20 Overused Marketing Terms that Need to Go

Frustrated man hitting screen because of so many overused marketing buzzwords

I say them. I say them to look like I’m part of a greater movement. I say them in meetings to look good. I say them in posts to seduce potential clients to the point all the senior account executive has to do is whisk them away down the proverbial sales funnel (at least in my Tuesday fantasies).

Marketing terms and words—the categorically irritating ones. The kind you might gibber at a HubSpot or Marketo conference with a smile while cringing inside. It’s time to expose them, or more like keep exposing them. I’m not the first or alone in this; other articles have been written on this topic. Even Ann Handley in her bestselling Content Rules provides a list, and many consider this book the Bible of content marketing.

Let’s uncover some of the most annoying marketing terms, overused business jargon, worst marketing words, annoying marketing buzzwords, or whatever you want to call them (as I stuff this post with keywords).

1. Anything with an “-ize.” You can include strategize, incentivize, or monetize. Let’s –real-ize there is better, simpler vocabulary out there.
2. Any and all sexual terminology. “sweet spot,” “pain point,” or “sticky content.” We’re doing market research here, not posting on Tinder.
3. Leverage.  It’s a noun! It’s a verb! It’s a word that should be taken out. I can already see “harness” replacing it in a near future outside of good context.
4. Robust. It means healthy and strong, rich or full-bodied—like an athlete or freshly brewed coffee. Or perhaps Derek Rose drinking Starbucks on the bench after his latest injury. Why it refers to a marketing platform or enterprise software is a cosmic mystery. Methinks someone said it at a marketing conference and the rest is viral history.
5. The internet of things. A term that could have been invented by Yoda. It implies apps in your household appliances that are connected to the web, just another step towards the arrival of Skynet or the Matrix.
6. Thought leader. A person not in the rabbit hole of marketing may see this expression as an oxymoron…like “military intelligence.” In truth, it’s just a mystic label for an expert in the field.
7. Vertical. The word means a specialty instead of a broad market, but it sounds more celestial. Just say “niche” if you really need to sound refined or all Morgan Freeman.
8. Learnings. A business-created word that is pompous, pompous, pompous! I’ll learn you some better words like “lessons.”
9. Impact. Content is king, as they say, but context is god in marketing. This word is better suited when you get kicked in the face, not after your latest SEO campaign.
10. Synergy. A favorite word of Jeff Skilling when he was running Enron. He went to jail, but this word for “everything working together” infected the business world.
11. 360 Campaign. A useless phrase that means a brand is going to be marketed everywhere: online, offline, outer space, King’s Landing. It makes people sound like they know math.
12. Holistic. I always think of Oprah or Dr. Oz swooping in to take over a marketing campaign when I hear this word. It’s only a business synonym for “encompassing” or “universal.” Still needs to go, though.
13. Actionable insights. The terminology signifies the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Versus what? Sitting before your computer on Google Analytics not knowing what might be the ROI? Then again, this phrase has saved my behind many a Monday meeting…
14. Seamless. I usually hear this bigheaded synonym for “smooth” or “effortless” in the same breath as “robust.” E.g.: “Your transition to a web base company with our robust marketing platform will be seamless.” Put down that kool-aid and step away from that land in Florida, sir.
15. Repurpose. Just call this what it is: recycle, reuse, or rip off your own content in different mediums. This word just hurts less, as does the irksome “curate.”
16. Partner. The politically correct word for “buy from me.”
17. Growth hacking. Another possible oxymoron, but it sounds so deliciously tech. It basically means using the web to sell to the web, in all its analytic glory.
18. Granular. This word would be better suited to what happens in your bathing suit after a day at the beach. In the marketing cosmos it suggests anal or pedantic.
19. Snackable content. The term really exists, I’m sadly not joking, defined as websites pleasing to the eye (for some reason).
20. Scalable. In the business world it refers to a facility whose size, performance, or number of users can be increased without an increase in cost or functionality. In marketing, however, it means I promise you it won’t cost you (too much more) after we “partner.”

There are other obvious ones like “make hay,” “think outside the box,” and “it is what it is,” but these are span several industries and social sectors. They are more like equal opportunity offender clichés.

Do you have any marketing terms you feel need to be atomized by the Death Star of common decency? Let me know through Twitter and we’ll work on a second round.

Will I continue using any of these words or phrases? Good question, but right now I’m just trying to write one long sentence using all 20 of the above (in the vein of Cormac McCarthy).

In the end, there is nothing wrong with a little self-deprecation, and a lot right with revealing to our clients that we have similar shortcomings in a world of questionable jargon in all facets of society. If Justin Bieber can be roasted, everyone else can be too (don’t think too much on this one). And let’s face it: Neither President Obama nor Seth Godin is going to issue a decree banning any marketing terminology.

That’s better left to social media shaming and red wine to the face at marketing conferences.

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