Michael O'Neill

Buzzwords are like the secret handshake of the marketing industry. They let people in the same industry talk to each other without having to explain every little detail. It’s like a verbal shortcut, and that’s pretty handy for content creators and marketing teams.

But here’s where things get tricky. Sometimes these marketing buzzwords lose their meaning. They become just words, disconnected from anything real. And when they get passed around from company to company, they can end up meaning different things to different people, confusing potential customers.

Take the word ‘hack,’ for example. Most of us think of computer hacking, right? But, another person might use this word differently, like ‘growth hacks,’ ‘life hacks,’ and ‘money hacks.’ Suddenly, ‘hack’ has become this trendy term, and we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what it’s all supposed to mean.

Digital marketing hasn’t escaped this wordplay either. And let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of it sometimes. Words like ‘gamification’, ‘KPI’ or even ‘mobile optimization’ that once had more simple meanings are now starting to lose or change meaning due to being used too often or in an improper context. 

It’s time to get back to basics and say what we really mean – especially when talking to our target audience.

1. Intelligent Content

In a sharp reversal of course, content creators are no longer producing “dumb” or “unintelligent” content – we’ve finally entered the era of Intelligent Content. All of our content marketing problems are solved; thank you, AI tools and SEO optimization platforms.

While we truly appreciate the promotion of content that actually converts, using such monikers as “intelligent” blurs the lines between what we’re talking about: content that ranks versus content that doesn’t.

2. Influencer Marketing

If all it takes to be an “influencer” is a social marketing + real-time engagement profile, thousands of followers and a magnified sense of self-worth, then virtually every 14-year-old with a social media platform would qualify.

Companies looking to save money by relying on influencers to do much of the heavy social media marketing efforts may be sorely let down, considering once you attach your brand to an influencer, the risks may outweigh the upside. Do you remember that Kendall Jenner ad for Pepsi? Did it increase brand loyalty? Probably not. Does Pepsi regret it? 

Sure it does. Influencer marketing is basically just an attempt to ride the coattails of the cool kids.

3. Actionable Insights

We all want data, right? But these days, it’s not enough to just have data; we need ‘actionable insights.’ It’s as if the numbers are supposed to leap off the screen and hand us a ready-made digital marketing strategy.

But here’s the thing: all insights are actionable. The term ‘actionable’ might sound fancy, but it doesn’t change the fact that you still need the right people and tools to make sense of the data. 

digital marketing buzzwords

It’s not about waiting for the perfect insight to magically appear; it’s about rolling up your sleeves and digging into the numbers to find what works for your business

4. 360-Degree Visibility

What’s beyond transparency, a bird’s-eye view, or even a wide-lens panorama? It’s 360-degree visibility. We’re not just skimming the surface here; we’re delving into every single facet of your marketing industry programs, leaving no stone unturned.

Complete visibility is a commitment to understanding every detail, every angle. It’s about having a complete, unobstructed view of your marketing landscape. 

So, buckle up, and let’s explore what 360-degree visibility truly means for your business.

5. Deliverables

Whenever you turn an action verb into a noun (otherwise known as nounification <= that’s a bonus buzzword for you), something has gone wrong.

Why can’t we just stick to delivering content, instead of sending deliverables?

6. Deep Dive

Sometimes brainstorms, group-ups and downloads just aren’t enough. You need a mythical, subaquatic meeting to truly understand what’s happening with a project or client.

That’s why we have deep dives.

digital marketing buzzwords

7. Consuming Content

Just as many of us have daily routines, waking up at sunrise, preparing breakfast and enjoying our coffee, toast and newspaper, we also consume content in various forms. 

As typical consumers in today’s economy, we engage with different media, including the written word, absorbing information from various sources. 

Doesn’t it seem a bit odd to refer to this engagement as ‘consuming’ content?

8. Thought Leadership

A thought leader is pretty much an influencer before influencers were influencers.

They dominate their industry through sheer intellectual veracity, dropping knowledge bombs so deadly Google bows down and ranks their website first for every keyword ever.

Thought leadership is about as vague a goal as you can have, so you might need to set up a deep dive (see what I just did here?) to determine your goals and choose the appropriate KPI to measure them.

9. Programmatic

This one may be a bit unfair because programmatic advertising is still a young technology, and it really has remade the entire media industry.

But marketers and advertisers throw around the term “programmatic” in the same way that your co-worker insists on using words like “motif” and “picaresque” in a normal lunchtime convo. Were you to call their bluff, they couldn’t really explain how programmatic technology works.

10. User-Generated Content

If you’re really crunched for time, you might just say UGC, then spend the next five minutes regretting using an acronym that most website visitors aren’t yet familiar with.

Because the phrase contains the word “user,” marketers love to bandy about how customer-centric they are (more on this later).

11. Analytics Dashboards

Analytics are great. Dashboards are great. In fact, you’re not really running a marketing campaign until you’ve integrated all your channel analytics into a convenient dashboard with plenty of visualization features.

We include this buzzword because of its necessity, not because anything is innately annoying by hearing it used too often. However, you may beg to differ.

12. Customer-Focused or Customer-Centric

I’m a corporation, but I care about customers and the customer journey and the customer experience. That’s why my website references ‘customer-focused solutions’ and ‘customer-centric experiences.’

How else am I supposed to drive home the point of how much I love customers? This approach fosters customer interaction and builds consumer trust.

digital marketing buzzwords

13. Strategic or Strategy

Let’s talk about ‘strategic.’ We all use this word, especially when discussing campaigns and audience targeting. 

But what does ‘strategic’ really mean? 

Sometimes, it’s just a buzzword that’s thrown around without a clear definition, leaving us wondering about its actual purpose in our marketing conversations.

14. Mockups

In the fast-paced world of design, we often shorten it to ‘mocks.’ It’s all about efficiency and getting to the point. 

So, where are the mocks? Are they ready for the client? 

And no, I’m not mocking you; it’s just how we talk in this industry.

15. ROI

Every for-profit business aims to achieve a return on investments (ROI). It’s a fundamental goal that doesn’t need constant reiteration. Whether you’re questioning how to measure success or defining your bottom-line objective, the answer is ROI. 

It’s always been about ROI, and it likely always will be.

16. Sales Funnel

The term ‘sales funnel’ has become a staple in marketing discussions, almost to the point of cliché. It’s frequently used, but how often do we pause to consider its real impact and meaning within our strategies?

17. Lower My Bounce Rate

As surface-level metrics go, bounce rate is about as unhelpful as they come. It’s too often misunderstood and can easily lead marketers to misinterpret data and course-correct in the wrong direction.

Lowering your bounce rate likely should not be a top-tier concern if you enter into a conversation about high-level digital marketing goals.

18. Campaign

Perhaps because the term is a carryover from the ad industry, marketers love talking about campaigns, especially executives who aren’t actually involved in day-to-day operations.

Not every asset is part of a campaign. Not every project with multiple deadlines and several departments involved is a campaign.

Sure, we love them – just actual ones that include monthslong delivery schedules, cross-channel messaging and analytics tracking every step of the way.

19. Local Agency

Ever notice how companies seem to gravitate towards local agencies? There’s something about the word ‘local’ that brings to mind close collaboration and a shared understanding. It’s comforting, right? 

But let’s not confuse correlation with causation here. Just because an agency is local doesn’t automatically make it better suited for your digital marketing needs. If you’re running digital campaigns, the physical location of the vendor might not be as crucial as you think. 

After all, digital knows no boundaries, so why limit yourself?

20. Leverage

You’ve probably heard phrases like ‘How can we leverage this on social?’ or ‘I’m hoping to leverage our internal experts.’ It’s everywhere these days! 

But let’s be honest, ‘leverage’ is often just a fancy way to say ‘use.’ It might sound more impressive, but at the end of the day, it’s about making the most of the resources and assets available. 

So next time you’re considering leveraging something, maybe just consider using it instead. It’s simpler, and it gets the point across just as well.

21. Brand Awareness

Brand awareness, much like thought leadership, can be a slippery slope. It sounds great in theory, but what does it mean to you and your brand? 

If you can’t put a finger on what brand awareness represents for your business, it might be time to rethink its application. 

Sure, I can craft a blog post or two to boost social media shares by 35%, but is that in line with your vision of raising awareness for your brand? It’s a question worth pondering, don’t you think?

digital marketing buzzwords

22. Brand Identity

The terms branding, brand identity, brand persona and brand personality can become a tangled web. 

Let’s simplify it. 

Your brand encompasses the intangible elements of your company, such as values, mission, culture, attitude and personality. 

Branding is the way you express those elements through design, logo, style, tone and marketing approach. Brand perception or brand image is the final reception by the audience. 

While other ‘brand’ terms might seem confusing, remember that the essence of a brand is about connection and communication, not mysticism.

23. Contextual Marketing

Ever heard of contextual marketing? It’s all about targeted marketing, but with a fancy name. 

Think of it this way: Every marketing campaign has a context, whether it’s a business goal, an audience, or even a product. Now, imagine non-contextual marketing. It’s like shouting about umbrellas while selling software or raving about luxury toilet seats when you’re in the risk management business. 

Sounds absurd, right? The term ‘contextual’ might be a buzzword, but it’s the practical application that counts. Let’s not overcomplicate things!

We’ve written previously on growth hacking, omnichannel marketing, viral marketing and snackable content, so we had no desire to dig up those treacherous terms again for this project.

But don’t let the above 23 buzzwords discourage you from embarking on your next digital marketing campaign. Whether you’re targeting potential customers, engaging with users on a social media platform or working with your marketing team to build brand loyalty, try to be more mindful of word choice in your communications.

You’d be surprised what can be accomplished when you use natural language as opposed to the corporate jargon we’ve all become accustomed to.

Editor’s Note: Updated September 2023.