10 Buzzwords We Should Kill In 2015

Pierre-Loic Assayag
December 31, 2014
How to

My mom was a French teacher and insisted through my childhood that I make proper use of language when speaking and writing; this habit translated easily to English, and to this day I struggle with the misuse of words and expressions, as they often stand in the way of clarity. Here are 10 buzzwords and idioms I found to be overused or misused that I’d love for all of us to make a collective 2015 wish to fix or kill -- if that’s not too much to ask.

#10 Agile (FIX)

Agile is an actual method (or rather a series of methods) that works and needs to be applied diligently to succeed. It is not an excuse for bad or lack of planning. The term shouldn’t be used loosely as it actually makes it more difficult to put in place.

#9 Big data (FIX)

“Big data” describes a stage of business evolution from a time when we didn’t have enough data to make decisions to one when we have too much. Companies have shifted focus from expensive collection methods and simple analytics to cheap collection methods and expensive analytics on massive datasets. So ‘big data’ is real, but there’s no option to agree or disagree, to do it or not. It’s just the world we live in. No label needed here except to refer to the era we’re in.

#8 Writing in hashtags (KILL)

Hashtags are the best thing that has come out of Twitter to date. Speaking in hashtags is the worst. Don’t take my word for it, listen to JT. ‘nuf said.

#7 Social Media Expert/Guru/Ninja (KILL)

Never label yourself as a social media expert; if nothing else, it’s an oxymoron as it really shows you have no understanding of the maturity of the space...

#6 Gamification (KILL)

Offer users an enjoyable and entertaining experience when using your service? Using best practices of the gaming industry to do it? Yes and yes. Do we need a buzzword for it? Nope.

#5 Freemium (KILL)

Freemium is the cancer of many startups and the tech ecosystem at large. Chris Anderson made a disservice to all when promoting the concept a few years back in Wired. The idea of a company offering a free or trial version of their service is often a good business practice. BUT this is not what freemium is. Freemium is the idea that you can build a free service, focus on getting to critical mass, and defer thinking about monetization, which really means “make money on advertising”. It is almost never a good idea not to iterate on revenue models in the early days. I say kill the word, kill the idea.

#4 Growth hacking (KILL)

I was tempted to put anything+hacking in this bucket but for the sake of eradication, let’s stay focused. Doing marketing on a dime, being creative about strategies and tactics to get the most out of every dollar invested is just marketing in startup-land. No need for a new label.

#3 Pivoting (KILL, then KILL again) 

Unless you’re talking basketball, never refer to a pivot or pivoting, especially when talking about your business. True business pivots are scarce and never involve startups (see Danone, Nokia, IBM early days as great examples). A startup changing direction and adapting is called Wednesday, not a pivot.

#2 Disruptive (FIX)

As a Clayton Christensen disciple, it saddens me to see one of the most important bodies of work on innovation (distinction between disruptive and continuous innovation) be bastardized the way it has been. Disruptive has become a substitute for ‘new’. Not everything is disruptive, for that matter very few things are. Great word that has been beat down. Can it still be saved?

#1 Digital marketing (KILL)

Can we just agree that “digital marketing” is just marketing? Instead let’s start calling all other forms of marketing “analog marketing”, this will accelerate the transition.

These are my pet peeves. What are yours?

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