Glossary of Marketing Terms

August 8, 2018
5 minutes read

A/B testing

A/B testing is comparing two different versions of something to see which one performs better. This can be done on a website page, an email subject line, an ad, or any other marketing piece that you want to learn about.

For example, if you’re A/B testing a website page half of the visitors will see one version, and the other half will see the second version. You can see which one does a better job at getting visitors to take the desired action and then choose the winner to show to all visitors in the future.


An algorithm is defined as a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps. In the case of marketing, you’ll often hear about Google’s algorithm, which refers to the company’s method of determining how websites rank in search results when someone searches keywords. Google’s algorithm often changes, so it’s important to stay on top of those changes and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.


A brand is a combination of different elements (logo, wordmark, color palette, images, fonts, storytelling, reputation) that together, identifies your company, differentiates you from your competitors and ultimately influences how customers think and feel about your company.

Brand essence

Your brand essence is 2-3 words that capture what your brand will be known for. This is what you want customers to think—or what they already think based on your research—about your brand.

Brand equity

Brand equity refers to the monetary value of your company’s brand. Companies with higher brand equity can charge more for a products and it also affects the company’s stock prices.

Brand positioning

Brand positioning refers to a strategic marketing tactic where you analyze customer and competitor behaviour to find a unique way to speak about (position) your brand’s offering in the market to help guide marketing efforts and messaging. Common activities include creating a positioning map and a brand positioning statement.

Brand promise

Your brand promise refers to what you’re going to guarantee to your customers that makes you unique. Some examples include:

  • Toyota: “Quality, safety, and innovation.”
  • Casper: “Obsessively engineered mattresses at a shockingly fair price.”
  • Chipotle: “Food with integrity.”
  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Brand standards

Brand standards are the guidelines you develop for how your company can be represented publicly. These guidelines usually include the accepted color palette, typography, image selection instruction, voice and tone direction, logo use rules, and any other elements that need to be consistent for that brand.

Brand voice

Your brand voice is how your brand will sound to customers when they read your content. This voice will guide every expression of your brand, from your blog to your sales collateral to your ads.

Buying cycle

The term “buying cycle” refers to the specific path that customers take on their way to buying a product or service. Sometimes called the “sales cycle” or “marketing cycle”, the steps in the journey are: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase (though some versions build these out in more detail).

The idea is that you should consider where your customer is in that cycle when you’re interacting with them and match the tone, channel, and type of information you share with their mindset with a goal to push them to the next stage in the cycle.

Click-through rate (CTR)

CTR is a common digital marketing metric that refers to the percentage of people who clicked on an email link, advertisement or website link. The goal is to have as high a percentage of people who view a marketing piece actually click on a link, and there are different benchmarks for what is considered a good CTR depending on the industry and type of marketing piece.

Competitive position

A company’s competitive position refers to how it’s different from competitors in the same space or industry. It’s a similar concept and process to ‘brand positioning’ (see above for definition) except that ‘brand positioning’ refers to how the company’s overall brand is positioned in the market, whereas ‘competitive positioning’ can be specific to an individual product line or offering.

Conversion rate

Conversion refers to the number of people who complete a desired action stemming from a marketing campaign or asset. For example, let’s say you have an ad for a TV on Facebook with a link to a landing page with information about the TV, as well as a ‘buy now’ button. Your goal for the ad is to get people to click through to the landing page, and your goal for the landing page is to get people to buy the TV.

For this campaign, the percentage of people who saw the ad and clicked on it would be your CTR (see above for definition) and the percentage of those people who went on to buy the TV would be your conversion rate.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA)

When you’re spending money on marketing activities to get new customers or clients, there will be a cost associated with each new lead you bring in. When you calculate how many customers you got from a particular spend, that’s your ‘cost-per-acquisition’.

Cost-per-click (CPC)

When you buy an online ad, there will be a cost associated with each click on your ad. That cost is referred to as CPC.

Customer/buyer personas

Customer/buyer personas are fictional characterizations of your target customer(s) that you create from insights gathered through market research. Personas help you create hyper-targeted messaging and marketing strategies.

Demographic data

This kind of data refers to information about a customer’s socio-economic situation, such as gender, income, education, location, and employment.


Differentiation is a marketing term that refers to specific features or benefits that make your company different than competitors in your industry. Identifying differentiators is a strategy to give your company an advantage over competitors by occupying a gap in the market, or by helping you target only the customers most likely to buy your product out of the total pool of available customers.

Direct mail

Direct mail is a traditional marketing tactic that involves sending letters, coupons, or flyers to potential customers through the mail. Many companies still use this tactic despite the popularity of email because it works well among older consumers, and it allows you to get around around the limitations of reaching new customers through email due to anti-spam regulations.

Focus groups

A focus group is a collection of people brought together for a guided discussion about a product or campaign. Focus groups help companies understand how customers might interpret campaign messages, and also to validate the market viability of a new offering before launching it to the public.


Keywords are the words, phrases, and questions that people put into a search engine like Google to try to find information, or products and services to purchase.

Keyword research

Keyword research is a tactic where a marketer uses online tools to better understand what keywords potential customers use when searching for a product or service to purchase. Keyword research identifies trends of search terms, as well as traffic numbers for those terms, which help marketers determine which keywords are the best to bid on when creating online search ads.

Landing page

A landing page is a single website page that is built off of an existing website. Landing pages are usually used for campaigns and contain information that is specific to that campaign and designed to encourage visitors to take a particular action. Whereas regular website pages can have a variety of purposes, landing pages are designed to accomplish a specific business goal.


A lead is a potential customer identified through marketing activities. Lead generation refers to the activities marketers do to find new customers to consume the company’s products or services.


A logo is a symbol or design used by a company as a unique identifier representing the company’s brand, reputation, and offerings. It can be used alone or together with the company’s wordmark in a logo lockup (see definition below).

Logo lockup

A logo lockup is where a company’s workmark, brandmark, and/or lettermark or locked together to be used as a whole, rather than separately.

Long-tail keyword

Long-tail keywords are phrases that include at least three words and are very specific when compared with general keywords.

Mission statement

A mission statement expresses what an organization aspires to be in the world. They’re usually concise (two to three sentences) and are more about the company itself than the products it offers or their value to customer.

Mood board

A mood board is a physical or online collection of images, typography, colors, and ideas that bring to life a particular conceptualization of a brand or campaign.

Organic marketing

Organic marketing refers to the tactics marketers carry out without spending money (not including people costs). For example, SEO (see below for definition), is an organic marketing tactic, whereas advertising on a billboard is a paid marketing tactic.


A patina is an impression that gets associated with a brand or product. Marketers will often try to connect a brand with a particular lifestyle or emotional state to influence customers to buy.

Positioning map

A positioning map is a quadrant chart that is used to map out different competitors in a space based on their real and/or perceived strengths and weaknesses when compared with customer needs. Positioning maps are used to try to assess a brand’s overall strength in the market, and also to identify a niche that it can occupy, which helps to streamline marketing efforts and messaging for greater ROI (see below for definition).

Primary research

Primary research is the act of gathering new information that doesn’t already exist in a packaged state, straight from the source. Interviews, online surveys, and focus groups are all methods of conducting primary research.

Return on investment (ROI)

Return on investment refers to the value derived from money spent on marketing and business development activities. Measuring ROI helps you see which tactics work well for your business, and which ones are a waste of time and resources.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is a series of activities that you can carry out on your website and blog that will help your online assets rank higher in search results. SEO is about working with search engines’ algorithms (see definition above) to make sure your website shows up as high as possible in the results listed when a customer searches for keywords related to your offering or brand.

Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing is a series of tactics used to increase a company’s visibility and website traffic on SERP’s (search engine results pages) by paying for the top position. SEM can also cover any activity, including SEO, that improves results on the SERP page.

Secondary research

Secondary research uses resources that already exist to learn insights and information about a topic. For example, government demographic data, industry reports, and pricing guides, would all be types of secondary research.


Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols, and how people interpret meaning from them. Semiotic theory is often used in disciplines like advertising and critical theory, where identifying how audiences interpret messages—and how to influence them—are paramount to success.


Targeting in marketing refers to activities where you try to match a marketing asset to the audience most likely to benefit from it. An example would be using Facebook’s audience targeting tool to control who will see your ad and ensure you’re not paying for views by non-customers.


The term ‘traffic’ refers to the number of visitors and page views to your website or blog.


One element of a brand is typography, which refers to the accepted fonts to be used in marketing materials.

User/customer intent

The term ‘user/customer intent’ refers to the mindset of a person who is interacting with your brand or marketing assets. Customers who demonstrate intent are more likely to convert into a sale, so they are very attractive leads. For example, if a customer searches for your product (i.e., ‘buy a TV New York’), they would have a higher level of intent than a random person who sees your flyer for a TV lying on a subway seat. Money spent targeting the high intent customer will likely get a better ROI.


A wordmark is the name part of a logo, where the company’s name is written stylistically using the company’s typography and colors. It can be used alone or together with the logo in a logo lockup (see above for definition).

Visual identity

A brand’s visual identity includes all the pieces most people normally think of when they hear the word “brand”—logo, colors, fonts, and images. All these visual elements come together to form a unique expression that belongs to your brand alone. It’s the visual identity that makes your brand memorable and recognizable over time.

By Kristin Knapp

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