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Responsible Marketing

Outside the box? Hardly.

By October 27, 2008August 18th, 202116 Comments

Color me cranky.

Last week, I heard the phrase outside the box one too many times and now I need to vent.

Don’t get me wrong, Responsible Marketing puts a premium on creativity. Without it, your marketing messages will never break through.

I dislike “outside the box” because it’s a cliche.

Cliches aren’t fresh, so “outside the box,” isn’t “outside the box” at all—it’s an oxymoron.

Truth is, it’s best to avoid buzzwords altogether.

Here’s a page from the Outsource Marketing corporate style guide, Jargon and buzzwords to avoid like the plague.

Jargon and buzzwords to avoid like the plague - Click to download PDF
View PDF, 44 KB

So, which buzzwords drive you batty?

Comment below to share.

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Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Adam King says:

    Didn’t know scope-creep is considered a buzzword… I don’t even know what else I’d call it! Someone, give me an alternative, quick!

  • Funny–over the summer, I read Clayton Makepeace about why you *should* put cliches into your marketing messages. And when I read his grab-you-by-the-shoulders copy, I see why. I’ve started sneaking in colloquialisms when I write copy. But there’s a difference between using colloquial speech figures that resonate with the reader and buzzwords/jargon that send that reader away or erect a barrier.

    Shel Horowitz, copywriter and award-winning author

  • Deston says:

    Saying “utilize” when “use” will do quite nicely. “Paradigm” used to make me do eye rolls in the middle of mission statement meetings, which is probably why I no longer get invited to them. 🙂

  • A great book on this topic is “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots” written by some Deloitte Consultants… although Deloitte is one of the world’s worst offenders. They have a site at

    I also wrote a blog post on the topic a couple of weeks ago:
    “The Unparalleled World-Class Mission-Critical Hero: Words Sucked Dry In Business”

    One term I forgot to include in my article is any use of “partner” as a verb. Every consultant in the world offers to “partner” with their clients, but I don’t know of many who get an equal share of the profits or bear an equal share of the expenses…

    — Freddy

  • Deston says:

    One more that isn’t put on these lists:

    TARGET as a verb. “We’re going to target our goals.”

    Makes me weep like a freshly slapped stepchild.

  • I also get tired of cliches – and one that bothers me most is “take it to the next level”.

    Destin – I agree with you on using use! Some people just have to complicate things.

  • Becky says:

    My least favorite corporate buzz phrase has to be “change agent”, or, “agent for change”. C’mon, who thought of that??

    And while we’re at it, what about using the term “reaching out” instead of “cold calling”. Just plain dumb. Is there someone at a desk somewhere who gets paid to make this stuff up?

  • Strategy !
    Way to many times the S word is totally misused and it’s way overused. I guess it sounds good, like all other buzzing-words.

  • Deston says:

    I believe it began when the “Personnel Department” became “Human Resources” in the early 80s. Then those people hired the consultants who came carrying this impressive new language that says NOTHING.

  • Cathy Browne says:

    I hate, ‘Now more than ever’, ‘state-of-the-art’, ‘unique’ and especially “We have no competition”.

  • Sarah Schuyler says:

    Great suggestions above: my own peeves, maybe because they cut close to home, are “soccer mom” and its Palinesque version, “hockey mom.”

  • Mike Warren says:

    Cliques are used by people who are not creative and NEED to follow the group. When someone tells me that they “think out of the box” that just tells me they are not focused on their companies “business Model”. Buzz words are for the uneducated, self centered, greedy and uninspired idiots.

  • Susan says:

    You forgot my (least) favorite cliche – “the perfect storm.” Or, perhaps because sweeps has started – “the answer may surprise you.”

  • I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

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