Words to TRULY Avoid in 2015

From Wearables to Webinars to White Papers, please, take heed…

Changed Game Ahead!

Game Changer.

I’ve been complaining about this cringeworthy term for a long time. I noticed its use increasing (via Google Trends) over the last few years, but when McKinsey uses it in the title of a report, we might be at peak game changing, and it could be high time to put this particular game behind us.


If it tells the time and goes on your wrist, it’s a bloody watch! Not sure for how long in the 1980's Casio called it a “wearable calculator” instead of a calculator watch, or maybe just a “button-centric” watch, but I doubt they just called it a “wearable”. If it’s not an arm-held timepiece, it’s probably something that already has a name you can use, and perhaps that name can even accommodate an adjective!


As Marc Andreessen observes “Few intellectual concepts in our time have been mangled by observers more than Clay Christensen’s disruption idea”. Despite Marc’s explanation (beautifully visually summarized below), all I know is that stuff is changing ever more quickly, and every company is trying to figure out where in their business to experiment, what to fix and what to leave alone. Let’s disrupt this disruption and just get back to the normal try-fix-avoid programming.


Marketingspeak at its finest, engagement is an example (by no means the only one of course) of something where no two people in the marketing field will give you the same definition. From my perch, it seems to mean “appearing to pay some attention to my company or brand in a way I can’t really connect to revenue or anything that resembles an inflow of money to us”. If you neither causally nor casually connect this thing you’re doing to revenue, don’t do it. I’m looking at you, Content Marketing.

White Paper.

This is usually either: written by us ourselves to look like some independent third-party research, partially impartial — it probably has one or two caveats but then strongly makes the point why our solution or widget or approach or mindset is the right one, or, it was actually written by an impartial, independent third-party research vendor (well, we paid them $15,000 to write it — that’s still impartial right?). What’s worse is we’ll probably make you give us your email address to get the 4-page 15mb PDF with the blue background logo graphic that makes it really hard and slow to read.


Because that YouTube video you’re watching at work is not safe for work because it has [nudity/off-color jokes/blood/loud music/whatever] in it — not because you’re watching a YouTube video at work when you should be, I dunno, working? Remember the “boss key” from the 90's that would quickly replace your computer game screen with what looked like a Lotus 1–2–3 spreadsheet? (Millenials: ignore entire preceding sentence) Wonder if it ever fooled any bosses?

Think Piece.

This is either the journalistic equivalent of a “white paper” (see above), or a way for online publications to get “thought leaders” to provide something new for free for the search engines to crawl, and/or for the leisure-activity-challenged workaholics to read, on weekends. Published content is either news or opinion, and of course the increasing likelihood of a mushy mixture of the two without a clear delineation. Let’s not make it worse by adding another name for the mush.


Take two words, one still only mildly relevant (Web), another quite unappealing (seminar), and mash them together to describe something that looks a lot like a conference call (which most of us find mind-numbing). If you want to continue to fool, eh, I mean encourage, people to attend these, please rebrand them.

[x] is the New [y], (and grammatical variations).

Originally, this was the phrase ‘[something] is the new black’, because black supposedly never goes out of fashion. But it’s gotten out of hand, with examples like:

  • is M&A the new R&D?
  • Minecraft is the new LEGO
  • Knitting is the new yoga
  • and the absurd “are men the new women?” (see left)

Apparently this type of thing might be known as a “snowclone”. I have now learned something.


Some others have advocated not using this term for various reasons. My argument against it is that whoever or whatever company is saying it is probably trying to justify their continued existence/employment by attempting to give something extra but not-that-valuable away for free, or trying to figure out how to continue to extract money for a service where the value is in question. Rather, focus on delivering a core service or product that is helpful or necessary, and the rest will take care of itself.

Content Marketing and Native Advertising.

I don’t want to give either of these two nonsense terms their own bullet. I believe that the latter is simply when you pay for the former. Content marketing appears to be writing something longer than the copy that would fit into a regular ad, that will make the reader forget that it is paid for by a company trying to get you to buy stuff, unless of course the company is merely trying to get you to think they’re clever (see: White Paper), or get you to hover your mouse over their website for a few seconds (see: Engagement). I think other avoid-this-crap lists from earlier years must have already covered some of this, since content marketing’s formerly-popular red-headed stepchild, the infographic appears to be dying a well-deserved death now, and dragging its less-popular step-parent down with it.

Google Trends of content marketing and infographics


Public relations has a public relations problem. Stats and stories about there now being 5 times as many PR people as the journalists they attempt to influence abounded in 2014, as did journalist complaints about receiving hundreds of pitch emails a day.

Perhaps “PR” is a necessary evil, though since they outnumber the journalists so heavily I think they spend a lot of their time now doing content marketing with a goal of increasing engagement, actually (qv).


This is usually used in a context where purposefully no definition of the class that the thing, company or product is best in, is provided. As such, it is some of the the purest bullshit type of product-marketingspeak.


No business should care at all about Facebook Likes anymore, and please journalists, don’t waste any more time writing about them. The rest of us should certainly avoid its use as a noun in casual use, and in a business context it could stand to be verboten.

Favorited or Favorites.

More language-bastardization, this time for these curious Twitter creations. Everyone on Twitter knows that a favorite is meh: could be a bot, maybe a way to nudge someone into following you, or a way to say, “that’s interesting, though I don’t really agree” (see honorable mentions down below). Remember: the closest thing to an endorsement and the only Twitter thing that really matters is if someone retweets your tweet.

And finally,

URL shorteners on Twitter.

Because bit.ly/S2xhd7a is so much more appealing to click on than seeing the actual URL, and unless you missed the memo(s), (a) all URLs cost the same number of characters on Twitter now, (b) Twitter’s reporting (they mislabel it “analytics” BTW) will tell you how many people saw your tweet and clicked on your link (if you care), so creating a short URL and then looking at its reporting to tell whether you got 6 or 10 clicks on your blog post is probably a waste of time, and (c) people are ever more scared that you’re not really you, and your account pretending-to-be-you is trying to send them to some fake bank website phishing expedition.

That’s all we have time for today. Write and talk in good health, and all the best for 2015!

Honorable mentions:

  • “Recurring Revenue”, ARR, MRR etc.
  • “Maybe”, or “Interesting”
  • “Sharing Economy”
  • “Social Media” (probably a 2016 one)
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