I participated in a survey today for a big magazine that deals with the computer industry. The survey used words that were, well, meaningless....

As a result, the survey results they will get from me (and everybody else who fills out the survey) will be relatively useless as well.
Here is the list of characteristics they wanted me to use when judging the computers from various manufacturers:
* Quality
* Reputation
* Service/support
* Reliability
* Ease of integration with other technologies
* Value for the dollar
* Ease of operation
* Unique and superior feature(s)
* Breadth of options
* Price

The problem with this list starts with top characterisitc: Quality. What does that mean? I have no idea.
Perhaps they mean the computer is reliable (but that characteristic is also on their list, so is there any difference between Quality and Reliabilty?), or maybe they mean it works well so that is doesn't need service and support (but that also refers to Reliability, right?).
Esentially, "Quality" means all those things... and so it means nothing. That's one problem with the survey.
Here's another....the word "Reputation." What does that mean?
Maybe it means the computer company has a reputation for quality (but then what do I do with the word Quality?). Or maybe it means they have a good reputation for providing service and support (but that's another characteristic on their list). Or maybe it means the company has a reputation for a great price (again, that's another word on their list).
You see, this is a very confusing survey to fill out...and that was just on the first page!
The point is that words like Quality and Reputation are almost meaningless words in marketing (their not actually meaningless, but in fact refer to something else). This is just an example of the confusion that marketers run into when they start using ill defined words. It confuses not only their strategy, but the consumers that they should base their strategy on.
Don't even get me start with the word "Value..." since that is also convoluted with the word "Price". In fact, I'm not sure what the word Value stands for here...do you?

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.