Marketing and design speak (a journey through some of the twaddle used in the communication industry)

At dollop, we speak human. “Of course you do”, you might say. But this industry loves fuzzwords and psychobabble. Sounding all scientifical in the presentation, but totally befuddling for ‘normal’ people with a life to get on with. So let’s see if we can unfurrow that brow, with an explanation of a few of the words you might come across in your search for a creative agency.

By the way, if you ever hear us say more than three of the following phrases in one sentence, feel free to give us a slap. Here goes:

Above the fold

Everything you see on a web page before scrolling further down is know as ‘above the fold’ content. It’s your headline, calling card, grab ‘em by the taters and make ‘em want more bit. If your hook slips ‘below the fold’ you got problems.

Black Hat SEO

Just in case, we did a whole piece on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) here – give it a spin if you’re already scratching your head. If not, let’s skip jump to ‘Black Hat SEO’.

Just like Lee Van Cleef – the black-hatted geezer with the beady eyes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Black hat SEO is the bad guy. It tries to cheat the system, get round the rules, and flick the Vs behind Google’s back. It does whatever it can to hustle your site to the top spot on page one. But Black Hatters are as ethical as a Pit Bull breeder trying to sell crack to your granny. Don’t even look ‘em in the eye, they could get your website put on the naughty list and thrown in the slammer.


This is a printing term relating to the way artwork is set up. Bleed refers to an area that’s a few millimetres larger than the final trimmed printed piece. This gives the printer a little bit of leeway, so even if they’ve had one too many Daiquiris at lunch, none of the important information ends up on the cutting room floor.

Body Copy

This is the main chunk of text in your brochure/flyer/website etc. Not the headlines, the subheads or strapline – it’s the ‘story’. And if you were wondering, the word ‘copy’ itself is about 700 years old.

According to the OED, it comes from the Medieval Latin ‘copiae’, meaning abundance, reproduction or transcript. By the fourteenth century, via the Old French translation of ‘copie’, copy had come to mean a written account. This was picked up by newspaper hacks and eventually by the advertising fraternity in the early 1900s.

Brand positioning

Brand positioning is the process of differentiating your brand from everyone else out there. You know, your competitors – the enemy. It’s how you want your customers to think of you. Cheap, chirpy, big, bouncy, hot, sexy, funky, punky… whatever.

Your brand needs to stand for something if it has a chance of being noticed, and that’s exactly what brand positioning sets out to do.

Brand purpose

This is your reason for existing in the first place. It’s about defining that special thing you do that the world can’t do without. The trend, over recent years, has been to politicise brand purpose, making it about the environment (we exist to make the world a better place, one haddock fillet at a time) or community. But, it can be quite down to earth too – how you fill a particular gap in the market and make your customers’ lives easier/better/sweatier/scarier/weirder…

Buyer persona

Buyer personas help to put a name and a face to the people you’re selling to. Rather than aiming at ‘25-35yr old males who’re into football’, you try to picture an actual someone who brings your audience to life:

Meet Big Barry. He’s football crazy and lives with his Mum in a council flat on the outskirts of Leeds. He works in the local pie factory and spends his spare cash on tattoos and strong lager… Back story, hopes, fears, behaviours, favourite curry… the buyer persona paints a clearer picture for your designer to get their teeth into.


This is your ‘Call to Action’. Telling people exactly what you want them to do next. They’ve seen your ad, read your web page… now what? Find out more, pick up the blower, shop now, donate, follow us on Facebook, buy the lot and make me a billionaire. Well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!


Content Management System. This is the backend software that lets you edit, manage and add new content to your website. It should be easy to handle so that you don’t have to spend moolah every time you want to change copy, or add new pages.

Hamburger Menu

You know those three horizontal lines you see at the top right on modern websites? Now that everything has to work on mobile as well as desktop, the hamburger menu gets around the old, clunky way of spelling out the navigation across the top of the page.

Click on the ‘burger and it expands to give you more navigation options. Onions, Gherkins and Cheese? If only. It’ll more likely be About, Blog and Contact.

Inbound marketing

Like a siren on the rocks, this all about luring your ideal customers in, rather than shouting your message at anyone who happens to be in the neighbourhood. Tickle ‘em under the chin with a blog post, SEO or perhaps social media. The opposite of broadcasting to the masses, inbound marketing slowly, but surely hooks the exact fish you want and reels it in without it even realizing it’s on the end of a line.


The space between the letters in this w  o  r  d is a perfect example of bad kerning. A good designer or typographer knows exactly how to kern their type to make it look balanced and easy to read. A bad designer w i  ll  j u s  tle a ve   i t t o c h an  c e. And by the way, adjusting the spaces between words is   known    as        tracking.


Say ‘KPI’ in the boardroom and you get instant respect (maybe). Key Performance Indicators help you evaluate your marketing’s performance. What’s working, what’s not and where you should be spending more money. Lead conversion rates, lifetime average spend, gross margins… if you can measure it, it’ll tell you what’s working, and what isn’t, in your effort to hit your targets.


Another typography term, this comes from ye olde days of printing, when physical lead letters were used. The leading is the space between lines of type (more specifically, the distance between two baselines of copy). More leading = more space between the lines.

Lorem Ipsum

Also known as ‘Greek’, this is the dummy placeholder text used by designers to fill the gaps if the body copy hasn’t already been written.

Nerd alert; the actual text that designers use comes from ‘De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum’ (The Extremes of Good and Evil), a philosophical dialogue written by Marcus Tullius Cicero in the summer of 45 BCE. Try that on for size at your next networking event!


A Minimum Viable Product is the point during development where the thing you’re building may not be fully realised yet, but it’s good enough to go to market. MVPs (usually digital products), are rushed out when time is critical; you need to get out there before ‘they’ do. Meanwhile, the tech team will be beavering away adding features and updates, and other knickknacks to be released later.


This is a great tool for getting the overall intended design feel across, without actually committing to getting the tools out. It’s basically a scrapbook of visual references – type, colours, photography styles etc. Something to whet your appetite, before getting lost down a rabbit hole you probably shouldn’t have gone down in the first place.

Organic Search

Next time you do a Google search; have a look at the list of results. At the top you’ll see the first few results have ‘Sponsored’ above them. These crafty buggers have paid to be there. Every time you click on that link, they have to pay. The rest are unpaid results. They got there through the art of Search Engine Optimisation (basically, they’re even craftier buggers).


Printed colours are made by mixing Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) ink – aka CMYK. Pantone (or PMS / Pantone Matching System) maps out all the different combinations, giving every hue/tint a Pantone number/percentage tint value. Designers know exactly what colour they’re choosing and printers know how to match it. Just so’s you know, dollop purple is 7A0065 and dollop green is 96FFC9.


RGB (Red, Green and Blue) is used for on-screen reproduction. Every RGB colour has its Pantone equivalent, so if you know what you’re doing, you can get as near as dammit consistency across all your marketing – digital and print. Neat!

Responsive design

If your website looks great on desktop, but terrible on a phone, you can be pretty sure it’s not responsive. And these days, that’s almost as big an offense as GBH. Your site should look fab, whatever device your visitors use. Everything should scale automatically. If it doesn’t, you’ve been done.

Tissue meeting

We promise, hand on heart, you’ll never, ever, ever hear us saying this. It’s when an agency hasn’t quite got their thinking in order and wants to run first ideas past you. Nothing wrong with that, but ‘tissue meeting’? Ugh. Gives us the heebie-jeebies.


Now that’s a nicer word. Makes us smile anyway – oh, grow up. It’s the little dot on the lowercase i or j. There really is a bit of jargon for everything.


UX, sounds kinda sci-fi, but all it means is, ‘User Experience’. In our world, it’s all about making your website or app super-user-friendly. Making it fun/efficient/intuitive – all the things a digital user experience should be.


UI, or ‘User Interface’, is UX’s kissing cousin. It’s stuff like typography, navigation, layout, animation, screen readers… all the elements that give your user a great UX.

Value Proposition

Or Value Prop, or VP – this is a snappy statement that sums up the value you give your ideal customer. Why they should choose your thing in the first place. It spells out your competitive advantage. It says, don’t go with them, go with us. It’s a promise that can be used as the North Star for all your marketing.

White space

Here’s the thing, White space doesn’t even have to be white. What it refers to is negative space; the blank bits in a design. It’s the bit that some clients resent, “You mean I’m paying for all that, but we’re not putting anything in it?” But the wise person knows that the spaces are just as important as everything else.

A useful phrase to remember (one that your design agency will love you for) is, ‘if everything’s shouting at the same volume, you can’t hear anything at all’.


This is a framework for your website. The skeleton view of how it all hangs together before any of the surface design work is done. This is about getting the structure and overall page hierarchy right, then we get down to the nitty-gritty of making it look and feel beautiful. The wireframing can be as simple as a sketch, or as sophisticated as a scrollable, clickable template, to be played around with online.


We made that one up. Couldn’t resist. Sorry.

If you’d prefer to talk like an actual person with your creative agency, without the jargon, please give dollop a bell. Tom will most likely be the one picking up the phone and we’ve had him tested. As far as we can tell, he’s at least 99.9% human – if you take his fillings into account.


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