Annoying Marketing/Branding Buzzwords That Need to Go Away



Brian Cantor
05/01/2012

"Sex sells." "I sell the sizzle not the steak." Believe me, I fully understand that effective advertising is not always about how accurately it portrays the substantive value of the product.

But a line needs to be drawn when it comes to the egregious overuse of tired, weightless "buzzwords" in product branding and marketing. Some of the blame, indeed, falls on the customers who gobble the meaningless adjectives up, falling into the trap that a single word is enough to align a product’s identity with either his own identity or at least an elevated sense of quality.

Some, however, also falls on the brands, who know the buzzwords to be cheesy, ineffectual and inarticulate and yet insist on using them because it is the marketing language they know.

Here are some examples of annoying marketing buzzwords that need to die a slow, painful death.

Artisan: The impetus for this commentary. In a startling testament about how meaningless marketing adjectives can be, down-to-earth brands Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s have issued campaigns mocking the pretentiousness behind the use of "artisan." The problem? These meta, self-referential commentaries are also self-deprecating ones—both brands, despite knowing the absurdity of the word, debuted "artisan" product lines in the very commercials that mocked the concept. (See-also: Handmade, Hand-rolled)

Sport: A meaningless word that apparently gives masculine credibility to cosmetic products (which, apparently, are meant for women). Apparently, manly men cannot use shampoo, body wash or suntan lotion without being assured it is for athletes. And I bet they play football, baseball and basketball better after using them.

Extreme: Maddox famously ripped the egregious overuse of "extreme" (or the dreaded "Xtreme"). (See also: Hardcore)

Clinical: While it is true that "clinical" might represent a legitimate reference to the research process behind the product, its nebulous application in branding (especially for cosmetics and household goods) suggests a level of strength or inventiveness that might not actually be there. Often, the "clinical" product will rely on the same active ingredient as the non-clinical product.

Limited/Limited Edition: "It's a ‘limited’ edition...what did they make, fifty million of those? ‘Yes, it's limited to the number we can sell.’" – Jerry Seinfeld.

Breakthrough: Apparently, it is not enough for a product to be good. Customers need assurance that their product purchase is the product of cutting-edge (fitting!), super-secret research that we should be thrilled is finally leaking into the mainstream, even if the technology or chemical has been around for ages and represents a minor, if any, change from what already exists in the market.

European Style: Again, like clinical, it is very possible that the term has some legitimacy. It is very possible that traditionally-European recipes or processes were used in the creation of the product. But more often than not, some loose connection to "Europe" is overhyped because American consumers automatically assume that something European is glamorous, chic and classy. And they have little to no point of reference for knowing whether or not the European-style product is authentic (or if they even want it to be authentic). (See also: Authentic, "New York Style" Pizza or Bagels, "Family Recipe")

Old-Fashioned: It’s exactly like the old days. You know, except for the modern technology, manufacturing processes, health precautions, marketing and concern for the contemporary palate.

World-Class: "World-class" seems particularly unnecessary in a globalized world; since I can buy products from international brands regularly, shouldn’t everything be capable of competing in the "world-class?" (See Also: Best-in-Class)

There are certainly far more. Which branding buzzwords do you feel are overrated?

(As a required disclaimer, note that neither CMIQ nor the author is claiming that any brand is being dishonest in its use of the aforementioned terms. Rather, the claim is that the dilution of the terms has rendered them ineffective and annoying; brands that do use them should strive to be more creative).

Photo credit: Dunkin' Donuts

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