Eight Media and Marketing Buzzwords That Must Die

Artisan, Authentic, Game-Changing Should All Be Put Out of Their Misery

By Published on .

Lately there's been signage all over my neighborhood McDonald's for the newish Bacon Clubhouse burger that includes this copy in giant type: "Artisan is how this club rolls."

Listen, if the most mainstream, mass-market purveyor of fast food in the universe thinks it can get away with saying that the bread in its new artery-clogger (720 calories! 40 grams of fat!) is an "artisan" roll, it's obvious that the word artisan has officially been drained of the last bits of aura and snob appeal it theoretically once had.

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

That said, it's probably unfair to single out McDonald's, because long before the chain's marketing department got its greasy fingers on it, artisan had pretty much been beaten into submissive meaninglessness by overuse.

In fact, I just poked at it with a stick -- I was afraid to get too close -- and it didn't even budge. I hereby pronounce artisan and artisanal dead (from farm-to-table … to grave).

One helpful thing about the artisan buns at McD's: They got me thinking about other marketing and media buzzwords that should be put out of their misery (or at least my misery) already. I think this list could be a real g-g-game -- well, you'll see.

If you feel like you have to call attention to how real you are, then I'm sorry, your authenticity isn't authentic enough for me.

You've got decent taste (or at least you think you do) and you picked some stuff. That's nice. Also: Get over yourself!

Now that absolutely everybody has access to easy-to-use tools and platforms -- from Tumblr and Pinterest on up -- that enable content "borrowing" (cough) and redistribution, absolutely everybody thinks they're a curator. When a word that formerly signified uncommon discernment becomes entirely commonplace, it might be time to, uh, deaccession it from your collection (or at least from your Twitter bio).

I know, I know. You won't stand for the status quo! You're shaking shit up! The project you're working on is not only going to disrupt the ecosystem, it's going to disrupt the way that disruption of ecosystems is done henceforth! History will cleave in two: B.Y. and A.Y. (Before You and After You).

AHEM! I hate to disrupt your daydream, but last I checked, Walter Isaacson was not writing your biography. (That said, you can probably get a breathless Mashable post published if you send them a press release about your amazingly disruptive new technology. So ... go for it!)

When you tell everybody that a particular noble quality or approach is "in our DNA" at your company, I get what you're trying to say: it's so second-nature, so intrinsic to your mission (see below), you don't even have to think about. Except here you are not only thinking about it, but talking about it. And every time you talk about it, you're reminding me of the fact that nurture is at least as important as nature in creative environments. And honestly, the notions of predetermination and hard-coding attendant to literal DNA can be more depressing than galvanizing.

Making a big deal about how a wonderful quality is part of your company's DNA sounds to me like a Stuart Smalley-style affirmation (I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!).

A totally game-changing move for everyone to make would be to stop saying "game-changing."

Let's get real -- er, authentic: If you describe yourself as a guru, you're not a guru.

Finish this sentence: "We're on a mission to …." If you can say "explore Mars" or something similar, and you work at NASA, good for you. But if you're mainly just looking to sell or market some stuff while making some scratch for yourself and your stakeholders, c'mon, that's OK and there's no need to get all quasi-spiritual (and/or delusional) about what you're doing. Because 99% of the time, highfalutin mission statements are nothing but hot air.

Postscript: By the way, if you're wondering about my mission here at Media Guy world headquarters, it's to assemble a team of gurus who have authenticity in their DNA and can bring a curated, artisanal approach to game-changing disruption. Would you like fries with that?

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

Most Popular