Not Another Innovation! And Other Stale Buzzwords to Avoid

Alexis Baghdadi, Feb 29 2016

Noise image via Shutterstock


Can we just admit that everyone in the digital scene is an innovator and get on with business already?

You don’t need to keep hammering it in – really, it doesn’t make a difference to anyone anymore.

Any new buzzword (in any sector, industry, or society) starts with a bang but usually ends with a whimper. It becomes so overused (and abused) that it eventually loses all its efficiency and crawls back to the dictionary page where it came from to curl up and die alone, without any friends.

When Marketing Talks Itself into a Corner

Some of the most dished out (and – credit where it’s due – pertinent) advice that mentors give young startups involves having a strong communication marketing strategy – usually right after securing a solid team and having a sound business plan. Does this sound familiar yet?

The reality is that not everyone speaks proper “marketing”. When introducing and promoting a startup or product, it’s easy to look at the many successful examples out there and just copy-paste their messages. And this used to work, too – like for a few short months.

One of the earliest examples of defunct buzzwords is the “revolutionary” family, which the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, popularized. Within a few weeks, virtually every new product – even mundane ones – was also “revolutionizing” the tech industry. Today, no one in their right mind would dream of using this word. Why? Because it has been milked out of every last shred of its credibility.

Swimming in Millennial Waters

You know what millennials are, and if you’ve done your homework, you know they represent a huge opportunity market for tech and digital products.

But what you should really keep in mind, is that millennials – speaking plainly – are a cynical bunch. This means they favor authenticity over content. These are highly educated and tech-aware consumers that are not as easily influenced by traditional marketing messages as the older Generation Xers.

The 2006 movie, Idiocracy, satirizes advertising and consumer gullibility in the form of a futuristic idiot society where Gatorade is used to irrigate crops “because it contains electrolytes” – but no one knows what electrolytes are!

Be the Talk

Some brands like Taco Bell are “talking millennial” in a frenetic attempt to reach out to this customer base, with more or less happy results.

But the issue is not simply a matter of vocabulary. You can’t keep rummaging through the Urban Dictionary or maintaining a staff of 20-year-olds to “talk the talk”. Even if you’re successful at this, others will jump on the bandwagon and suck those “millennial buzzwords” dry. And don’t forget millennials themselves grow tired of their words and come up with new ones.

Marketing to millennials (and pretty much everyone else) is not about the message anymore; it is about the experience.

With this in mind, the question is: how should you communicate with your audience?

The short answer is: don’t talk about the experience, deliver it. An experience is meant to be… well, “experienced”. In other words, you have to “be the talk”.

Crafting the Experience

Take the following sentence:

Our groundbreaking cloud-based analytics tool is the ideal solution for you to leverage big data more effectively in real time and scale your startup.

I have just made this sentence up, but I’m sure you’re thinking you have read it somewhere before, right? It sounds very familiar, old even. What it is basically saying is: Buy our product so you can make better informed decisions and increase your revenue and/or expand. In other words, nothing new; the customer hasn’t “experienced” the product.

Breaking the sentence down to small chunks makes this is even clearer. How many times have you read the words “groundbreaking,” “leverage,” “scale,” or “solution” before? Amirite?

Video animations and demos are big in promoting new products or services now. Have you ever wondered why this medium’s popularity is growing so fast? It’s not because of the quality of the graphics or animation, nor because of celebrity voice actors or killer sound tracks. Sure, these help, but the main thing is that these videos describe the product/service experience, or immerse you in it in the case of game demos.

And marketers agree this is a great tool for digital campaigns and pitches, but it is not the only one. There will always be a need for “copy” in different advertising channels (e-shots, web banners, press releases, native ads). It may not be as easy to come up with good copy for such ads (compared to video scripts and dialogs), but you can at least avoid making them a complete turnoff.

Avoid These Words at All Costs

This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of buzzwords to avoid. And in fact, it will need constant updating. But at least it gives some sense as to what type of buzzwords grow stale and why. You can check online regularly for updated lists

1. Unique, exclusive, tailored, customized, etc.

How is one supposed to feel unique by reading a marketing ad that is mass-emailed to thousands, maybe millions of readers? And how exclusive is a product or service if it needs to market itself? You’ve never seen a Rolls Royce ad, have you? That’s how exclusive these cars are.

And let’s face it, the fancy word “tailored” simply means a generic product/service is tweaked or comes with a choice of different options – nowhere near the glamour of getting fitted at a tailor’s for a su misura suit.

Say it like it is instead, and replace these words by their meaning, e.g. “We give you the product that you want, the way you want it.”

2. Disruptive, innovative, groundbreaking, revolutionary, best-in-class, next-generation, etc.

Again, every single new product/service will be marketed as a gift to humanity – whether deservingly or not. Consumers expect this so blindly that using such these promotional adjectives before a new product goes completely unnoticed.

It’s come to the point that you have to not use these words in order to stand out from the crowd. Some campaigns even use reverse psychology to attract potential customers’ attention, e.g. “Don’t buy this phone,” or “This software will not disrupt anything.”

3. Snackable, user-friendly, easy-to-read, enhanced UX, at your fingertips, etc.

Again, these words are “telling”, not “showing” the experience. The exceptions that stand out are actually “user-unfriendly” platforms or content – and these are extremely rare.

4. Viral, engaging, sharable, etc.

These are buzzwords in a B2B context, but they are just as bad. They have been thrown around so much that they could mean almost anything at this point. And there are even some who equate a high number of views or “Likes” on their content to “virality” or “engagement!” Worse, promising users rewards in exchange for sharing content does not make the content shareable – try “spammable” on for size.

5. Leverage, trigger, etc.

What “leverage” means is basically “use” but for some reason, it must have sounded more sophisticated or visual (using a lever to move a rock) to marketers at some point. Interestingly, both “leverage” and “trigger” evoke more manual tools that really have no place in the digital world, so they do not even have the excuse of originality like the equally overused – and more modern – “activate” or “launch.”

6. Big data, cloud-based, real-time, analytics, hybrid, etc.

These are actually more like technical terms than buzzwords, but they are just as stale. Perhaps when the technology was new, it was important to announce it as the latest “innovation” in order to stand out from the crowd, but today it is the equivalent of someone saying “I’m listening to my iTunes playlist,” when they could just be saying “I’m listening to music.”

It’s harder to explain how other more redundant buzzwords like “Platform-as-a-Service”, “Software-as-a-Service”, “hybrid”, etc. became buzzwords when all they do is unpretentiously describe the product.




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