Buzzwords, aka words that sound like they should mean something but actually don’t, are the con men of vocabulary.
Marketers, myself included, are very fond of buzzwords. We like to use them to mystify customers into giving our companies money.
We really like to use them because it means we don’t have to put as much thought into our copy. Why spend the time trying to explain something simply, when we can use a pre-manufactured buzzword that sounds like it means something and keeps our copy short?
As a reminder, good copy should be written in a simple manner that tells your customer what the function of your product is in 1- 4 sentences. Good copy should not leave your customer wondering what your product does.
An example of a website that writes great copy (and has a great layout to complement the copy) is Bill.com. Within moments of being on Bill.com, I know exactly what their product does.
How do you identify a buzzword? Easy!
- If it’s a word that doesn’t actually tell you anything about your product, it’s a buzzword.
- If it isn’t self-evident why that word has anything to do with your product, it’s a buzzword.
- If it’s a word a lot of other companies use in their copy, it’s almost definitely a buzzword.
If you’re still having trouble identifying a buzzword, here’s a list of the worst marketing buzzwords from this year. DON’T use these ever. These words imply a lack of creativity.
1. Robust. Robust is a really bad word for multiple reasons, the first of which is that robust rarely ever actually describes the product you’re writing about.
For instance, I visited 30 software websites to see what kind of bad buzzwords software vendors use. ”Robust” showed up on 25% of the sites I looked at. And did it tell me anything?
How on earth is software robust? I thiiiink you’re trying to tell me your software is powerful (see below), but the word “robust” fails to describe anything your software does, has, or can fix. This word literally says nothing about your product. STOP USING IT.
2. Powerful. See above. This word also tells me virtually nothing. What is powerful software anyway? Shouldn’t all software be powerful? What counts as weak software? Is this even real life?? Some people have made the mistake of using powerful and robust in the same sentence, which is just being redundant about saying nothing.
3. Unique. Don’t use this word. One, everyone uses this word. It loses its meaning when everyone else is also claiming to be unique.
Two, don’t tell me you’re unique, show me you’re unique. Demonstrate your special features, and I’ll come to the conclusion that you’re unique on my own.
4. Agile/Flexible. Similar to robust, these are words intended to refer to living beings, not inanimate products. Agile and flexible make me think of gymnasts and monkeys. I cannot fathom how your product, especially if it’s a software product, like I was looking at, is agile or flexible.*
*The only exception to this rule is project management software, which can, in fact, be described as Agile in some cases.
Flexible, in particular, is bad because it is extremely vague. With just a short brainstorm, you can easily figure out better, more specifics things to say. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself: How is your product flexible? Does it allow for customization? Does it integrate with a lot of other programs? Can you use it for multiple different business units? All these questions lead to answers with better words for your copy!
5. Leader/Leading. I hate this one. This is the fluffiest term in the world. This is a term that gets put on a resume in hopes of tricking an employer into thinking you’re more qualified for something than you actually are. Don’t tell me you’re a leader in something, show me. If you’re a leader, you’ve probably won awards, been featured at the top of someone’s list, or at least have loads of rave reviews. Put these somewhere on your page (in small, manageable amounts).
6. Functional. This word is horrible mainly because the customer is assuming that your product is functional. Why would you have created a dysfunctional product? This buzzword is the equivalent of walking around and telling everyone you’re a human being. Once again, just show me that your product is functional and trust that I’m assuming it is.
So those are the top six most offensive marketing buzzwords of 2014.
Here are some honorary mentions that didn’t quite make it to the main list: Productivity, Intuitive, Accelerate, Efficient, and Seamless Integration.
These words can actually be used effectively, but are generally overused. Many vendors also place them as standalone, disembodied words floating beneath their headers and hope that the customer will get the point. Instead, you should use these words in conjunction with other, more specific words to briefly and simply describe the functionality of your product.
Bonus: The Single Worst Buzzword Ever
Finally, I will share with you the worst buzz phrase I have ever seen in my life. It was (fortunately!) only used by one company, and that is why it didn’t make the above list.
“Hybrid agile and traditional products.”
Beyond telling you absolutely nothing whatsoever about what this product does, what even is an agile product? What is a traditional product? How did they make a hybrid? Is it a Prius?
Did I miss any buzzwords? Let me know in the comments below!