Buzzwords. Marketers need these bits of language to stay trendy – right? Not so much. According to Irene Sandler, Vice President of Corporate Marketing with Cognizant, there are three buzzwords used by tech marketers that should be avoided – unless they aim to sound like every other company out there.
The top offender is “digital transformation.” “In its base form, ‘digital’ refers to the use of 1s and 0s, first appearing on the scene with the venerable ENIAC computer waaaaay back in 1945,” said Sandler. “Transformation’ is, well, ‘change.’ It’s a more acceptable phrase than ‘transmogrify,’ my personal favorite.”
The problem really isn’t the words – but rather the way they are used by vendors to describe their services or products. Sandler compares it to “a high-tech version of diet pill advertisements, promising either new ways to generate revenue or reduce costs.” The term has been used to say, “using all the latest and available technology at hand to make sure you evolve as your industry evolves,” said Sandler. She questions why businesses just don’t come out and say that.
The second on her list is “scale.” “This is a genuine concern: a top-heavy organizational structure eventually falls under its own weight,” explained Sandler. “It’s hard to be responsive enough to deal with problems at the fringes, and it’s hard to coordinate strategy from the top-down.”
Not all issues within a large company should be labeled by marketers as scale. Instead, companies need to address the real issues by replacing old processes and embracing new technology – using scale oversimplifies the issues at hand.
Lastly, Sandler urges marketers to avoid the word “innovation.” We’re all guilty of this one, even Sandler. “The meaning of ‘innovation’ has often become divorced from actual business impact,” she said. “It’s frequently used to liven up mundane, often necessary improvements in the day-to-day running of the business, or it’s used as a way to expand an existing product or service into a new area.”
Marketers often use the word innovation when they should be saying market expansion. “True innovation is extraordinarily uncomfortable because it slaughters sacred cows and forces new ways of viewing the status quo. It serves a purpose; it doesn’t exist for its own sake,” said Sandler.
The takeaway? “Say what you mean and mean what you say.’ And for the love of all that is beautiful and holy, please don’t ever say, ‘digital transformation at scale to drive innovation,” said Sandler.