Whatever you do, don’t call this a curated list
Another year is coming to a close, and we can look back at all the greatness (or lack thereof) we’ve seen. We can also look forward to the continued mangling of the English language that pervades our industry.
So here’s a list of all the words and phrases I hope we’ll see less of in the coming year:
“Curation” — Unless you’re working in a museum or art gallery, you’ve got no business throwing this one around. It’s merely a fancy-ass way of saying you’re making decisions. Or you’re picking out stuff you like. If you think a store can be curated, consider that Walmart plans their store layouts and merchandise mix down to the last shelf of baked beans. Are Walmart stores curated spaces? No. “Curation” is a pretentious word and so are the people who throw it around so liberally and incorrectly.
“The ask” — When did ask become a noun? “What’s the ask?” Sort of a riff on “What’s the objective?” or “What action do we want people to take?” The answer to the ask could be “We want the creative team to work over the weekend redoing these banner ads” or “We want consumers to scan the QR code to receive $1 off their burrito.” The ask is the goal, or more likely, the demand. My ask is different: I respectfully ask that you never use this wretched phrase.
“Content” — I get why this one’s used so much, and I use it too. It’s a catch-all word to describe anything from videos and blog posts to tweets and ads. In the absence of another singular word to describe many things, it works. The problem is, “content” sounds so undefined it might be referring to a pile of amorphous shit and pus that goes into a large container. Like a 55-gallon drum that needs to be filled. “Content” is a cold, unemotional word. Maybe that’s why so much content is void of ideas or quality.
“Pain point” — As humans, we’re all walking around in pain. We don’t know it, though. Somehow, marketing managers have decided that all their customers, or prospects, are in pain. Lots of pain. So we all have “pain points.” Aided by a marketing manager’s bulleted list of “reasons to believe,” their product or service is the balm that relieves the pain points. But, like scratching an itch that isn’t there, it’s a phantom pain. “Pain point” is a misleading phrase used to convince ourselves that our audience somehow quietly cries out for what we can sell them. Needless jargon gives me a pain.
“Legs” — I’m not talking about the legs on our bodies. You know what I’m talking about. “That idea has legs.” But if it has legs, it can run anywhere incessantly, all over the place. Is that what we want? Perhaps a good idea has both a sperm and an egg, so it can be reproduced many ways and live on. Regardless, we don’t need more ideas with “legs.” We need more ideas with heart. Or brains.
“Blow it out” — Let’s say you think your idea has legs. Great! Now you can “blow it out.” Does that mean blowing out the legs? Sounds like you’re turning the idea into an amputee. We can expand on ideas. Or build on them. But blowing them out? Use this phrase at your peril. Because you could be blowing out something that, upon close examination, actually sucks. And that could get messy.
“Killin’ it” — Are you “killin’ it” at your job? If so, is your office a blood-stained mess? Did you bury it after you killed it? Gonna hold a funeral for it? With some pallbearers, a eulogy, and an Irish wake? Oh, that’s right — if you’re killin’ it, that’s a good thing, no matter what “it” is. I suppose sometimes you have to go all the way. “I’m beatin’ it,” “I’m molestin’ it,” and “I’m wounding it but it’ll probably make a recovery” won’t suffice. We're equating murder to success, and that's a bit much for a white-collar job, I think. Let’s kill this phrase dead, shall we?
If there’s anything the advertising and marketing industries are good at, it’s throwing around hyperbole and crapola. So here’s my proposal: Let’s make this a December to Remember, hold a Year-End Jargon Closeout Event, and get rid of these overused words and phrases.
Remember, we’ve gotta make room for the all-new 2013 buzzwords!
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Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small.
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