The Only Buzzword You Must Eliminate From Your Marketing Vocabulary

The Only Buzzword You Must Eliminate From Your Marketing Vocabulary

Take A Moment To Think About The Business Buzzword That Drives You Most Crazy.

Every industry has buzzwords and they may very well be different for you than they are for me.

So think about your least favorite. Is it…

Synergy?

Thought leadership?

“Next level”?

Each of those makes me cringe a little… especially “next level” because couldn’t the next level be down?

Put that in your marketing pipe and smoke it.

We’ve had some fun here with buzzwords before. We ranted about the constant use of terms like “Ninja” and “Guru”, especially appended to other words like “social media.”

We’ve even complained about less-buzzy words like “expert”.

And yet as I sat down to consider the buzzword that most irritated me, the one I would eradicate from the marketing lexicon if I had the power of the Internet Red Pen, nothing inspired.

But this post is part of my monthly Word Carnival, where I get together with a bunch of super smart and amazing business owners and we choose a topic to write about. And the topic this month is about eliminating buzzwords.

So as I sat and pondered and ate a few cookies and threw the idea at Ralph, something unexpected popped up. A word that almost slipped by on the virtue of its own invisibility. A word that is so common and so accepted and so ordinary that it slides over your tongue as easily as saying “and”, “but” or “the”.

The word that I want to eliminate right now, with prejudice is…

Buzzword.

The Case Against Buzzwords

I bet you know why we all hate buzzwords so much. They’re overused. They’re cliché. They’re sometimes downright silly.

They probably started as someone’s clever idea and then someone else tried to be clever by borrowing it and before you knew it every business was offering client-focused synergy delivered by high-powered gurus.

Buzzwords become buzzwords when we hear something enough times that we start to unhear it. I’d bet that the first person who gave an inspiring speech and compelled the audience to take their businesses to the “next level” received great applause.

But then the idea got coopted by… well, everyone. We all want a little applause, right?

But by nature of being a buzzword, that word becomes overused. It loses its impact. It loses its meaning. We stop paying attention to it. Worse, our customers stop paying attention to it. And our marketing copy languishes, full of stale writing with no real message, nothing unique or even interesting to compel people to do business with us.

Too many times using a buzzword is an excuse for lazy writing. We pick a word we’ve heard a thousand times and, smug in our conviction that we’re “with it”, we go ahead and pepper our writing with jargon that we think will prove we’ve got insider secret industry knowledge.

These are the lies we tell ourselves.

There’s no excuse for lazy writing. Smart thinkers (thought-leaders, even!) create new words every day. Smart thinkers play with language and think about how they can say something that means something to their audience.

Which leads me back to why the word “buzzword” must die.

Death To The Buzzword

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word “buzzword”.

Just as there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking your business to the next level.

They’re just words used to express an idea. But the problem with “buzzword” is that it draws a line around a group of words and labels them “Do Not Use”.

It eliminates a swath of vocabulary from our arsenal and sends us off looking for something that may very well be less effective.

So, should we be using buzzwords or not?

No. And yes. And… I have no idea.

If that sounds too vague then here’s what you should be doing: thinking about the words and language and tone and messages that will resonate with your audience and using those.

Not the ones that will impress your audience. If you’re using any words to sound important or because you think it shows that you know what you’re talking about, stop.

Hit the delete key immediately.

Start over.

Your words should resonate with your audience. That means that what you say means something to them in a way that they understand, in a way that they relate to, in a way that reflects who you are what people can expect from you.

When I hear or read the word “epic”, specifically in relation to “content”, as in “Do you want to generate leads on your blog? Then write epic content!” I despair the fate of the human race.

I would never ever ever in a billion trillion zillion years advise you or my clients or anyone to “write epic content” as part of their marketing strategy. I don’t even know what that means. And maybe some of my audience is still out there looking for the perfect blog post that will teach them the five easy steps to writing epic content. But that’s not for me to teach. It doesn’t fit my approach to marketing or writing and it doesn’t fit the direction I want to help people take their own writing and marketing.

But you’re not me.

And if that is you and your audience does connect with the idea of “epic” anything, then don’t eliminate that word just because I said so.

Your job isn’t to follow trends or even to reject them. It’s to know your audience and communicate with them in the most effective way possible.

And if you can honestly tell me that the best word for the job is “epic”, then go for it.

Be as epic as you want to be.

Make Your Words Earn Their Way

Every word should earn its place in your writing and even in your speaking.

So let’s stop categorizing words and let’s start using them – the most effective ones possible – to communicate exactly what we want to say. No more. No less.

If you use a word and it sounds overused or silly or it doesn’t express your purpose then throw it out.

I don’t care if it’s called a buzzword or just a noun.

And don’t use words just because everyone else does and you think that’s what people want to hear.

Be smarter than that. Be smarter than to follow the crowd. Be smart enough to know who you’re speaking to and what works when you do. Skip the jargon, period. Skip the trite, the overused, the underwhelming.

In fact, go ahead and call something a buzzword! I thought I would kill it off today but it heard what I said and started fighting back. It’s still kicking in the trunk so I’m going to let it out.

In the meantime, how about you share a word that YOU want to wipe out of your vocabulary? The one that would never work for you and sounds stupid even as you think it.

Go ahead… I’m all buzzed about it.

P.T. Barnum was a man of many words, which he used to promote hoaxes and circus acts. These days, a whole cadre of words belong to a genre known as jargon. These jibber-jabber nonsense words have come to be a nuisance for legitimate businesspeople and the elixir of life for the more unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in our midst. This month’s Word Carnival explores Jargon in depth across a variety of industries, but one thing’s for certain: there’s no double-speak here, just on-the-money advice for anyone tired of flim-flam.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • You never fail to surprise, Carol Lynn. Thanks for giving us permission to keep our buzzy words, if we want to.

  • Buzzing by to say thanks for an epic post! Your thought leadership skills are awesome. (Sorry, Carol Lynn. I couldn’t resist.) 😉 LOL

    • LOL, you are a gem. It’s funny because sometimes I use the word “synergy” and then I cringe inside because I think buzzword alert! buzzword alert! But it just works sometimes because that’s what you mean. I also called someone a thought-leader recently – cringe again – but again, it seemed to fit. And hence this post!

      • If the shoe fits, wear it. 🙂

        Gotta say “thought leader” really gets my goat. Even when you break those two words apart and define them, separately, you’re still left with a bucket full of “vague”.

  • Love, love, love “every word should earn its place” – great rundown of key terms to avoid, Carol Lynn. Sometimes a buzzword IS the right word, but mostly, it’s not.

    • Very true… the problem is really that words have become buzzwords in some contexts but that doesn’t make then wrong all the time. It’s important to know the difference between “I’m using a word because I’ve heard it a billion times so it must be the right one” and “I’m using the right one”.

      I should have given the example of synergy which is so overused that it means nothing when it comes to business. But it’s an actual word that can be useful! And sometimes I want to use it but I stop because I think, oh, that’s a bad word.

      So yeah, it’s not ok to use buzzwords as-is and just-because. You do have to think about what you’re saying! And if a word has a place…. you gotta use it.

  • Oh Carol I HEART this post so much. You jumped right into the center of everything I stand for here – “Buzzwords become buzzwords when we hear something enough times that we start to unhear it.”

    We UNHEAR it. Meaning, that if you’re trying to be heard (what business isn’t?) then you’re essentially pressing the mute button on your broadcast.

    Well done darling!

    • No doubt, we are basically asking people to ignore us when we use boring overused words!

      • Plus there’s the whole death to baby monk seals thing; it’s real, I swear.

  • Love this Carol….yes..it’s all about originality, taking a risk and creating your written space. The think I have really learned from reading this post is that we must step over the common terms/words used and bring forth our originality at all costs so that we don’t get lost in the shuffle/buzz that everyone else is taking up space in…hope that makes sense…Another great one of course!!!

    • Yes, originality is important, but more importantly, be originally you! Don’t just use up someone else’s idea of a good word!

  • “Content is King” – Please, shoot me now! Especially because that is not necessarily the case. “Networking is King” not content.

    “Follow Me” – Please, shoot me again! Don’t get me wrong because it’s great to have a million followers. Problem is, at that point, you’re no longer connecting because you’ve gotten so high and mighty that you really don’t care what your followers have to say. It’s all a numbers game.

    “Google doesn’t like (fill in the blank)” – Really? Well, if I want to know what Google doesn’t like, I’ll go to Google(dot)com and get it straight from the horse’s mouth. I don’t believe I need to pay anyone to tell me what Google does or doesn’t like.

    I could go on for days – but I’ll stop here.

    • Ok, I’m going out on a limb to say that “content is king” should be beaten with a wet rubber chicken then covered in hot oil and set on fire. Plus whatever other cliche things can be done that would kill it forever!