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The best and worst thing about being present at the dawn of the internet is watching the new language that has been developed to cope with it.

With the news that 'noob' may be about to make it into the dictionary, I gave some thought to the language we online marketers are responsible for and, I have to admit, we have created our fair share of terrible terminology. We also routinely use some horrible generic marketing terms.

So, here is my list of the worst words and phrases used in our sector. I freely admit that I use them myself but that doesn't mean I like them. Feel free to add your own below.


This just makes me shudder. I see an increasing number of CVs with this on, so I think the universities offering marketing degrees have really embraced it. People also seem to mean different things by this word, from redesigning rooms to fit a corporate image, to designing an identity for cities, to simply reassessing and defining a brand.

Does anyone know what it is actually meant to mean?


I definitely use this word but I am not happy about it! 'Web' doesn't even rhyme with 'sem'. When I go to seminars in person, I do not call them roominars, why can't we just call them online seminars?

360-degree thinking

Okay, the web may not be entirely to blame for this one, more marketers as a whole.

I am not even entirely sure what people mean by it, it is like the old 'blue sky thinking' and 'thinking outside the box', in that it means: "I do not like what you have thought of so far, go away and do it in a way that makes me think it is original."


As in the development of consumer awareness and popularity, essentially why we advertise stuff. We need this word but it just sounds so… so Borg. I prefer 'consumer awareness' or 'brand popularity' or anything that sounds less like a forced intrusion.

Touch base

Where has this word come from? Is it something to do with American sports? It is a really popular term among salespeople and I think that is because they hope 'I just wanted to touch base with you and see where we are at' sounds more 'dynamic' than 'I am ringing to see if you have made a decision'.

Team work makes the dream work

I first heard this phrase when I read it on the Internet Advertising Bureau's least wanted list but since then, I have heard it everywhere. My problem is that it is such a platitude and if you have to mouth such rubbish to motivate your team, things are going wrong.

Look at it this way, if David Brent from The Office would say it, you should avoid it.


In the world of marketing, the humble product or service has been left far behind. We do not sell things, we sell 'solutions'. They might be solutions to problems you never heard of before we began talking but now you know you need them. Whatever they are.

Leveraging relationships

I know that as a professional within the online marketing world, my purpose is simply to help people sell stuff. However, terms like this are so cold and robotic that I think we should avoid them at all costs. If your customers ever heard you talking about leveraging relationships, they would find it hard to trust you.

Web 3.0

As soon as web 2.0 became a popular phrase, a huge number of firms began promising 'web 3.0 marketing', the implication being that this is a step forward from what everyone else is doing.

However, few people have a definition for what this next stage might be and they are simply using it to describe web 2.0 marketing tactics. It is the equivalent of adding'2000' to everything back in 1998.

Idea showers

I kid you not, some marketers now worry that 'brainstorm' sounds a bit negative and as though we are laughing at people who suffer fits.

What we should do instead is take idea showers or thought showers. This is mostly an American development at present but it cannot be long before the phrase is properly unleashed over here.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 19 May, 2009 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Darren Moloney


Glad its not just me that hates this type of lingo. I heard "touch base" 3 times yesterday, mind you "thought shower" sounds like Big Brother and "dream work makes the team work" makes me want to go away and vomit.

I wonder if anyone could play catchphrase bingo at SMX London with these phrases???

over 7 years ago



I enjoyed this post, immensely. So much so that I hope we can touch base and idea shower perhaps during a webinar and leverage our relationship (moving forwards). 

over 7 years ago


Clare Lynch

Great list!

It's only a matter of time before inflation takes hold and 360 degree thinking becomes 370 degree thinking or even 3,600 degree thinking. (c.f "110% committed", which recently hit a record when a UK politician claimed his expenses were "a million percent within the rules".)

An "idea shower" sounds like something you'd be forced to take as part of a brain-washing session.

"Solutions" is rife everywhere, not just online (the humble hose is now a 'fluid transfer solution', dontcha know). In fact, I recently blogged about it here: http://www.wordsellinc.com/blog/copywriting/selling-solutions/

I've also blogged about marketers' overuse of the word "leverage" before. They're a bit behind really, given that the credit crunch is all about deleveraging.

over 7 years ago


alec east

Excellent! Brandwidth and Fangagement are two off my personal faves.

I've also knew someone who used the phrases dynamic ambiguity and vortex of uncertainty to describe a complex and changing situation.

I love the way langauge evolves, so a while ago I knocked up this Social Media Buzzword Bingo Generator - just for fun. I'll be adding some of these to the list!


And if you like buzzwords, you'll love this comic strip by Neil McAllister. It's from the 90s ( bubble 1.0 ):



over 7 years ago


Gerry Cassidy

I loathe and despipse 'touching base' and feel inclined to reach for a baseball bat any time it's used on me. Another, older one I've always hated is 'number crunching'.

These terms are all used as a smokescreen to make the users appear to have knowledge the rest of us do not. In an industry that is about communication, these term exclude rather than include outsiders.


over 7 years ago


Ares Vista

Good post. I hadn't heard of some of these, it's apalling. This is just their attempt to intimidate and frighten customers into making decisions they wouldn't otherwise make. Salesmanship is selling something to someone that needs it. This is just shameful peddling and robbing people through fear.

over 7 years ago


domains names

Great list, I shall be sure never to use them :D

almost 7 years ago

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