Updated July 2020
Buzzwords allow workers within the same company or industry to converse in a way that avoids re-explaining concepts that are likely common knowledge. They’re effectively verbal shortcuts.
This is a good thing.
The problem arises when conceptual lingo remains just that: conceptual. A word loses its meaning and becomes simply rhetoric, no longer rooted in anything tangible. Even worse, when business and marketing jargon are transferred from one company to the next, irrespective of differences in operations, products or culture, words take on incompatible or conflicting definitions.
Take “hack,” for instance. It has multiple definitions as both a noun and a verb. We laypeople understand hack to most commonly refer to a computer being compromised by unauthorized agents. But in the last decade we’ve been inundated by references to “growth hacks,” “life hacks” and “money hacks.”
What the hell are we even talking about anymore?
Digital marketing has not escaped this linguistic manipulation.
You’re just as guilty as we are.
1. Intelligent Content
In a sharp reversal of course, marketers are no longer producing “dumb” or “unintelligent” content – we’ve finally entered the era of Intelligent Content. All of our content marketing problems are solved; thank you, artificial intelligence and optimization platforms.
While we truly appreciate the promotion of content that actually converts, using such monikers as “intelligent” blurs the lines between what we’re really talking about: content that ranks versus content that doesn’t.
2. Influencer Marketing
If all it takes to be an “influencer” is a social media profile, thousands of followers and a magnified sense of self-worth, then virtually every 14-year-old with an Instagram would qualify.
Companies looking to save money by relying on influencers to do much of the heavy marketing lifting may be sorely let down, considering once you attach your brand to an influencer, the risks may outweigh the upside. You think Pepsi regrets its Kendall Jenner ad?
Sure it does. Influencer marketing is basically just an attempt to ride the coattails of the cool kids.
3. Actionable Insights
What do we want?
When do we want it?
As soon as it becomes actionable!
In addition to the fact that “data” is no longer fancy enough (it now has to be called “insights”), using a term like “actionable” implies the numbers are going to jump out of the screen and present themselves to you, ready to transform your entire business model. In reality, all insights are actionable; it may just be that you lack the staff, talent or tools to act upon them.
4. 360-Degree Visibility
We’re talking more than transparency. Beyond a birds-eye view. Beyond a wide-lens panorama.
We’re talking absolute, unobstructed, microscopic incisions into every single facet of your marketing programs: That’s 360-degree visibility.
Hello, and welcome to my Ted Talk.
Whenever you turn an action verb into a noun (otherwise known as nounification <= that’s a bonus buzzword for ya), something has gone wrong.
Why can’t we just stick to delivering content, instead of sending deliverables?
6. Deep Dive
Sometimes brainstorms, group-ups and downloads just aren’t enough. You need a mythical, subaquatic meeting to truly understand what’s going on with a project or client.
That’s why we have deep dives.
7. Consuming Content
Just as my father and my father’s father before me, I awake every morning at sunrise, feed the chickens, prepare breakfast and consume my coffee, toast and newspaper.
As an ordinary consumer in a consumer economy, I love to consume, among other things, coffee, toast and the written word. I pluck the little geometric fonts from the classified ads section and eat the words, unsalted.
See how silly it sounds when we “consume” content?
8. Thought Leadership
A thought leader is pretty much an influencer before influencers were influencers.
They dominate their industry through sheer intellectual veracity, dropping knowledge bombs so deadly Google bows down and ranks their website first for every keyword ever.
Thought leadership is about as vague a goal as you can have, so you might need to set up a deep dive to determine what your goals actually are.
This one may be a bit unfair because programmatic advertising is still a young technology, and it really has remade the entire media industry.
But marketers and advertisers throw around the term “programmatic” in the same way that your co-worker insists on using words like “motif” and “picaresque” in a normal lunchtime convo. Were you to call their bluff, they couldn’t really explain how programmatic technology works.
10. User-Generated Content
If you’re really crunched for time, you might just say UGC, then spend the next five minutes regretting using an acronym that most people aren’t yet familiar with.
Because the phrase contains the word “user,” marketers love to bandy about how customer-centric they are (more on this later).
11. Analytics Dashboards
Analytics are great. Dashboards are great. In fact, you’re not really running a marketing campaign until you’ve integrated all your channel analytics into a convenient dashboard with plenty of visualization features.
We include this buzzword because of its necessity, not because anything is innately annoying by hearing it used too often. Though you may beg to differ.
12. Customer-Focused or Customer-Centric
I’m a corporation, but I care about customers and the customer journey and the customer experience. That’s why I litter my website with references to “customer-focused solutions” and “customer-centric experiences.”
How else am I supposed to drive home the point of how much I love customers?
13. Strategic or strategy
Few things are as redundant as “strategic.”
We’re all aware you want strategic campaigns and strategic audience targeting. But what does strategic mean? It’s completely subjective and serves no purpose in marketing conversations.
I don’t have time for two-syllable words, so I just say “mocks.” Where are the mocks? Do we have the mocks ready for the client?
Are you mocking me?
Literally every for-profit business that has ever existed seeks to achieve ROI. There’s no need reminding anyone what your bottom-line goal is or questioning how to measure success. It’s ROI. It’s always been ROI.
16. Sales Funnel
I don’t think you’re even legally allowed into an exec meeting without knocking on the door three times and whispering “sales funnel” into the sliding peephole.
17. Lower My Bounce Rate
As surface-level metrics go, bounce rate is about as unhelpful as they come. It’s too often misunderstood, and it can easily lead marketers to misinterpret data and course-correct in the wrong direction.
If you enter into a conversation about high-level digital marketing goals, lowering your bounce rate likely should not be a top-tier concern.
Perhaps because the term is a carryover from the ad industry, marketers love talking about campaigns, especially executives who aren’t actually involved in day-to-day operations.
Not every asset is part of a campaign. Not every project that has multiple deadlines and several departments involved is a campaign.
Sure, we love campaigns – just actual ones that include monthslong delivery schedules, cross-channel messaging and analytics tracking every step of the way.
19. Local Agency
I have a hypothesis that companies use local agencies because the word “local” confers warm feelings of proximity, collaboration and common understanding. This may be true, and it may be beneficial. But it’s certainly not a causal relationship.
If you’re a digital company running digital marketing campaigns yet still require the physical presence of a vendor, you may be missing the point of digital.
Tell me you haven’t heard these phrases before:
- “How can we leverage this on social?”
- “I’m hoping to leverage our internal experts.”
Leverage is a lazy word that in marketing speak just means “use.”
21. Brand Awareness
Similar to thought leadership, brand awareness is one of those terms that can lead to exaggerated expectations and underperformance.
If you can’t quantify what brand awareness means to you, it’s not very practical to even use. I can write blogs to increase social media shares 35 percent, but does that align with your understanding of creating awareness of your brand? It could or it couldn’t.
22. Brand identity
Branding, brand identity, brand persona, brand personality – where does it end? Don’t forget about brand psyche and brand chi.
Let’s go back to basics. Your brand is all the intangible elements of your company (values, mission, culture, attitude, personality). Branding is how you convey those (with design, a logo, your style guide, your tone, your marketing approach, etc.). Brand perception or brand image is how it all gets received in the end.
All those other “brand” terms are just lies to confuse you. Brands don’t have souls and they don’t go to heaven.
23. Contextual marketing
Unless you’re a time traveler, you don’t need to be told to make marketing contextual.
Contextual marketing is one of the most imprecise, unnecessary marketing buzzwords yet. It’s a nebulous way of saying targeted marketing. Every marketing campaign is contextual to something – a business goal, an audience, a potential customer, a product. Something. Anything.
What is non-contextual marketing, anyway? Running through the streets shouting “buy my bumbershoots” while pushing a peanut cart? Writing a blog post about your favorite high-end toilet seats when you sell risk management software?
Hopefully the peanut pushers and risk managers of the world know better.
If not, I am contextually concerned for them.
We’ve written previously on growth hacking, omnichannel marketing, viral marketing and snackable content (ugh, yikes, quit it), so we had no desire to dig up those treacherous terms again for this project.
But don’t let the above 23 buzzwords discourage you from embarking on your next digital marketing venture. Just try to be more mindful of word choice in your communications, instead opting for being as clear and concise as possible.
You’d be surprised what can be accomplished when you use natural language as opposed to the corporate jargon we’ve all become accustomed to.
OK, one more for you: low-hanging fruit.