billboard
Hop to it!

Years ago I remember seeing a billboard along the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago that said something like, “Our biggest source of referrals is from word of mouth.” I remember thinking at the time, “You could be selling cheeseburgers, nuclear weapon parts or flea collars, and that might apply to your business.”  I always cringe when I see a marketing phrase that is entirely unspecific to a particular business.  If you can’t say something unique about your business, you probably need to go back to the drawing board, or drawing tablet, as it were.

Technology marketing often commits the most sins of this kind because technology companies are often led by technologists. 

Also, because everybody thinks marketing is just a fun little activity instead of a specialized set of skills—you know, the floor on Dilbert where everyone has cocktail parties—it’s just a matter of brainstorming on a few fun phrases and picking the one you like best.  This is why so much technology marketing utilizes the same hackneyed phrases. It’s ironic that people say the same thing and wind up saying nothing.

So let’s plan the retirement party and buy a few Rolexes (or Apple Watches).  I hereby bring you the 2018 List of Marketing Phrases That Need to Be Retired.  Most of them are technology-focused, because that’s the world that you and I live in.  Prepare to cringe.

10. “The transformative power of blockchain.”
I truly believe I could stand in the middle of Wall Street or Silicon Valley, yell “blockchain,” and have someone loan me $10 million dollars, no questions asked.

9. “We approach your marketing challenges holistically.”
It’s that last word, obviously.  The only thing you should approach holistically is your health.  Business challenges are about as holistic as a cheeseburger, nuclear weapon part or flea collar.

8. “Our platform accelerates digital transformations.”
Every word here is bad, even “our,” as the operative pronoun in most marketing should be “you.” Platform is a horrible marketing word. It’s where hangings occur.

7. “Some things haven’t changed: our dedication to you.”
This phrase basically says, “We’ve grown a lot, and you’re still the same old small you.” Gee, thank you (Google).

6. “There are some things money can’t buy.”
Thank you, Master Card. I know I can’t buy my children’s love or my time on the planet, but with all the money you’ve made off of me, you could hire a new copywriter.

5. “Driving e-commerce.”
Why does e-commerce always need to be driven? You’d think it could afford its own car by now.  Or an Uber.  So many people are driving e-commerce that the roads are clogged, there’s an accident in front of some horribly written billboard on the Kennedy Expressway, and Miss Daisy can’t get to the Piggly-Wiggly.

4. “The future of work.”
Sincere apologies (and a shoutout) to my friend Alexandra Levit, who writes and speaks brilliantly about this subject. Maybe it’s just me, because I want my personal future of work to be retirement, like this phrase.

3. “Big data.”
I’m not talking about that band that does “Dangerous,” because they should never retire. This phrase would work a helluva lot better if someone rearchitected it as “Making big data smaller.”  We don’t have a problem with the size of data being big enough.  We need to manage it better.

2. “Agile marketing methodology.”
Okay, so you meet daily, you use Jira, and you have a certified Scrum master. Maybe you are a certified Scrum master. If you were more agile, you’d stop using this phrase.

And finally, the winner of the 2018 most-in-need-of-retirement marketing phrase is…

1. “By harnessing the power of the cloud.”
This phrase needs to be put somewhere in the middle of a desert at ground zero where they conduct tests with much larger clouds.

And on to 2019.  I’m nothing if not agile.