Kill These Buzz Phrases–Please

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Want to know why marketers are always the first to get canned when the economy tanks? Because too many of them use empty-headed words and phrases in a lame attempt to mask that they really can’t measure much of what they’re doing.

As the old saying in the accounting department goes, “When things get tough and it’s time for layoffs, divert attention from the fact that we have too many bean counters by pointing out that marketing can’t account for most of what it does.” Okay, that’s not a saying, but it is a philosophy that most of us see in our careers at one time or another.

So in the spirit of trying to get the rest of the company to take marketing more seriously, below is a starter list of words and phrases to avoid. Three are old and exhausted but refuse to die. One is reasonably new but is already an indicator of stale thinking:

Web 2.0. The phrase, coined in 2004, is supposed to refer to new “second-generation” Internet-based services, such as social networking sites. Whatever: “2.0” used anywhere is trite. It’s supposed to mean “new.” But it has turned into the Internet version of saying someone is “thinking out of the box.” As soon as someone says “thinking out of the box,” it’s clear that’s exactly what he’s not doing. Likewise, a title with “2.0” in it indicates that the people who hatched the idea are anything but original thinkers.

Savvy. This overused, mindless word appears most often in trade-rag articles written by vendors. Sentences using it typically go something like: “Savvy marketers know that today’s wired consumers’ expectations are higher than ever.” The word “savvy” usually indicates a sentence written by someone who wants to sound more intelligent than the reader but who doesn’t have a whole lot to say.

Soup to nuts. Technology marketers love this phrase. Software-and-services pitchmen often use the phrase in sentences like: “We have launched a series of best-of-breed applications to offer today’s savvy marketer everything he or she needs from soup to nuts to execute integrated marketing plans agnostically and seamlessly across multiple marketing platforms.” If that sentence made any sense to you, please seek professional help.

And of course, no discussion of empty-headed marketing buzzwords would be complete without the word paradigm. It is supposed to be a synonym for “model.” Judging by the people who tend to use it, however, the definition of “paradigm” has evolved into something along the lines of “Hopefully this big word will delay you from drawing the inevitable conclusion that I am an intellectually vacant windbag who has somehow fooled a company into paying me multiples of what I’m worth.”

Ken Magill is editor at large for two sister publications of CHIEF MARKETER: Direct and Multichannel Merchant. He’s also the mastermind of Magilla Marketing, a weekly e-newsletter covering all things e-mail. Not content to limit his spleen to e-mail and direct marketing topics, Ken will also be venting his ire for CHIEF MARKETER on a monthly basis.

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