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Marketing acronym cheat sheet

Or: I wish they’d taught me this in journalism school.

It happens all the time. You’re in a meeting and someone uses an unfamiliar acronym. You can ask someone to explain, or hastily do a Google search on your phone, or just muddle through and try to keep up.

Suffer no more. Here’s a clip-and-save glossary of commonly used business and marketing acronyms. This should be helpful for entry-level employees, people switching from editorial to marketing, and anybody else who gets overwhelmed by the alphabet soup of marketing jargon.

Updated January 19, 2012. (Did I miss one? Let me know and I’ll add it.)

  • AOV – Average Order Value
  • API – Application Programming Interface. Online companies use APIs to make data available to developers.
  • B2B – Business to Business
  • B2C – Business to Consumer
  • BI – Business Intelligence
  • CAC – Customer Acquisition Cost
  • CCO – Chief Creative Officer. The head creative director.
  • CD – Creative Director. ACD is Associate Creative Director (below a CD), and ECD is Executive Creative Director (above a CD). CD is generally a promotion above Art Director (AD) or Copywriter, which can come with Junior or Senior lables. These titles vary from place to place.
  • CIO – Chief Information Officer. The head technology manager.
  • CMO – Chief Marketing Officer. The head of marketing.
  • CMS – Content Management System. Software that manages content on a website.
  • CPC – Cost Per Click. Used to describe online advertising. Compare to CPM.
  • CPG – Consumer Package Goods.
  • CPM – Cost Per 1,000 impressions. Used to describe all kinds of advertising. Compare to CPC.
  • CRM – Customer Relationship Management. Most large companies use CRM software.
  • CTA – Call To Action. An advertising element telling the audience what to do. ie.: “Buy now!”
  • CTR – Clickthrough Rate. Percentage of people who viewed something and then clicked on it. Used to measure effectiveness of online marketing.
  • DM – Direct Marketing
  • DMP – Data Management Platform
  • DSP – Demand Side Platform. A specific type of system for bidding on online display ads.
  • EPK – Electronic Press Kit
  • ERP – Enterprise Resource Management. Usually refers to a company’s internal data-sharing system
  • FPO – For placement only (used in layout mockups)
  • GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
  • GM – General Manager
  • H1, H2 – Halves of the year
  • IO – Insertion order. Written agreement for an ad piece (for example, in a newspaper or magazine) including start dates, number of insertions, and total cost.
  • KPI – Key Performance Indicator
  • LTV – Lifetime Value. Usually means how much money a customer will spend over his or her lifetime with a company.
  • Marcom – Marketing Communications
  • NPS – Net Promoter Score. A metric derived by asking customers, “How likely would you be to recommend X to a friend or colleague?” NPS can be used to describe an individual customer, a population of customers, or an average of all of a company’s customers.
  • OOH – Out Of Home. Think billboards and transit advertising.
  • ORID – Observations, Reflections, Interpretations, Decisions. A method for conducting a strategic overview.
  • PII – Personally Identifiable Information. Data that requires special care.
  • P&L – Profit & Loss
  • POP – Point of Purchase. Think: in-store.
  • POS – Point of Sale. Similar to POP but more likely to refer to software.
  • PR – Public Relations. Sometimes it’s also used as shorthand for Press Release.
  • PSA – Public Service Announcement
  • Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 – Quarters of the year
  • RFP – Request For Proposal
  • ROI – Return On Investment
  • ROS – Run of Site
  • SaaS – Software as a Service
  • SDK – Software Developer Kit. A set of tools provided to application developers by a platform producer (like Apple or Microsoft).
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • SERP – Search Engine Results Page. Say: “serp.” Used when talking about SEO.
  • SKU – Stock-Keeping Unit. Say: “skew.” A specific variety of product, anything with its own UPC.
  • SLA – Service Level Agreement. Used when negotiating payment terms with a vendor.
  • SM – Social Media
  • SMB – Small/Medium Business
  • SMO – Social Media Optimization
  • SOHO – Small Office/Home Office
  • T&E – Travel & Entertainment. Part of your budget.
  • TK – Used in layouts to signify copy is “to come” at a later time.
  • TCO – Total Cost of Ownership
  • UGC – User-Generated Content
  • UPC – Universal Product Code. Usually means a bar code.
  • USP – Unique Selling Proposition
  • UV – Unique Visitor
  • UX – User Experience, usually with respect to an interactive design

Thanks to Debra and Shaelyne for their suggestions!

Alphabet soup image © Brooke Fuller/Shutterstock

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Copywriting, Language, Marketing


  1. John Rambow says:

    A good list. Another that was new to me recently was the “C-suite,” which means the folks with “chief” in their titles. I’d like to try to get “C-den” or “C-lair” to catch on instead…

    Oh, and also the chief technology officer and the GM (general manager), sometimes used for websites.

  2. Sarah says:

    Anyone ever heard the acronymn “ROTO” in marketing or advertising? Can’t find anything in Google and have a client that mentioned ROTO being a channel they’re using…

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