Marketing Buzzwords to Quit in 2018

By Kate Young

Marketing is serious work, but admit it. It’s fun to give yourself license to play with the language. Just ask the guy who invented fahrvergnügen. Or whoever decreed that the concept of strong + soft will heretofore be known as stroft.

As for those of us not fortunate enough to write ad copy for a living, maybe we compensate by indulging just a tad in the marketing jargon du jour. Hey, nobody’s judging. As marketers, we’re all interested in staying up-to-the-minute with the latest concepts and trends. But some of the words we’ve been tossing around have an expiration date.

It’s in that spirit, as we draw to the close of 2017, that we recommend saying adieu to the following buzzwords:

  1. Intimate brands. Remember that awful feeling you had as a child, when you bragged to a group of teachers that you like to read adult books, and they all laughed at you? That’s how it seems likely to go if you start using the term “intimate brands.” The concept—brands that provoke an emotional response/connection with the consumer—is actually useful, so maybe it just needs to be rebranded.

Suggested alternatives: trusted brands, esteemed brands, emotion-linked brands. Grab a thesaurus, people—basically any wording that doesn’t make us think of underwear would be better.

  1. Omnichannel. At a recent meeting, ABA Bank Marketing contributing editor Hunter Young gave us an earful about how this word is worn out to the point of uselessness. He’s not wrong. Looking back at the history of its usage, we found a September 1969 reference to the word omnicom (meaning omni + communications—not a reference to the advertising agency) in a back issue of our magazine. There are a lot of channels out there these days. Let’s not be grandiose.

Suggested alternative: multi-channel. Go into specifics if you must. That way, you won’t leave your audience wondering what channels you’re leaving out.

  1. Coopetition. Contrary to popular belief, this word was not made up by a 13-year old girl writing a detention essay on personal strategies for being nicer to the dweebs in her P.E. class. It was actually coined by a pair of Ivy League business professors to describe a strategy derived from game theory, in which competitive businesses cooperate with each other.

Suggested alternatives: cooperation. Doesn’t that cover it? Or if you’re up to no good, collusion might be the right word.

  1. Platformification. The underlying concept here is an important one, and it seems likely to become more so in the coming days. It’s about aggregating a variety of financial services from different providers on a single platform. That deserves a lot of attention. So why detract from it by using an abstract neologism that is so general that it could have dozens of potential meanings?

Suggested alternative: platform-based financial services. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but no one has to google it to understand that you’re not talking about the latest trends in shoe design.

  1. Knowledge bomb. Avoid using this term or you might run afoul of the knowledge bomb squad.

Suggested alternative: Aha-moment. Just kidding. Please don’t say that either.

  1. Vlog. It’s a blog, but made out of video instead of text. Get it? Yeah. But is this a necessary word? With online content production and distribution in a constant state of evolution, there are now so many different hybrids of the blog and the short video that this particular word clutters up the lexicon without shedding any new light on the form. Plus, no one likes saying it out loud.

Suggested alternative: video blog. Is that really so hard to say?

  1. Listicle. A piece of content that’s a list, posing (rather pretentiously) as an article. You’re reading one now. Digital content consumers respond well to listicles because they’re easy to skim and don’t require the commitment of following a continuing stream of logic. The word listicle, however, sounds like something you’d need to have biopsied after getting it removed in a minor surgical procedure. Let’s commit to not using it anymore.

Suggested alternatives: List. Top [insert number]list. List-format content.

  1. Human-centric design. This is another buzzword that earned a resounding objection from Hunter Young. “As opposed to what?” he wanted to know. We couldn’t find any examples of design based on the needs of robots, aliens, or ghosts. And although we probably all know someone whose living quarters have a cat-centric design, that doesn’t have any bearing on bank marketing. The cogent point behind the term is that businesses should use the needs of the customer—not the needs of the business—as a starting point for any effort.

Suggested alternative: Customer-first approach.

  1. Disruption.  Raise your hand if you’re tired of seeing/hearing/smelling the whiff of decay emanating from this word. Years ago, it meant something. Now we owe an apology to the Thomas Edisons, Henry Fords, and Jack Kilbys out there. Sorry guys. We no longer have a meaningful word to describe what you did—because we wore out the word disruption on apps for ordering coffee.

Suggested alternative: Technological innovation that may or may not catch on.

  1. Brand journalism. This one hits close to the bone for content marketers, because many of us have backgrounds in journalism and take great pride in the quality of the content we produce. The idea that a brand can—and should—focus on educating, problem-solving, and entertaining without making a sales pitch is crucial in this age of information overload. But we’re also at a point in history when terms like fake news, post-factual, and trust death spiral have become part of the public discourse. As marketers, let’s take the high ground. We’re here to help our customers. We’re also responsible for helping our business stay in business. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and we don’t need to pretend to be doing something different.

Suggested alternative: Content marketing.

Here at ABA, our mission is to give your bank—and the entire banking industry—the support it needs to drive economic growth and job creation in America. Your success is our success, and we hope you find the daily content on ABA Bank helpful. We also hope you’ll participate in ABA initiatives, attend our schools and conferences, and use our training when you need it. And if you haven’t already done so, please drop us a line to say “hello.”

Have a happy and safe new year.

Kate Young is the content editor of Email: [email protected].