Do you know what happens when you use fluffy, meaningless marketing terminology?  Your personal precious language meter explodes, and one of Santa’s elves dies a tragic and pointless death. Even worse, I hear it ticks off Krampus. If you’re unfamiliar with Krampus, he’s a legitimately scary Northern European companion to St. Nick. Except, instead of bringing people with bad behavior coal, he devours their faces in his secret lair. No joke.

Euro-centric holiday legends aside, there’s a lot of other reasons to avoid marketing jargon this December and well beyond. Researchers have not-so-surprisingly found that most people think jargon is really annoying. It can alienate your colleagues and clients. When you’re so busy trying to sound fancy that your clients can’t even grasp what you’re getting at, you can’t ask the right questions.

Also, this marketing cartoon from Hugh Macleod is so apt I couldn’t help but share:


marketing jargon cartoon

One of our holiday gifts this season will help you save Santa’s elves, stay off Krampus’s radar, and avoid getting punched in the face. Happy holidays! Without further ado, here are the most annoying pieces of marketing jargon ever:

  1. Deferred Success

“This campaign has lead us to a deferred success.” In case you didn’t catch it, it’s just a four-syllable way of saying “fail.”

  1. Client-centric

If you have to specify that you’re working for the client’s best interests, you’ve got worse problems than fluffy language.

  1. Disambiguate

Clarify. There is absolutely nothing wrong with just saying “clarify.”

  1. TLA

There is actually a three-letter acronym for the phrase “three-letter acronym.” Not only is that painfully meta, it’s super useless.

  1. Above-Board

A strange and flaky-sounding synonym for “honest,” which should be a matter of principle (not linguistic choice).

  1. Bizmeth

Business methodology has the most disturbing portmanteau ever, right? Jargon is bad enough without a twist of hard drug references.

  1. Pay Grade

“That’s above my pay grade” is a vehicle for expressing uncertainty or straight-up refusing work. Where I come from, “I need help” works just fine.

  1. Decisioning

There’s nothing cute about trying to turn “decision making” into a single-word verb. Just stop.

  1. The Internet of Things

Cutesy phrases coined for technology in 1999 will rarely make you seem impressive. Especially when they make very little sense.

  1. Turnkey

This synonym typically means “ready-to-implement,” though I’d love to know where it originated from.

  1. Deintegrate

Unless you have a company-enforced quota of bad portmanteaus you have to use each day, the more familiar “disassemble” should suffice.

  1. Adhocracy

An environment where teams may assemble and perform self-directed work to get projects done. Also known as almost every company ever.

  1. Leverage

We’ve all heard this one, and most of us have used it. Let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to never say it again.

  1. Drill Down

The art of focusing on tasks until completion, or what you’re already paid to do for at least 40 hours a week.

  1. True North

This co-opted lean manufacturing term originally meant a concise organizational goal. You may think your Tuesday afternoon has a “true north” to it, but almost no one believes you.

  1. Low-Hanging Fruit

Easy targets. Always a good place to start on a new project or problem, but the concept doesn’t necessitate orchard-themed jargon.

  1. Agreeance

I was surprised to learn that agreeance is actually a word, but it pretty much went obsolete in the 16th century. Unless you’re wearing full Renaissance regalia, you have no business saying this.

  1. Put your feelers out

Investigate, explore, or inquire are all acceptable alternatives to this phrase that won’t make you sound like an insect.

  1. Co-opetition

Cooperating with your competitors can be an excellent plan, but they may back right out if you use the phrase “co-opetition.”

  1. HiPo

The original phrase behind HiPo, “high potential,” only has four syllables in it.

  1. Lifehack

I remember when “lifehacks” were called “critical thinking,” or “not being helpless.”

  1. SoLoMo

Social, local, and mobile all want an apology from the someone who made them into the most lame-sounding portmanteau ever.

  1. Tailwinds

Honestly, just say “momentum.” Unless someone is standing behind you with a large fan.

  1. Hypertasking

This means participating in unusual task groupings, but really just sounds like an unfortunate health condition.

  1. Delta

I understand if using “Delta” to describe a difference between two data points makes you feel like a cool nerd. For the love of Krampus, however, don’t call it “deltaticity.” I’ve actually heard that done.

  1. Synergistically

Almost everyone hates the word “synergy,” which has long been overused to death. Synergistically is not a positive attempt at resurrection.

  1. Big Data

Big data isn’t a myth. However, waking up to 27 Twitter notifications on your iPhone does not, and never will, constitute a “big data” problem.

What marketing jargon irritates you the most? Share your favorites in the comments!


Comic image credit: hugh macleod/gaping void

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