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10+ Buzzwords to Banish From Your Content Marketing Vocabulary

Like nails on a chalkboard, they elicit a bad reaction every time you read and hear them.

Unfortunately, you see and hear them a lot – that’s one of the reasons you cringe. (Me? I get so irritated that I mentally edit to get rid of the utterances.)

They are the buzzwords used by content marketers. They are overused, misused, poorly used, and just generally irritating.

“Buzzwords are like weeds: They’re just flowers that are in the wrong place,” says Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity.

Buzzwords are like weeds: They’re flowers in the wrong place, says @dougkessler via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

To kill the weeds and promote flowery growth (not flowery words), we asked Content Marketing World 2020 speakers for their top candidates for buzzword banishment – and their replacements, if necessary. (To learn what words and phrases they do like to use, check out their sessions for the online October event.)

And in honor of CMWorld’s 10th anniversary, we’re sharing 10 (well, sorta) nominees. (Don’t see the ones you want to ship out? Add them in the comments.)

1. Unprecedented

Yes, it is true, but we are all so tired of reading it. Write that sentence if you must, then delete it and use the next sentence as your lead. – Adele Revella, CEO, Buyer Persona Institute 

2. Smarketing

Go on and take the extra second to say “sales and marketing.” Smarketing is just smarmy. – Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso

3. Low-hanging fruit (and snackable content)

Just say easy, quick.  And really, shouldn’t all content – regardless of its length, be easy (snackable) to consume?  – Cathy McKnight, vice president strategy and consulting, The Content Advisory

Get rid of the food jargon: low-hanging fruit and snackable #content, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

4. Leveraging

Just use a different verb like “help” that’s more human. – Adam Morgan, executive creative director, Adobe

5. Growth hacking

It is a buzzword for marketing that implies temporary, false growth. It’s just marketing. – Rachel Mann, digital engagement supervisor, American Fidelity Assurance Company

“Growth hacking” is a buzzword for marketing that implies temporary, false growth. It’s just #marketing, says @rachelizmann via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

6. Going viral

I’ve long advocated banishing “going viral” from our marketing vocabulary and our business goals. And if RIGHT NOW isn’t the time to stop using the phrase, I really don’t know when will be. – Erika Heald, founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting

7. Empathy

I’m so glad we’ve acknowledged our audiences are humans with feelings, but let’s collectively pledge to move past this using this word as shorthand for manipulating emotions to get clicks. I think “useful,” “meaningful,” and “enjoyable” are all better guiding words for brands. – Jennifer Jordan, vice president and head of content (US), Babbel

Replace “empathy” with useful, meaningful or enjoyable, says @jenastelli via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

8. Digital transformation

Digital is always transforming. Even for an organization that thinks they have it all figured out, something may come along tomorrow and disrupt their whole process. Digital transformation has too many variables and ways to be defined. Instead, let’s talk about our ongoing journey. This connotes an ongoing process, not just a one-off point in time that will happen and then be over. – Andi Robinson, global digital content leader, Corteva Agriscience

I still don’t know what it is. And I’m sure that those who talk about it have different definitions from others. Or, they just say the buzzword to sound like they’re on the leading edge. Instead of an alternative, I propose we stop using the term entirely and simply refer to more specific things that make up digital transformation today. – Dennis Shiao, marketing consultant, Attention Retention LLC 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: You Say You Want a Digital Transformation?

9. Bold

I have nothing against boldness if it is consistent with the brand and relevant. But to get to that stage we must build a strong foundation, know our brand and audience inside out, have experience and results that will back our confidence. Maybe not the alternative but a necessity for boldness is confidence based on results. – Inga Batur, senior editor and copywriter, Zavarovalnica Triglav (Triglav insurance company)

10. Artificial intelligence (AI)

This is used across the board when what is often meant is machine learning. – Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester

And Ahava R. Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group, had three more for banishment consideration –archetypes, journeys, and measurable ROI.

Ruth Carter, evil genius, Carter Law Firm, has one more plea: “Can we stop saying only half words or speaking in abbreviations? I know it takes a little longer, but please use whole words when writing in complete sentences or speaking.”

Can we stop saying only half words or speaking in abbreviations, asks @rbcarter via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

And as we conclude this jargon therapy session, let’s appropriately reflect on what Christoph Trappe, chief marketing officer, The Authentic Storytelling Project, has to say:  “Show, don’t tell, why you’re the best or why you have something to say that’s worth paying attention to.”

What words do you want added to this list – and what, if anything, would be their replacement? Post in the comments.

Learn more about how these and dozens of other presenters at Content Marketing World can help your work. Then register to join us virtually this October for the 10th annual event.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute