I don’t retell many biblical stories but the Tower of Babel is a useful one. I admit I am probably not getting it perfect but the general story goes that everyone spoke different languages. It was, therefore, all a bit of a disaster. Think herding cats or clearing people out of a bar at the end of the night. It was a tough challenge because no one was listening, or could not understand. (Or maybe just didn’t want to hear). This is where The Marketing Common Language Dictionary comes into our story.
MASB: The Marketing Accountability Standards Board
In 2007 MASB was established with the intention of bringing more rigor, especially financial rigor, to marketing. This was in order to promote marketing accountability. The central concern driving the creation of MASB was that:
marketing had been relegated to default cost-center status and lessened corporate influence because it lacked metrics reliably tied to financial returns.
Something had to be done. But what? John Gaski, a professor at Notre Dame and a leading light on the dictionary, outlined in a recent article in the Journal of Macromarketing the projects that were undertaken. One of the most important was the marketing common language dictionary. Indeed, this remains a critical project. Indeed, it likely ever will be important given the nature of dictionaries. Language evolves so you can never really finish a dictionary. That makes the task quite like eating a dish involving broccoli.
The Marketing Common Language Dictionary
The dictionary initially consolidated some available resources. The MASB team (before my time) showed great judgment by drawing many of the early definitions from our marketing metrics book. (For a free chapter of our book see here).
Why did we need a dictionary though?
a good dictionary would benefit marketing theory and practice through improved communication, thereby enabling better accountability.Gaski, 2021, page 1
When you know what another person means you can discuss ideas with them. We can learn from each other’s words only when we know what the other person is advising. If we don’t comprehend their meaning it is hard to take much of value from what a person says.
The marketing common language dictionary creates this shared understanding of meaning. A common language is vital to communication.
Hopefully. all marketers can use the dictionary to standardize their terminology. I’d add a special plea to academics — don’t produce a syllabus without a link to the dictionary. We want future marketers to get used to using standardized terms and grabbing the future marketers while they are still eager for grades seems like a successful strategy.
What Next For Accountability?
Who knows what tomorrow brings, in a world few hearts survive? Maybe we can have a guess. John Gaski suggests that there may be some confusion currently in ESG (environmental-social-governance) reporting. This means there is definitely a challenge in that area. Given this Gaski thinks maybe that the marketing common language dictionary could possibly help standardize these business communications. The dictionary has already been very helpful but the potential for future impact is still massive.
For more on MASB see here.
For more on marketing metrics see here.