Three Words to Eliminate from the Procurement Vocabulary

February 7, 2019

By Bill Duggan

andrea crisante/

It's time to eliminate three words from the marketing procurement vocabulary. At the top of the list is "commodity," which according to Merriam-Webster is: "a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (such as brand name) other than price, or; one that is subject to ready exchange or exploitation within a market."

Marketing is absolutely not a commodity. Marketing builds brand awareness, differentiates a product from its competition, creates loyalty, and develops long-term relationships with the customer. Marketing — and marketing procurement — is about driving value rather than solely reducing costs. Strong marketing can drive exponential business growth. Marketing is absolutely not "subject to ready exchange." Different marketing approaches will produce different results. Marketing is a "differentiator."

"Vendor" is another word to eliminate from the marketing procurement vocabulary. Merriam-Webster defines vendor as "one that vends, i.e., to sell especially as a hawker or peddler." Yikes! In my twenty-year agency career, I was called a vendor exactly once. It was demeaning and insulting. I responded back by saying that a vendor sells hot dogs at the ballpark and instead the agency was a marketing partner to the client.

A "supplier" is "one that provides the quantity or amount (as of a commodity) needed or available" (also from Merriam-Webster). This word isn't quite as negative as vendor, but it still stings a bit as it implies the product or service being provided is a commodity. In a limited number of cases it can be applied to marketing, e.g., the purchase of paper for in-store signage. But marketing procurement would be better off also eliminating (or severely restricting) the use of the word altogether.

Instead, let's consider words like "partner" and "alliance." A "partner" is "one associated with another especially in an action." An "alliance" is "an association to further the common interests of the members."

Marketing procurement should consider the above perspective in their actions as well as how they are presented on their respective business cards, i.e., their job titles. Who would you rather work with the "Director of Vendor Management," or "Director of Media and Agency Partnerships?" The "Commodity Manager," or "Alliances Manager?"

Words matter! The ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference (April 28–May 1 in Phoenix) is the industry's largest gathering for marketing procurement and agency finance. Let's continue this discussion there.


Thanks to Media Village for originally publishing this blog.

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