Buzzwords Then, Buzzkill Now

Buzzwords Then, Buzzkill Now

Karwoski’s essential guide to marketing terms to avoid in 2016.

While there are still many of you game-changing thought leaders out there curating your speech in robust fashion with last year’s banned buzzwords, it’s a new year, and time for a new list of words to avoid, unless you want to sound like a bad ad for an unaccredited night-school MBA.

• At the top of this year’s list is a word you’re going to be hearing a lot, given the upcoming presidential election: pivot. While I’ve always associated it with basketball, everybody is pivoting in business these days. No longer do we change our minds or change direction; in fact, I’m going to pivot from those phrases right now.

See what I just did there? Simple. One of the best things about pivoting is that you never really have to admit you’re wrong about anything. Make a bad decision or get caught in a lie—just pivot. “Yes, I may have supported our Canadian expansion, but we’ve pivoted from that strategy.” See how smart you can sound? Pivoting is also essential if you’ve been downsized or, to use common language, were fired. What happened in your last position? Not your fault that the organization decided to pivot. Better yet, you be the one who pivoted and decided to leave. Pivoting makes everything possible.

• As you hopefully start to pivot less in the new year, you’ll also be altering the narrative. In fact, when people pivot, it’s always about changing the narrative. It used to be that we told one another a story, or perhaps recounted an event in our lives. Maybe there was a wise old tale passed down from an elder executive that revealed the secrets of landing new business. Well, it’s all narrative now. I mean, doesn’t it even sound smarter and more expensive? Why charge $300 for writing a product description for a client when you can deliver a narrative and triple your price? Your 5-year-old wants you to tell them a bedtime story? Introduce him to an evening narrative instead and he’ll have an edge over his Montessori classmates on the way to the corner office.

• You may recall an experience that was truly wonderful. A spectacular meal in Paris last spring. Your post on Facebook about your trip to St. Barts. Step aside, “awesome,” and say hello to your new daddy, epic. Epic was once reserved to describe a long narrative poem, but why limit it to the literary world when you can superlative just about everything? How was your presentation? Get rid of all those other superlatives, replace them with “epic” and you’ll be sitting pretty for one of those non-offices in the North Loop. But don’t dawdle—a world where an IHOP commercial has a couple of hipsters describing breakfast as “epic” may soon be destined for utter collapse.

• In the not too distant past, at the end of a project was a measured result. I always liked “result” because it was specific—a consequence, effect or outcome. But we don’t check results or data anymore, because we have analytics. Here’s a career tip: Start using the word “analytics” any time you’re talking about results or data, and everybody will automatically presume you have an MBA.

• But don’t worry about the collapse of your epic existence; you can pivot and change the narrative. Wasn’t that easy? Even better, you’ll be able to watch it all on your dashboard. Gone are the days when we looked at reports. Why waste time on that when you can be your very own Top Gun marketing maverick, with all kinds of cool bells and whistles right on your screen? Having your very own dashboard will change your life and give you just about any kind of information imaginable. If it’s out there, it can be on your dashboard. Sales slow in Scranton? Nuke that sucker with some instant targeted banner ads. It’s like flying a marketing F-22 Raptor destroying competitive targets, stealing market share and expanding your marketing might.

So pivot, change the narrative, digest the analytics on your dashboard and prepare for an epic year.

Glenn Karwoski (g.karwoski@ is founder and managing director of Karwoski & Courage, a marketing communications agency. He also teaches in the graduate school at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

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