Monday, January 22, 2007

The Most Annoying Buzzwords of 2006

The Creative Group recently polled 250 marketing and advertising executives to create their latest list of the most overused buzzwords. Of course, they probably should have polled other departments to find out what they thought were the most overused buzzwords from marketing and advertising departments (we do generate a good deal of these terms). I’ve edited down their list to create the absolute worst of the worst of over-used, annoying buzzwords and added my commentary in parenthesis. Granted, many of these words have legitimate uses, but their overuse has been so dramatic, it is probably a good idea to limit their use as to not drive co-workers to the brink of insanity:

- “Outside-the-box”
(This phrase should only be used as a joke. It made in their past list too. It should go into the hall of fame – or is that hall of shame?)
- “Synergy”
(If you’re using this phrase, I’m willing to bet you’re probably wearing plaid pants and a bright bow tie.)
- “The big idea”
(Okay, if you actually said this, chances are you’re not the one with the big idea.)
- “ROI”
(While ROI is an important business measure, marketing and advertising professionals have abused this acronym so badly, I’m actually starting to think we should institute a law that says you can only use this term if you possess a permit that proves you understand what it means and are actually capable of generating positive ROI.)
- “Paradigm shift”
(If you’re still using this term, be advised, the paradigm already shifted sometime in the 70s. You actually missed it.)- “Integrated solution” (Are there really non-integrated solutions? This one is too meaningless to be spoken.)
- “Customer-centric”
(If you’re still over-using this one, odds are you have a sock puppet on your desk.)
- “Make it pop”
(Unless you own a time machine, there’s no need for this one.)
- “Break through the clutter”
(If this is the best you can come up with, clearly, you are part of the clutter.)
- “Take it to the next level”
(On second thought, perhaps the level you are on is most approrpriate.)
- “Free value”
(Huh? You lost me.)
- “Low-hanging fruit”
(As annoying as this one is, I admit, I’ve been guilty. I try to use “quick hits” which was probably a finalist for this list.)
- “It is what it is”
(And the plural form, “They are what they are.” I like this, but only when used for humorous effect.)

(The buzzwords I removed from the Creative Group’s list are: strategy, CRM and organic growth. All of these are, no doubt, over-used, but have legitimate meaning.)

The Creative Group’s previous list had a number of gems, including some on the latest list and a number of classics that some managers and consultants just can’t stop themselves from (over) using:

- “At the end of the day”
- “Solution”
- “Thinking outside the box” -
- “Synergy”
- “Paradigm” “Metrics”
- “Take it offline”
- “Redeployed people”
- “On the runway”
- “Win-win”
- “Value-added”
- “Get on the same page”
- “Customer centric”
- “Generation X”
- “Accountability management”
- “Core competency”
- “Alignment” - “Incremental”

Okay, it's time to wrap this one up. Please, don't hesitate to take this list to the next level and add the phrases you find most annoying. It's a win-win.


Dorothy said...

Oh, goodness...I just used outside of the box just today in an article! Thanks for the list...I think I better be more careful. Love your blog, btw. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Great blog! Guy's like you are change initiators, and boy do we need people like you or what.. Keep up the good work!

Jade said...

At some point, these creepy words and phrases begin to snake their way into the vocabularies of oblivious manager’s everywhere, poisoning every chance for an original description of the situation at hand. It happens without warning, and too many have fallen victim. Their evil venom shrivels every unique thought, and they should be immediately stricken from every office and business school everywhere! If I may, I’d like to suggest the addition of “Team effort” to the list. I find this one particularly annoying.

Jonathan Kantor said...

I disagree with you on the word "solution". It's a word that the customer understands. In order to solve a problem you need a solution, period.

While it may be creative to come up with a list of words such as this, one has to be careful not to tar a perfectly useful word such as "solution" that resonates with a business audience all for the sake of being cool or in "vogue".

Peter DeLegge said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter DeLegge said...

Hello Jonathan,

I wasn't advocating a serious wholesale banning of any of these words from our vocabularies. I'm certainly not part of the wordinistas (Stephen Colbert reference). Hopefully, my sense of humor came across a little on this post. I was amused by the Creative Group's study.

My point is not that these words need to be stricken from the English language, but that we need to watch our use of these terms as they are so overused and abused that they have the power to annoy.

Solution is a good example of an overused and poorly used term. Of course, the term has legimate uses, however, it is often overused and used in sales puffery to a point at which it is either ridiculous, annoying or virtually meaningless. Quality is a word that is overused in poorly written marcom. Often, the word "quality" is used alone as sales puffery without support, as if the mere unsupported claim of quality is a point of differentiation or even taken seriously when unsupported by even one data point or a reference to an existing brand image (for instance, Mercedes can use the term quality due its excellent brand image and high awareness as a very high quality brand; a small manufacturer without the same awareness and reputation for impecable quality is unlikely to be able to do the same). The term solution is another that is often applied in a virtually ridiculous manner by poor quality marcom writers all too often. For instance, erasers can be seen as error solutions, but is describing an eraser in this manner truly effective communications or is it more of a sign of a poor communicator who is out of touch? Such terms have legitimate meaning, however, they can be so regularly misapplied that they can become inhibitors to effective communications and may even send signals to consumers and business buyers that they're getting "marketing-eze" instead of trustworthy communications.

Ann said...

Great list. Leave me to wonder what the buzz words of 2007 are...

Anonymous said...

Great Blog! "Let's not reinvent the wheel" is one a few colleagues have a habit of overusing - come up with something new...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"'Let's not reinvent the wheel' is one a few colleagues have a habit of overusing - come up with something new..."

Wouldn't coming up with something new be like reinventing the wheel?

Anonymous said...

"Shoot me an email." One of my personal favs.

Anonymous said...

Buzzwords are buzzkillers! Originality is outside most managers' box, so they look for solutions by using value-added words that seem like a win-win, but at the end of the day, Generation Xers are the only ones on the same page.

Anonymous said...

In the government arena, a few classics are:

"Cast the larger net", Let's "peel the onion" on this, or "pull the string in this". I'm still waiting for the big ball of yarn to unravel.

Nice post. Cheers

Anonymous said...

I totally hate the phrase "viral video". It makes no sense, having nothing to do with a virus. Could as well have used any v-word, for example "vomit video" or "vulva video". Would have been just as logical.