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Marketing

Here Are The Top 10 Annoying Marketing Buzzwords

by
Josmary Gonzalez
on
Jan 19, 2021
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For those in the marketing industry, there’s no need for an introduction on this topic. 

It’s as if every year, marketers establish a list of words that will entice customers, words that perfectly encompass everything they want and need.

… Then they overuse them. 

Read on to see the contenders for 2021’s marketing buzzword blacklist. 

Top 10 Annoying Marketing Words and Phrases

  1. Optimize

This term, in all of its use cases, is like nails on a chalkboard. 

Whether you’re being asked to “optimize” search engine rankings, “optimize” user experience, or “OPTIMIZE” mobile, your mood is likely below optimal every time you hear this word.

It might be particularly frustrating because it highlights the pressure put on marketing teams to (miraculously) attract hundreds of new customers by tweaking a few small components. 

Things are rarely this simple. 

Marketers need the creative freedom to test strategies, assess their success, audit for issues, and redeploy. 

Optimizing is a process — not a step — and is often easier said than done. 

 

TrustRadius surveyed over 760 business professionals in 2019. The product review site discovered that annoying buzzwords were heard more often than desired. 

  1. Pivot

This one brings me back to the jazz classes I took as a kid. (Thanks, Mom.) 

Admittedly, we all did a lot of pivoting in 2020. 

Traditional workplaces turned into home offices. Conference room meetings shifted onto Zoom, and water cooler talk was an IM on Google Hangouts.

Companies may have pivoted from providing one service to supporting another in light of the global pandemic. Likewise, people may have had to “pivot” from one industry to another.

But now, we need to pivot from this word and find another way to convey that we are transitioning*.

*Transition is a great example. So is shifting, readjusting, adapting, evolving, transforming, progressing. These are all words with more positive connotations, implying a move forward instead of a neutral pivot. 

  1. AI-Powered

This term isn’t inherently off-putting. It’s actually increasingly relevant as technology continues to advance. 

Unfortunately though, it is overused. 

Moreover, it’s constantly used to describe things that are not, in fact, powered by artificial intelligence. Herein lies the annoyance: It’s incorrect to say that anything with automation capabilities is “AI-powered”.

“AI, in general, is used to describe pretty much any automation feature today,” says Loganix CEO Aaron Haynes. 

“But claiming that a certain product is AI-powered is far too easy and annoying. A feature that does something on its own is not AI-powered by default.”

Dubbing something “AI-powered” when it’s simply automated is also misleading. 

Omitting or overindulging a feature’s capabilities is misleading and can prove consequential to the trust of the customer relationship. It can also lead to some really bad marketing campaigns. 

(Take a lesson from Sony when their limited edition Playstation Portable came out in white.)

In 2021, let’s heed that warning and apply it to all things wrongfully advertised as “AI-powered”. 

  1. Keywords

It wouldn’t be a top ten without a little controversy. 

Whether you’re creating an SEO strategy, running Google Ads, or blogging, you’ve likely heard “keywords” too much in the past year.

Don’t get me wrong! Keywords are worth the hype, more so than any other word or phrase on this list. 

“Keywords or key phrases are what people are searching for in search engines. 

As a business, they're important because you want to come up in search engines when people search for the keywords or phrases that are relevant to your products or services.”

Yes, keywords are important, crucial, and essential to every marketing strategy. 

But, must we be reminded of this every day? 

We won’t be able to eradicate this term, as it holds too much weight in the content marketing world. Can we at least agree to use it a little less?

To make the user experience less annoying, Facebook added a Keyword Snooze feature in 2018. According to PCMag, “you can temporarily stop Facebook posts that contain certain keywords from hitting your News Feed.”

  1. Actionable/The next steps...

The problem with these two is not in the word or phrase itself. The issue is that they’re rarely followed by “actionable” “next steps” to take. 

That or the required action/next step is clear and does not require emphasis or restatement. 

Either way, the real “next step” is to find a new way to discuss and implement how the project is going to move forward.

  1. Top of mind

“Now that we have this top of mind...” 

It’s time to do away with this phrase, forever

It seems like it’s constantly tacked onto anything even remotely important. 

Newsflash! It’s impossible to keep track of everything we’re expected to keep “top of mind,” especially during a global pandemic. 

We have only so much room at the top of our mind after all. 

Personally, I no longer have the bandwidth** to keep this phrase in my vocabulary.

**More on this term shortly.

  1. Anything related to “funnel” or “pipeline”

These terms are outdated and inaccurate. They refer to the sales process, which starts with a broad audience that becomes more granular as they travel down the buying “funnel” or “pipeline” to eventually generate a sale. 

However, anyone who works in marketing knows that the process is not as simple as this analogy suggests. 

In reality, it takes various “touches” or interactions — digital and offline — with your brand for a customer to convert. 

It’s a lot more complex than a customer coming across your brand and being theoretically pushed through a funnel until they buy your product. 

Not to mention, it makes the sales process seem pushy rather than organic. Nurturing the initial interest offers better results due to various positive experiences.

Thankfully, Hubspot (www.hubspot.com) concurs and adapted this concept into a more accurate model: The sales flywheel

Image via Hubspot

As demonstrated in the image above, the flywheel accounts for customer needs and is focused on providing value to potential leads. 

Rather than bombarding customers with gimmicky sales tactics, the flywheel nurtures customer relationships — over and over and over again. It emphasizes the importance of growth and nurture instead of sales. 

And with that, let us bury the “funnel”/”pipeline” analogies. 

  1. Bandwidth

This term is typically used by someone who’s about to throw something extremely tedious onto your plate. 

You’ve probably heard, “Do you have the bandwidth to…?” 

No, I do not, as I am not a WiFi router. 

And even if I were, have you seen how awful the signal is in here? It’s all clogged with projects and meetings.

  1. Unprecedented

Imagine having $1 for every time you heard the phrase, “We are living in unprecedented times” in 2020. 

We know, and no, this email doesn’t find me well. 

We are collectively experiencing a global pandemic, economic downturn, and turbulent political climate. No one could have possibly planned for this, and a year later, we’re exhausted. 

Instead, check in outside of work emails. 

“How are you? Do you need help with anything? I’m here if you need someone to talk to.”

We are living in a challenging climate (also a set of words to stop using), but kindness and honesty helps more than empty email openers.

MarketingProfs offers 30 solutions to this annoying buzzword, which shot to infamy in 2020 by turbulent political and economic conditions and a global health crisis.

  1.  Branding

I think most marketers agree that there’s a double-sided disdain for this word. 

On one hand, it’s often used to justify meaningless tasks. For example, “We should do X, Y, and Z, as a branding exercise.”

On the other hand, we understand the real importance of branding, but people outside of marketing overlook and undermine it. 

Too many times has a marketer had to explain the significance of “blogging and creating content marketing to uplift a brand’s voice and provide value to customers.” 

We know that branding will not produce immediate sales that most executives want to see. We also know that, in the long term, the foundation of your brand is what attracts — and keeps — customers. 

The term “branding” strikes several nerves. So, for the sake of our sanities, please use it wisely.


Note that more often than not, it’s about how and when we use these words. It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it. The saying reigns true in the marketing industry, too.

Before you apologize for these unprecedented times and ask if someone has the bandwidth, think again about these top annoying marketing buzzwords.



5. Seamless Integration

If you work in the tech sector, I bet you are emphatically nodding your head “yes”.  This godawful term is about as common and meaningless as your vendor saying “we have an API” when asked “does your product do (xyz)?”.

In fact, let’s just throw in some puzzle pieces to truly visually convey (because we’re idiots) that our software seamlessly integrates (puke) with boredom and clichés. After all, we need to “scream” that each piece of our ho-hum app actually functions when interfacing with some other random technology.

And while this style of tech marketing seems awfully common (more like ubiquitous), to me, it feels rather ironic. After all, I’m pretty sure that puzzle pieces have jagged, noticeable edges. Don’t they?

Besides, there is no such thing as “seamless” integration. It takes work and maintenance for two tools to “talk” to one another - and you (the consumer) get to pay for it. There you have it.

6. Turn-key (and everything “key” in general)

Let’s face it. If someone offers you a “turn-key”, “off the shelf” solution, does it make you open your wallet? Personally, it makes me turn into a glazed-over zombie. Why? Because even if something is difficult, a brand will either never admit it or up-sell you the “turn-key” solution (rigor mortis setting in).

Now of course, I understand that this term was once synonymous with “effortless”. Nevertheless, it has since evolved into a useless adjective that lazy marketers use to describe some blah-blah-blah with blah-blah-blah. That being said, I propose we lock up this useless adjective (pun intended).

In fact, as long as we are stuck on cliché doorway analogies, can we please also stop saying [anything]gate to describe a conspiracy theory? Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but I would love it if people could coin something new. After all, the key (cringe) to creative marketing is to explain concepts meaningfully. That’s why “turn-key” is no longer descriptive; tell me WHY something is so effortless – in an engaging, concise way. Does this sound difficult? Well it is. That’s why creative people have jobs.

7. Content Is King

Content marketing

Yawn. “Content is king” and “(whatever) is queen” sounds like a big, gay party -  but everyone’s really bored with it.

It’s no mystery. Live sports and fan favorites like “The Walking Dead” keep Cable television in business. After all, those Cable bills are expensive! Perhaps that’s why this cringe-worthy, irritating phrase simply won’t die; decision-makers in the media universe are ignoring the fact that modern consumers are stingy with their time. How else can we explain this endless sea of boring content?

Maybe I’m wrong, but here is my understanding of modern consumers (who all have built-in A.D.D)

  1. ‍AWESOME content = I will only tolerate ads if they cannot be blocked. And if I really hate ads, I will PAY to have them blocked – so please stop forcing these painful pre-rolls and what feels like 10-minute commercial blocks on me.
  2. BORING content = I hate you for wasting my time – also known as “get out of my in-box” syndrome while emphatically clicking “spam”.

Assuming that the media gods disagree with me, I believe this painful phrase will continue to exist.

8. Advertainment

Speaking of “content is crap”, marketers make up stupid terms like “advertainment” to seem like they’re solving some really big cultural problem – but they’re not.

“Advertainment” is essentially just an annoying way to explain “branded content”, product placement or flat-up fantastic marketing in disguise. I understand the concept, but here’s the problem: if you call your own work “advertainment”, you sound like a pompous fop.

Don’t get me wrong - some marketers have managed to make advertising very entertaining, including Red Bull with their adrenaline junkie videos, and AMC with their Walking Dead and Mad Men apps (also known as “gamification” - which theoretically could make this list).

Nevertheless, does “advertainment” really solve a problem? I guess so, but can we please not call it that?

In all seriousness though, if you are a marketer that somehow figured out how to move product without annoying people, congrats. This is an achievement. I’m serious.

9. Ecosystem (to describe everything)

Are we a bunch of ants stuck in a science class diorama demonstrating seamless integration (see term #5 above)? Silicon Valley seems to think so.

We hear this word a lot, especially when some “thought leader” (yawn, could also make this list) is ill-prepared to answer a tough question in a meeting.

“Well you see [insert CEO name here], our next step towards changing consumer behavior patterns is to move the social conversation to the Internet-of-Things ecosystem,” said the slightly hungover marketing executive recovering from last night’s vendor bender.

Look. We’ve all been there, but the use of the word “ecosystem” is starting to feel out of control. Somehow, everything can arguably be an ecosystem, including that Chia Pet they sell in Walmart. Do you see what I mean? Germination. Photosynthesis. Whatever. And it all brings me back to where I started: my seventh-grade science class.

10. Snackable Content

Doesn’t this phrase make you want to vomit? Personally, I find it nauseating, but here’s some “food-for-thought”: the term “content consumption” is actually the mothership concept that spawned this ugly-duckling buzz term. All it means is that time-starved consumers prefer concise headlines, bullet points, easy-to-read lists (unlike mine), and pretty much the opposite of heavy, homogenous-looking text. Makes sense.

Nonetheless, isn’t it amazing how unappetizing this trite phrase sounds? I actually almost puked (in a good way) when Grant Higginson of Welby Consulting tweeted it to us during our “Tweet the most annoying marketing buzzword to win a drone” contest. Needless to say, he won.

Are there other another marketing buzz terms out there? Absolutely! Perhaps several others should be on this list. Is there another marketing buzz-term you hate? If so, please tell us about it in the comments below. We’d love to know what you think!

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