2015 was a big year. A major GoT character died; Steve Harvey announced the wrong Miss Universe winner; Taylor Swift finished her 1989 World Tour (the Foxboro show was amazing!); and B2B marketers continued to use (and invent new) buzzwords that made us all cringe. So I’m putting together a list of the worst marketing buzzwords of 2015, words that we must all vow NEVER to use in 2016.
Before I do the round up, let me remind you what the three qualifications for a buzzword are, as determined by me in my round-up of the worst buzzwords of 2014. (For the record, some of you are still using last year’s banned words. Please fix that.)
- If the word doesn’t really give any information about your product, it’s a buzzword.
- If it’s not self-evident why that word has to do with your product, it’s a buzzword.
- If a lot of other companies use this word in their copy as well, it’s almost definitely a buzzword.
Let’s get started. (By the way, I’m avoiding the low hanging fruit and leaving “low hanging fruit” off this list. We all already know not to use it.)
1. Growth Hacking
Growth hacking? What does that even MEAN? Are you hacking away parts of your growth? Cuz that sounds bad. Are you life-hacking your business growth? Because life-hacks never work unless they’re the actual way you’re supposed to do something, in which case, it’s not actually a hack. So there’s that.
And why is EVERYONE on Twitter a “growth hacker” now? I avoid those people like the plague because it usually just means that they’re a total nobody doing nothing who will spam your feed like it’s 1997 and email filters haven’t been invented yet. No thank you.
2. Snackable Content
To be totally honest, I’m completely at fault for using this horrible word, and I use it as a total filler word when talking about infographics. It skeezes me out everytime I use it. Because seriously, what on earth is “snackable” content? Has anyone ever eaten an infographic or blog post? (Are they ok? Do we need to take them to the hospital?) Does snackable content keep you satisfied until you find your next long-form content piece?
Try instead: “easy-to-read,” “quick read,” or maybe “fun infographic.”
3. Thought Leadership
This conjures up images of Professor X and Obi Wan Kenobi controlling other people’s minds to get what they want. “You will give me your email… then you will convert into a customer on this landing page.” Who thought of this phrase? They deserve to be forced with Professor X’s mind-control to schedule tweets for all eternity.
Let’s just agree to leave this one at home, in exchange for “expert,” or “experienced,” because this phrase doesn’t mean anything.
This one is very similar to thought leadership. In my opinion, a guru is someone who self-appointed themselves as a leader in a certain space, but didn’t have the confidence in their abilities to brand themselves as an expert. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll take an expert over a guru 100% of the time. I will also take Google over a guru any day of the week.
And while we’re here, can we also agree that “Brand Evangelist” needs to die? Unless you have a giant church devoted to your brand, you are not a brand evangelist. If you do have a church and you also happen to televise your services, you can be a Brand Televangelist. (No one is using this – so it’s definitely not a buzzword, it’s just awesome.)
I shudder when I hear this word tossed about by marketers. Or, worse, when a “thought leader” tries to claim in a conference speech that they made a video go viral and that was part of their strategy. 1. I didn’t see your “viral” video. It never appeared in any of my social feeds. So my guess: you’re confused about what viral means and think that 1,000 views on your video is “viral,” because 1,000 views is nothing to sneeze at for a B2B marketer. 2. “Going viral” is not a strategy. You obviously have NO clue what “viral” means.
The official definition of viral (in this use) is: “Becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet.”
Hallmarks of virality:
- Very Popular
- Shared by many people
- Appears all over social media feeds
- Is talked about over the watercooler
- Is imitated by high schoolers and late night talk show hosts
- Is considered “cool” by the kids (or whatever word the kids are saying these days)
- Is made popular organically
- Contains a cat.
Kidding a little bit about the cat.
So basically all that means: you can make your videos with cats wearing Donald Trump’s toupee, but you can’t make the people share them. Like an Academy Award, “going viral” is something given to you, rewarded perhaps for your hard work or perhaps just because someone happened to see your video before they saw a better one.
So, virality? Not a strategy. Aim for content that actually adds value to your customer’s lives because that will really make a difference, whether it goes viral or not.
And for heaven’s sake! Stop calling your video viral! That is like your father telling you he’s “hip and with it.” Just stop, dad.
6. Outside the box
I refer you to my entire section on the word “Unique” from last year’s round-up. If you swap out every “unique” for “outside the box,” and every “word” for “phrase” the advice still applies:
“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.”
And don’t try to get clever and talk about being “inside the box,” since everyone’s outside of it. J Crew is doing this on the boxes they ship orders in and it is so ew. No one wants to think that what they’re purchasing is boring and inside the box, and everyone’s sick of hearing about being outside the box.
Just walk away from the box.
Try a pyramid maybe. They’re the strongest shape, so there’s totally a tagline in there for you.
That’s my round-up for the words/phrases we need to stop using this year. As marketers, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. Let’s make a world where buyers can learn to trust ads, emails, and other marketing tactics as a great place to learn about a product, instead of the world we live in where buyers tend to distrust ads, and believe that marketing tactics are just trying to make them spend money. We’re better than that.
Quitting the buzzwords is the first step to gaining buyers’ trust.
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