My last two buzzword columns attracted a large amount of readers, and I learned something as a result: Some of you people are really defensive about your buzzwords. I guess you have to defend the honor of a buzzword if it’s in your tagline. It’s just that you sound like a protractor, “360-degree agency” guy, and nothing is going to change that.
Between SXSW and helping plan our upcoming Summit, I heard enough buzzwords that I seriously considered sticking forks in my eyes. (Something that may or may not have happened this past weekend when a group of us went down to the Angola Prison Rodeo.) The only way I can heal is to turn on the burners for a third time.
1. Big data
Six years in, BIG DATA is the buzzword that just won’t die—one that becomes more meaningless the longer it lingers, like Justin Beiber’s career or your ex’s creepy habit of liking every photo you post with your new boyfriend. Most marketers toss around the term big data, but few can use it in any constructive way. The majority of the time, it’s like handing a three-year-old a Lego set made for those over the age of 10. It’s too much; they’re not ready. They’ll end up putting things in their mouths that don’t belong there, and then you have to listen to them cry.
Can we all agree to avoid marketing buzzwords that sound disturbingly like manscaping? Don’t make me imagine Captain Crunch going through his special routine before hitting the pirate bars. This is a family site.
3. Brand journalist
At first, I thought that those who insist on using this term were just cleverly trolling the journalism world; but really, it’s just straight-up masochistic. The phrases “brand journalist” and “brand journalism” are 75 percent of the reason a lot of media folks hate content marketing and continue to bash the practice. To them, it feels like a weird attempt at identity theft.
Marketers, repeat after me: There is no such thing as a brand journalist. A brand can employ trained journalists who tell stories and do damn good reporting, but when you’re doing work for a brand, you’re leaving your “journalist” badge at the door. It’s kind of like a cop doing some security work on the side at a night club. You’re bringing all your cop skills to the table, but you’re not on duty as a cop. If you catch someone doing lines in the bathroom, you may throw that homie out and tell the club boss to get his shit together, but you’re not making an arrest.
The job is different. Let’s start using the term “brand writer” before Jeff Jarvis strangles someone with his Twitter account.
4. Always on
Always on is the favorite buzzword of agency folks justifying exorbitant fees. Why the $500,000 in billable hours last night? Because our brand strategy is ALWAYS ON, guys. We are literally always working. Hell, here at McGary Content Social Price, we don’t even hire anyone unless they already have a recreational Adderall prescription and an enthusiastic willingness to abandon everything in their lives to monitor your brand’s Twitter mentions like it’s a matter of national security. Have you seen our brand newsroom? Look at all those fancy monitors. And that’s our editorial director, Rick. He sleeps in that cage.
5. Tailored content
I’m not sure why content marketing shops want to make themselves sound like a Men’s Wearhouse, but it’s actually sort of fitting. When brands pick a content marketing shop to work with, it’s kind of like shopping for suits. You can go to an industrial shop selling $90 writers just like you can go to a Men’s Wearhouse and get a $90 suit, but very rarely is that decision going to make you look particularly impressive. And then there are brands that buy the $500 suit and stitch, “Finger lickin’ good,” across the butt.
6. Brand ambassador
How did we come to just accept this term as anything but completely insane? Mary in North Dakota, who just tweeted about your tupperware, is not an ambassador; she’s not about to hop on a 27-hour flight to broker relations between Glad and Cambodia. At best, she’s going over Linda’s house, and chances are they’re just going to drink moderately priced wine and discuss The Last Man on Earth. (Which is absolutely overrated, by the way.)
If you’re ever in over your head in a creative marketing discussion, just ask about scale. “Does it scale? Can we scale our reach? IS IT SCALABLE?”
Asking marketers about scale terrifies them. The vast majority of good marketing ideas are never even tried out because of the fear that the brand won’t be able to immediately throw it in the faces of 100,000 people. (And lots of awful, terrible ideas are greenlit because there’s a way to force-feed them half of America.) Ask about scale, and creatives will assume you are an agent sent to stomp on all decent ideas and force them at gunpoint to design banner ads.
8. Content consumption
Somewhere along the way, we started talking about people reading, watching, and listening to media like we’re in Weight Watchers. “How do we get users to consume content? How do we get them to consume the right content? How to we effectively measure and attribute the consumption of content? Did someone say scale? Now I feel fat.”
This buzzwordy, sterile way of talking about media is a plague. It’s one we’re criminally guilty of at Contently as well. The other day, I found myself at our edit meeting explaining, “The amount of time people are spending consuming our content per session is up 20 percent, which is great.” I immediately hated myself and secretly hoped my team would drag me onto the roof and hold me over the edge of our building. No one’s consuming content. They’re reading stuff, and they’re watching stuff. But they’re not shoving this stupid listicle down their throats out of the necessity to survive.
9. Branded emojification
This past week, a source in Digiday explained the significance of brands using emojis like this:
“Emojis are doing what the tone of voice did on the telephone and what gestures, tones and facial expressions did in interpersonal communication,” agreed Mitchell Stephens, professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. “It gives people something that has been missing in writing for the past five and a half thousand years.”
Um, no. This is brands figuring out how to contextually use smiley faces and panda bears and pictures of poop. It’s not a revolution in human language. Let’s not ? ourselves here.
10. Low-hanging fruit
A lot of marketers expect their trip to content island to resemble a Club Med video brochure, when really it’s more like Lost. You expected to survive on all that low-hanging fruit, but instead you got raging polar bears trying to mess up your every move and the occasional smoke monster whispering threats into the wind. It may just be in your head, but it sounds like he’s talking about ROI.
Got a buzzword I missed? Tweet me @joelazauskas and I’ll consider it for the next time I write one of these columns while avoiding figuring out how to vertically-integrate our content strategy, which probably should have been a buzzterm on this list.
Previously in Content Marketing Buzzwords: