New Normal words on wooden alphabet cube.
PHOTO: tete_escape

COVID-19 left all of us in new territory. At work. At home. In our personal lives. And certainly in marketing.

Marketers struggled finding just the right tone at the outset of the pandemic. It's still a challenge. Customers were scared for their health. They changed spending habits. Brands contemplated suspending marketing for paid products, and some did.

Let's give marketers a bit of a mulligan if their campaigns seemed a little off, tone-deaf or contrived. We all tried. Even if marketers did fall victim to the occasional buzzword use in a campaign, they’re forgiven.

It’s 2020. Everyone was under duress. Still, we can learn from all those buzzwords and phrases, right? Creativity remains paramount for brands to stand out, right?

So, we’re revisiting our popular piece from 2018 on the worst marketing buzzwords. Not all of the 2020 version are pandemic-related and have withstood the test of time. Think some of these need to be retired? Or at least used sparingly?

The New Normal

Let’s get this one out of the way.

The “new normal” will quickly no longer apply as a new “new normal” will reveal itself calling for a new declaration of newness, said Michael Huard, senior content marketing manager at Iterable. “The term is also ableist and can be considered offensive to the members of the disabled community who have been homebound long before the pandemic hit,” Huard said.

We’re Here for You

Did you use this in a marketing campaign? Ok, it’s not so bad. But it does seem a little overdone, no? Who would have imagined something like this can move into buzzword territory? But Heidi Bullock, CMO at Tealium, pointed this one out for us, along with a few others.

"Unprecedented, digital transformation, new normal, challenging times, we're here for you, virtual experiences, you’re on mute and can you hear me" are just a few of her favorite overused buzzwords of the year.

Of course, some of those aren’t marketing related, but marketers can certainly relate.

Pivot

Kathy Keller, PR director of Protiviti, said she nominates “pivot” as an overused buzzword. As in, “We had to pivot to working remotely…” or “Our business pivoted to selling ...”

Media Agnostic

Kelly Rusk, Sitecore architect for Rackspace and Sitecore MVP, said his viewpoint on Media Agnostic is two-fold. First, it recalls the days of “omnichannel” buzzwords where the substance was lost and many failed campaigns occurred as marketing teams forgot to target the media channels most appropriate for their audience (i.e. 90-year-olds are a low demographic on Twitter).

And then second, agnostic implies not actually using media when in fact this buzzword is about campaigns crossing media types.

Omnichannel

Amanda Quinn the SVP, finance and marketing for ArenaCX, said she is over the use of omnichannel. “We get it — customers want to be able to speak to brands on every platform, and expect the brand to identify them as customers and acknowledge their shared history,” Quinn said. “This shouldn't be discussed as 'strategy'. Rather, it's an absolute necessity to win and retain customers.”

According to Quinn, the future of omnichannel is brands engaging with their customers and prospects in the right channel (for marketing purposes) and using information about that customer to instantaneously determine the right agent or team to handle that customer, at this particular moment (for support purposes).

Socially Distance

This one may be more for the Dr. Faucis of the world and not marketers, but marketers are in the mix here, too.

Stephanie Roulic, founder of Startup Boston, made the point that through COVID-19, we have been “physically distancing.”

“In fact,” she added, “I'd make the argument that we actually have been MORE social during this time. More and more people are offering to jump on coffee meetings to offer advice, and I see colleagues throwing up meeting links for those who want to mingle and meet new people during a ‘social hour.’”

Dynamic

Kyle Elliott, founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, said dynamic is a marketing buzzword that is overdone and needs to be retired for good.

“The adjective provides no insight as to how the item being described is unique or different,” Elliott said. “How exactly is the item being described dynamic? Be specific with your adjectives.”

Authentic/Authenticity

Shonavee Simpson-Anderson, SEO strategist of Firewire Digital, said there is no longer anything “authentic” about using the word authentic as a brand descriptor or as a key phrase in your marketing.

“It’s time to retire it and it’s relative, ‘authenticity,’” Simpson-Anderson said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but like any overused word it has lost all meaning. It starts to sound wrong when you say it and rings hollow with audiences. Rather than tell everyone how authentic you are or how much you value authenticity, show your audience through what you do, because that is truly authentic, and then we’d never have to read that utterly worn-out word again.”

Mobile-First

Stephanie Riel, founder/owner and brand strategist at RielDeal Marketing, said consumer data cross-industries suggests that the majority of consumers engage with brand content via a mobile device. “Seems to me,” she said, “like it's more than time to just set the expectation that our strategies should be developed with a mobile-first mentality to make the most sense for the customer."

Going Virtual

Ryan Hart, a content marketing consultant, said he’s ready for 2020's ultimate marketing buzzword of "going virtual" to fade away. Even before COVID-19 hit we lived in a digital-first marketing world, he said.

“The companies that thought they were being revolutionary this year by ‘going virtual’ with their online events, classes, meetings and content are actually many years behind,” Hart said. “Hopefully we will no longer have to hear about ‘going virtual’ because it should be a given that companies offer digital versions of their content.”

AI-Powered

Aaron Haynes, CEO of Loganix, said AI-powered is a very specific, yet highly overused and misinterpreted marketing buzzword in 2020.

“AI, in general, is used to describe pretty much any automation feature today,” he said. “But claiming that a certain product is AI-powered is far too easy and annoying. A feature that does something on its own is not AI-powered by default, but I guess it sounds cool.”