Marketing lingo has broad and varied origins. The provenance of the terms on the list below spans astronomy, the Industrial Age, television and Yiddish. So, you’d be forgiven for not knowing them all.

Then there are newer terms that have been created to describe concepts that have only just been developed. The explosion of martech makes it hard to keep up.

Below are ten terms that I think are essential if you are a modern marketer: five old, and five new.



A boilerplate is a description of your company or organization, designed to be used over and over without change. Anyone who has written a press release has added this short paragraph to the bottom of the page. But what do a boiler or a plate have to do with PR? ‘Boiler plate’ originally referred to the small metal plate that identified the builder of a steam boiler (shown at left).

The term was borrowed by the printing industry, where plates of text for widespread reproduction, such as advertisements or syndicated columns, were cast or stamped in steel (instead of the much softer and less durable lead alloys used otherwise) ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. They came to be known as ‘boilerplates.’

The only marketing term borrowed from heavy industry? I think so.

The Funnel

The funnel is a shorthand term for describing the route by which prospective customers, or prospects, become customers. The visualization of the process looks like a funnel. A larger number of prospects go in the top and are reduced to a smaller number of customers who come out the bottom. Marketers talk about the demand funnel. Sales managers track the sales funnel daily. So who came up with the funnel visualization in the first place?

The Funnel

Arthur Peterson, a marketing and sales executive in the pharmaceutical industry, coined the term. In his book Pharmaceutical Selling, Detailing, and Sales Training, he wrote, “The progression through the four primary steps in a sale, i.e., attention, interest, desire and action, may be compared to that of a substance moving through a funnel.”

Peterson’s funnel was dissected horizontally into four steps: A-I-D-A (attention, interest, desire, action). The concept has stuck, and nearly every sales executive learns it early on in his or her career. You can see above how the sales funnel looked in 1959.


Greeking is a typesetting technique where intentionally incomprehensible dummy text is used to test the layout of a document. Since the reader can’t understand the text, they focus on the layout, which is the point. Plus, the designer doesn’t have to wait for the content to be finished to start working. The term was derived from the common idiom “It’s Greek to me,” itself from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

If you work in marketing, you have probably seen the words “Lorem ipsum dolor” when reviewing a new document or website designs. These words are the most commonly used for greeking, and are a scrambled version of the Roman philosopher Cicero’s “The Extremes of Good and Evil.” In case you’ve forgotten it from high school Latin class, here’s the text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

So yes, the most common form of Greeking is in Latin. Got that? It does make some sense when you think about it. Using the Greek alphabet would likely be distracting to the document reviewer, which is what greeking sets out to avoid in the first place. Latin, on the other hand, uses the same Roman alphabet as English. Latin is probably used since the dead language is the least likely to be understood by the modern reader. (What’s used in Greece, Russia, Japan, China and other countries that don’t use the Roman alphabet I don’t know.)

Who invented the technique? No one knows the name of the printer himself, but the scrambled version of Cicero’s writing first appeared in a print specimen book in the 1500’s. It was popularized in the 1960’s by the British typeface company Letraset. Aldus, creators of PageMaker (now owned by Adobe), are credited with bringing the text online.

So, the technique came to us from an anonymous printer living during the Renaissance, using the writing of an ancient Roman philosopher, and termed in a nod to the most famous playwright of all time. Never has so much history been packed into a single paragraph we ultimately ignore.

Lower Third

Originally from the television industry, but now applicable to all kinds of video, a “lower third” is the graphic overlay that is typically used to identify the speaker. It can be used to convey any kind of information to the viewer. A typical example is shown on the left.

The graphic appears at the bottom, to be the least obtrusive, and in what is known as the safe area – an area viewable by all television screens. There is no hard and fast rule that it must be one-third of the screen, and it can be either a horizontal bar with text and graphics on top, or simply white or black text with a drop shadow to enhance readability.

With the increased use of video in marketing today, television terminology is becoming better known by marketers. Other essential terms include its lower third neighbor the bug, b-roll, bumper and outro.


Every event manager knows the term. If you have ever been to a trade show, you have probably collected tcotchke, more commonly known as giveaways. (Some people call them swag, which is sometimes written as schwag, though that spelling carries with it a druggie connotation, and should never be written in all caps, as that is the type of baseless guess that too many marketers are guilty of.)

The term is the Yiddish word for ‘toy’ or ‘trinket,’ and commonly pronounced ‘chach-ka’ or ‘chach-kee,’ but no one in marketing is ever really sure how to say this word. Or spell it. Here are just some of the accepted spellings: tshotshke, tshatshke, tchachke, tchotchka, tchatchka, tchachke, tsotchke, chotski, and chochke.


Agile Marketing

Are you interested in adopting agile marketing, but unsure if it will fit with your organization’s culture? Or, perhaps you started and it’s not working. As I’ve come to learn, doing agile marketing right means more than daily standups. You will need to learn a few things about how you manage your people to make it work.

For those still not familiar with the concept, which is borrowed from software development, the idea of agile marketing is to create time-bound sets of objectives, prioritize them critically, and measure achievement frequently. Here’s how Jim Ewel puts it in his Agile Marketing blog:

Agile marketers follow a process, a process designed to increase alignment with the business aims of the organization and the sales staff, to improve communication, both within and outside the marketing team, and to increase the speed and responsiveness of marketing. The process copies that of agile development, with some differences in the details. This process is iterative, allowing for short marketing experiments, frequent feedback, and the ability to react to changing market conditions.

The biggest differences from conventional marketing operations are a) you move from yearly or quarterly planning to monthly or weekly planning, b) you are much more ruthless in your prioritization, and c) marketing meetings become much more

Burn Pixel

I’d heard of pixels being fired, but never burned. The term burn pixel was a new one on me.

To understand burn pixels, you first need to know about tracking pixels, which are single, transparent pixels placed on web pages. We all encounter tracking pixels while browsing, we just don’t see them. When a web page is downloaded, so is the invisible tracking pixel. That allows the marketer to track how many people visited the page. In digital adman parlance, tracking pixels are “set” or “added” to pages, and “fired” when downloaded.

A burn pixel is a type of tracking pixel. It is used in retargeting (aka remarketing), which is a marketing technique where advertisers show display ads to people who visited and then left their website. When someone visits a site but does not convert, the ad network cookies the visitor, then displays ads on other sites served by the network. Retargeting keeps the company or product top of mind and works to compel the visitor to return. This is why you will see ads for products you searched for or browsed when on other sites later the same day.

Now let’s feel the burn. You don’t want to annoy users by showing them your remarketing ads forever and ever. Nor do you want to spend money retargeting visitors who already returned and converted. A burn pixel allows you to untag a visitor who has converted, or someone who seen your ads a set number of times as set by the frequency cap. Why it is called a burn pixel, and why “burning” equates to removing someone from a list, I have not been able to unearth, despite a few hours of Googling.

Where there’s fire, water is sure to follow, which leads us to the cookie pool. This is the group of cookies maintained by the ad network, representing all users who have visited your site and are targets for remarketing. The pool can be segmented in your retargeting efforts. You might segment them by the type of product, geography, device type, or other factors, and serve up different ads accordingly.

As those of you who read my blog know, I am fascinated by the evolution of the language we use in marketing. The fact that an ephemeral, invisible pixel can be discussed in such elemental terms as burned and fired is fascinating.

And speaking of evolution, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the origin of the word pixel. Such a fundamental part of our digital lexicon, we forget that it is a portmanteau of the words picture and element. Coined by Silicon Valley engineers? Nope. NASA scientists in 1965, and based on a the German word Bildpunkt (picture element) – from 1888!


You’ve probably seen a parallax website before. Especially common on long, single-page scrolling sites, images in the background seem to scroll at a different speed than the text or images in the foreground. That’s called parallax.

According to web design site Awwwards:

The parallax effect uses multiple backgrounds which seem to move at different speeds to create a sensation of depth (creating a faux-3D effect) and an interesting browsing experience.

They have some great examples.

Since, as you know, I like to dig into the history of marketing verbiage, parallax comes from the Greek parallaxis, meaning “alteration.” Parallax is a difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is used in various fields. Astronomers use it to measure distance between stars. Rifle scope need to account for parallax to overcome differences in how a shooter perceives the crosshairs (foreground) and target (background). Video game developers use it to create a sensation of depth in first person games. And more.


It wasn’t too long ago that marketers were learning about retargeting. Now there’s a new sibling in the advertising family named ‘pretargeting’. So what’s the diff?

Pretargeting is an online advertising technique where marketers target individual buyers based on profile, past behavior or both. It’s pre- and not re- because your ads get shown before your targets have ever been to your website. To my mind, pretargeting is a refinement of the age old advertising demographic; it is much more personal, down to named individuals.

How might a marketer use pretargeting? You could place your ad in front of all people who have visited your competitor’s website. A ski manufacturer could place ads in front of those who have checked the ski report in the past month. Or you could display your ad to people with a specific title, or who work for a given company. The idea is to get in front of likely buyers even if they have never heard of you, which is of course the aim of most advertising, but this new technique is, uh, more targeted.

Pretargeting works using cookies. These cookies track all kinds of information about your online life, and combined with information about you and your profile from other sources, creates what is known as audience data. This data can then be used to create very specific audiences who can be shown ads on most major platforms – Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others. You can work with one of these vendors, create your own advertising data management platform, or work with a service like Terminus to target specific buyers. With so much data available, the possibilities for creating custom audiences are almost endless.

I personally am very excited about all the possible applications of pretargeting. I also love how the innovation in martech is changing the language we use – marketing neologisms spun up like never before. Seems like only yesterday I was learning what a retargeting burn pixel is. Now I find myself in strategy sessions deciding on my pretargeting vs. retargeting spend. What’s next?

Third Party Data

Marketers have more data about potential customers than ever before. Some is in their own database and some is in big advertising platforms like Google AdWords. Most marketers use a combination, and hence the need to distinguish the various sources.

First party data is the information collected by you about your prospects and customers. It is typically collected from your website or marketing automation system using cookies. It may also be supplemented by research done by your SDR team or via customer surveys.

Second party data is someone else’s first party data. When you gain access to a partner’s database to run a promotion, you are using second party data. A common example is sending invitations to a dinner you co-host with another company to their database of customers. Or maybe a vineyard wants to create a joint promotion with an artisan cheese company and advertise via retargeting from their online cheese shop. There are endless possibilities.

Third party data includes the proprietary data from Google or Bing (which you can leverage but not own), as well as data you can purchase from aggregators like eXelate, BlueKai (now Oracle) and others. If you choose to buy third party data you may also need to invest in a data management platform.

A final caution when using any kind of data. The privacy landscape is changing with regulations like CASL in Canada and GDPR for EU citizens. The ins and outs of data usage are too involved for this post, but make sure you understand how you are able to use your first, second and third party data.

Read more: Marketingspeak: What Is Greeking? And Why Is it Latin?