

For years, I was a brand evangelist for LinkedIn. For me, it was an ideal way to stay on top of my business connections, meet new colleagues or learn more about individuals BEFORE engaging with them in any kind of email dialogue or face-to-face meeting. It definitely helped me establish my business presence for a larger audience, instead of carrying a long bio on our website. But I was surprised when they introduced the concept of “endorsements”

For years, I was brand evangelist for LinkedIn. For me, it was an ideal way to stay on top of my business connections (changing jobs, getting promotions), meet new colleagues (either through a mutual connection or using my LinkedIn credits) or learn more about individuals BEFORE engaging with them in any kind of email dialogue or face-to-face meeting.

I carefully built my profile and reached out to clients and colleagues for recommendations, smugly building it to over 700 connections. It definitely helped me establish my business presence for a larger audience, instead of carrying a long bio on our website.

But I was surprised when they introduced the concept of “endorsements.”

On the surface it seems simple enough. You choose a series of “skills” and areas of “expertise” from a long list (or create them yourself).

Connected to somebody on LinkedIn? That must mean you know them and are fully aware of their skills, so you have the experience to give them a nod on a skill they’ve identified in their profile when presented with that question.

The problem is that all sorts of people have now endorsed me—some are people I barely know, and, to be honest, many have endorsed me for skills they couldn’t possibly know whether I have or not.

Out of 700-plus connections, 68 have endorsed me for direct marketing. Fair enough … I run a direct marketing agency and have worked in the business for 30-plus years, so it’s pretty safe to say I have DM skills. But it seems strange to me that a sales rep for a printer (who I have no memory of ever meeting) or my personal realtor neighbor, would endorse me for this skill.

I realize that when I look at someone’s profile, a little box pops up asking me if that individual has the skills or expertise they selected … and I could just skip by and ignore the whole thing. But that’s not my point.

My question is: Does having 68 endorsements for a skill make me more of an expert than, say, the guy who only has 12 endorsements for that same skill?

To answer this question, I clicked on the “Skills & Expertise” section of LinkedIn (found within the “More” drop down menu). I typed in “direct marketing,” and the first “expert” who popped up, Bill Glazer, had only 9 endorsements for direct marketing. In fact, after reading his profile, I’d say that Direct Marketing is not his area of expertise (although he has plenty of marketing expertise).

The second guy, Bob Bly, had 99-plus endorsements for Direct Marketing … (I know Bob and he deserves 99-plus endorsements). The third guy had 44 folks endorsing him, and the fourth guy has 58 endorsements, so the algorithm can’t use the number of endorsements as its only search criteria. In fact, after peering into the top 15 folks LinkedIn suggested as having direct marketing skills, I have to wonder about the usefulness of this search tool as the skill sets of these folks were all over the map.

So I have to ask LinkedIn: What’s the point of the endorsement tool? If it’s not being used to rank order skills for those who are searching for that kind of help/expertise, then why offer it? And, if any of your connections can endorse you for a skill, doesn’t that make the idea of endorsements disingenuous?