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10 industry buzzwords that need to die

10 industry buzzwords that need to die Kaitlin Carpenter

At first, it's just one here or there. But soon, whole flocks are worming their way across your messaging and campaigns.

"Data visualization doesn't sound so bad," you might find yourself saying. "What's the problem?" And then someone throws "enterprise data visualization to optimize the ripple effect and hyperconnectivity of your key influencers" into an article.

And that's the danger of letting industry buzzwords run rampant.

10 industry buzzwords that need to die

Here are 10 words or phrases that have been used once too often. They can be direly unhelpful, unrealistic, irritating, confusing, and vague. Could we all please cut back on using them?


Whoa -- slow down! Did you say "mobile"? Mobile's a great buzzword; everybody and their dog are on mobile these days! Mobile means we can reach the consumer whether they're at home on their couch or on the sidewalk looking for a restaurant. Mobile is where we have to shrink our ads and forfeit our click-through metrics. Mobile puts the "Mo" in SoLoMo.

The problem with "mobile" is that it's restrictive. You automatically think of a smartphone, a tablet, or a mini-tablet. Trying to sum up and address all of those in one word might cause you to cut your efforts short. A more flexible and accurate alternative for addressing "mobile" efforts is "multi-screen." There's definitely a time and place to use "mobile." It's just not as frequently as we see it now.


We've optimized everything from advertising campaigns to waffles. According to Merriam-Webster, "optimize" means "to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible." Wait a second -- so all of that other work you've been doing hasn't been to make things as functional as possible? Non-optimized campaigns haven't been pulling their weight? Non-optimized waffles have been made with a less-perfect syrup-to-butter ratio?

Face it, guys: "Optimize" is getting burnt out. Give it a break, or someone might decide that everything you haven't called "optimized" isn't as effective as possible.

Game changer

I admit, this article might be a real game changer in its own right, but please stop using this term for every little update, release, startup, feature, and cat meme that comes across your desk. (Though I must admit, Grumpy Cat was a game changer.) If we don't reserve this buzzword for actual game-changing innovations, Grumpy Cat is just one in a sea of equally amusing cat memes.

Digital ecosystem

I get it. We need a term to distinguish all of those things we do online in the digital ecosystem from -- the non-digital ecosystem? The outernet, maybe? But the term "digital ecosystem" actually has a more substantial meaning than what it's so often used for. For example, it's helpful terminology when defining specific online communities or processes, such as the "Twitter ecosystem."

So go ahead. Say "digital ecosystem" when you mean it. But make sure there's a meaning attached to your usage, and stop tossing it about when all you really want to say is "online."

[Insert noun] marketing

Tablet marketing, mobile marketing, Facebook marketing, app marketing. Where do we draw the line here? Mini-tablet marketing? The reality is that while it's sometimes helpful to note distinct efforts or platforms (see: mobile), we don't need a special marketing term for each screen or platform we're operating on. It's a slippery slope that ends with you having to write a mile-long list just to say "marketing."


Unless you think society is going to en masse abandon its devices and online connections, hyperconnectivity is a somewhat worthless concept for digital marketers. It describes current and future audiences that every business needs to learn to target and communicate with. Primarily because of this sheer inevitability, we need to just get over this term and move forward. It's not hyperconnectivity that we can address. But we can address changing online behaviors and decision-making patterns. Being connected is not the future; it's the present.

Data visualization

This is one of those buzzwords that just needs to be re-appropriated. While it means a visual display that communicates information clearly and effectively, it's come to be more synonymous with "infographic." And yes, infographics and data visualization go hand-in-hand, but they're not synonymous.


Yes, Apple does some cool stuff. But as recent patent battles have demonstrated, it doesn't have claim to everything hip and innovative. Do we really need an entire adjective to blame other companies for mimicking Apple? This really speaks to the industry's penchant for setting Apple apart from the standards it applies to everyone else, and for believing no-questions-asked that Apple did everything first. (It didn't.)

Apple has sometimes very successfully combined features into something innovative and progressively useful. I know, right? But the problem with buzzwords like this is that they're part of an innovation-stifling culture. Apple wouldn't be the Apple we love today without some borrowing and tinkering along the way, and we shouldn't punish other companies trying to improve existing products or processes by labeling them "Apple-like," and therefore copycats, not innovators.

Social media guru

Also known as the master-ninja-keeper-of-the-social-media-secrets. The whale tamer of Twitter, the pin master, the filtered photo virtuoso.

No, you don't want to label yourself "social media butterfingers" on your LinkedIn profile, but these unconventional titles have been repeated far too often to retain much originality. And many of them have little to no meaning, which in any other industry would be unacceptable. ("What did you say your job title is? I'm sorry, we're not hiring for a plastic surgeon grand master.")

A little shameless self-mockery and true originality are always welcome. Just don't use your job title or Twitter handle as an opportunity to be as unique as everyone else.

Low-hanging fruit

This term was such a low-hanging fruit that I couldn't leave it off the list. It's annoying, overused, and sells some of your best efforts short. It's an acceptable way of saying that something is so obvious and easy that it requires almost no thought or effort. Is that really what you want to be saying? That you're going after the easiest -- not the ideal -- target?

Which buzzwords would you deem worthless?
To be fair, all of the terms on this list mean something and can be useful -- if and when used appropriately. But they go from conveying industry-specific knowledge to being worthless buzzwords when they're overused or thrown around as easy alternatives to solid explanations.

Which buzzwords do you think are overused, vague, or utterly worthless?

Kaitlin Carpenter is a marketing associate at Carousel30.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Making sure the daily grind refers only to her coffee, Kaitlin is a marketing associate at Carousel30, a full-service digital agency with national clients based in historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, and with offices in Raleigh, NC, and...

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2013, March 27

Internet and new media are profoundly changing the way we work, communicate, study and relate each others.
The "Language”, which, in any society, is the first and most important tool of communication is inevitably affected by these transformation.
Language is not something fixed, static and determined but it is and it must necessarily be flexible and dynamic.
In this regard, in my opinion, it is important to make a qualitative distinction: on one hand, there are the neologisms as "spam, bugs, avatar, pop-ups, tagging, banners, linking etc...” that are necessaries to explain and describe new scenarios, new activities and new professions typical of the "Mobile World". On the other hand, there are the so called "buzzwords” often used (or rather abused) in wrong way.
I believe that while we can do without many buzzwords , we can't , in no way, give up creating and using neologisms.....don't forget that we are the "Net generation"!!

Federica Fatale
Sales manager of Hieroglifs Translations

Commenter: Ashley Edwards

2013, January 30

This article made me smile...and flinch all at the same time. Oh those buzzwords....

Commenter: lou suSi

2013, January 24

the one that gets me is 'apsolutely'

first of all, everyone mispronounces it — the bilabial voiced plosive almost always become the unvoiced and softer 'p' sound, right? listen in a close-up fashion and it'll start to annoy you, too — sort of like the word 'button' ( in which almost no one really pronounces the 2 ts at all — there's almost like a double silent syllable right in the middle of the word every time someone says 'button' — strange phenomenon )

second of all, everyone WAY overuses it — for instance:

Playa One: Are we gonna be able to get all of this extra work done within the same timeline we scoped for the original amount of work we promised the Sanchez account?
Playa Two: ( said with an annoying faux-zeal ) Apsolutely!

really? seriously? i mean, we know, we know, we know — on a daily basis the expectation is that you need to get that shit done, no matter what, even if the workload doubles, triples, zarduples, right? in some ways it actually all does need to 'absolutely' get done — BUT — really? REALLY?

the word 'apsolutely' also gets used for other, less seemingly important dialogic exchanges on a daily if not hourly basis

Playa Three: Jenn, you ready to get some lunch?
Playa Four: ( said with auto-corporate exuberant penchant ) APsSsolutely!

huh, these are somewhat bad examples because, in this case, Playa Four probably is 'absolutely' ready to go, right? but, what she meant to say is probably something more like 'Hell yeah, G — let's get the [email protected]<& outta here — let's DO this shit!' ( or, more realistically — sans 'gangsta'-like interpretations — 'yes, let me just finish sending this email while you annoyingly linger and then we can go downstairs to the cafetorium and parake of some lunchly comestibles' — OR — 'yes' )

Commenter: clinton kay

2013, January 24

My personal pet hate is "Strategy" everyone seems to want to build, share or focus on the need for strategies, it is so oversued and often so wrongly used, often at best people really mean tactic(s) and not strategy, at times plain old simple planning would suffice, there is certainly no need to be strategising to the extent that people seem to think they do.

Commenter: Catherine Hess

2013, January 23

Pardon my red pencil, but I can't resist pointing out that mixed metaphors should die as well:

"But soon, whole flocks are worming their way across your messaging and campaigns." Maybe: Whole flocks are dive-bombing their way across your messaging and campaigns. Or: Whole nightcrawler farms are worming their way.... No doubt you can do better.

You are so right about buzzwords.

Commenter: Eunice Coughlin

2013, January 23

Meh. I don't use most of these words except for optimize. I disagree with the author. No, not everything is optimized. Some clients aren't implementing the methods you've suggested to make a web page or campaign better and the digital marketing (oops, another buzzword) world is constantly changing so yes, optimize stays. I've used it 4 different ways in this comment alone.