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44 buzzwords and phrases to put on your banned list

For marketers it’s an occupational hazard that some jargon is necessary (although, some 83% of them think

jargon is adding unnecessary complexity to the digital marketing landscape

) – yet as a smug person once said: “A cliché is a cliché because it works.” Use this clutter too often, though, and it’ll seem you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or can’t be bothered to explain yourself clearly – either way, to your seniors it’s insulting.

Orwell was a fundamentalist on the topic. He said that words like ‘phenomenon’, ‘categorical’, and ‘utilise’ are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments, and words of Latin origin like ‘expedite’, ‘predict’, and ‘extraneous’ are often grandiose and unnecessary. 

While it could be argued that some of his rules are restrictive, it’s not linguistical correctness gone mad to say that curtailing cliché in the name of self-interest is a good thing; the people you probably want to impress will notice. I’ve made a note of some of the worst offenders over the last year – not all are confined to marketing, but they’re all firmly in the business vernacular. All of the following should be on your banned list: 

  • ‘Action this/that’
  • ‘Bandwidth’ (when used to mean resource)
  • ‘Big data’ (larger sets than last month)
  • ‘Bleeding edge’
  • ‘Blue sky’
  • ‘Brave new world’ (unless referring to Huxley’s masterpiece)
  • ‘Circle back’
  • ‘Deep dive’
  • ‘Disruption’ (perhaps 2016’s most toxic)
  • ‘DNA’ (“performance metrics are part of a marketer’s DNA”)
  • ‘Growth-hacking’
  • “Half the money I spend on advertising” (even if you are talking about measurement)  
  • ‘Herding cats’
  • ‘… is dead’ (of a practice, channel or topic which isn’t dead)
  • ‘Ideation’
  • ‘Jean Claude Van Damme’ (as highlighted in the BBC’s

    Thick of it

    , the real sign of a dying                         organisation is when it starts rolling out celebrity endorsements)
  • ‘Low hanging fruit’
  • ‘Moving forward’
  • ‘P2P/H2H’ (people to people/human to human – gross)
  • ‘Plug and play’
  • ‘Quick-win’
  • ‘Reach out’
  • ‘Smarketing’ (sales and marketing alignment)
  • ‘Strategic communication’ (or worse: ‘stratcom’)
  • ‘Synergy’
  • ‘Think outside the box’
  • ‘Top line’
  • ‘Touch base’
  • ‘Turn-key’
  • ‘Utilise’
  • ‘Value-add’

Words and phrases on trial 

(though hideous, the following are often necessary):

  • ‘Alignment’ 
  • ‘Buy-in’
  • ‘Cut-through’
  • ‘Holistic’
  • ‘Implement’
  • ‘Key’ (adjective)
  • ‘Leverage’ (verb)
  • ‘Millennial’ (who’d have thought a new word to describe 15- to 37-years-olds would be used so often?)
  • ‘One-size-fits-all’
  • ‘Pain point’
  • ‘Pitfall’
  • ‘Seamless’ (esp. necessary when talking customer experience)
  • ‘Silo’

Missing any good ones? Put them in the disused comment box below or tell us on Twitter:




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