The Marketing Lesson in the Sprinkles vs. Jimmies Debate

Aug 20, 2019

The debate rages on down the shore and at countless ice cream shops for another summer – what do you call those little sugary ice cream and cake toppings? Are they sprinkles or jimmies?

Some swear by jimmies, others say it has to be sprinkles. Others split the difference and call the rainbow-colored bits sprinkles, and the fake-chocolate toppings jimmies. Apparently some people even call them nonpareils, sugar strands or hundreds and thousands.

What’s in a Name?

The waxy toppings were invented in the Netherlands and go by hagelslag, a reference to the Dutch word for hail. They gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1920s. The term jimmies first popped up around 1930. Some say it’s named after a candy company employee, others claim it’s a variation on the old English slang term “jim-jam.” There are also persistent rumors that the word has more racist connotations.

However the name came to be, jimmies has remained a popular term in the Philadelphia and Boston areas. Words like these can often pinpoint where you grew up, as this fascinating New York Times quiz demonstrates.

In Marketing, Words matter

Ice cream shops everywhere have a choice to make. And while it may not make or break the business, its importance goes beyond tomayto, tomahto.

For brands looking to connect with customers, the words you use matter. Every industry has its preferred nomenclature, and debates over B2B jargon can be just as fierce as whether you call it a hoagie or a sub. Is it blockchain or distributed ledger technology? Is it financial advisor or adviser?

Content marketing is all about providing value for your audience through authentic advice and insights. That authenticity comes from understanding not just what your customers want, but how they talk about it. The smartest thought leadership will ring false if it’s not written using the tone and terms the outlet and your audience expect.

Long story short: Never shortchange opportunities to hear your customer’s voice. Read trade publications, survey audiences and listen closely to prospects to better understand how to talk to them and serve them.

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