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Tech Buzzwords to Kill in 2019

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Having done marketing and PR for a decade, I’m pretty good at spotting spin and hyperbole — but journalists, analysts, and observers (particularly if they are experts) are even better. Theranos was a painful reminder to Silicon Valley that you can’t take founders at their word with lofty claims and the media, to their credit, is more skeptical than ever. Not only are buzzwords unsophisticated and overused, they can materially damage your reputation if they lead to a perception that you’re selling snake oil. Below are a few that just never seem to die.

  • “Disruptive”, “Innovative”, “Revolutionary”, “Groundbreaking” — just don’t. These words continue to be painfully overused in tech marketing and are thus the least useful in conveying real value. If you unironically describe your company or product this way, expect people to roll their eyes. Rather than making grandiose claims or relying on rhetoric, it’s best to illustrate why the company or product is something truly new (as opposed to an improvement on something that already exists) — and clearly demonstrate the value of that novelty. As a best practice, identify your audience’s core pain points and map your product’s value propositions back to them. Focusing too much on “speeds and feeds” (e.g. features and functionalities) may distract from the core pains you are solving.
  • “[TERM] 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, etc.” — It’s a cheap and ultimately unhelpful buzzword used to show that something changed. There are more than 700,000 google results for “Marketing 2.0”; 435,000+ for “Marketing 3.0”; and 346,000+ for “Marketing 4.0”. With only 18,000 results for “Marketing 5.0” maybe there is room for some savvy marketer to own that buzzword? Yeah, let’s not.
  • “Going viral” — The only people still seriously talking about this are Instagram influencers trying to sell you something. Good content is good content. Being strategic about how you distribute that good content can make it “great”; but pursuing virality for the sake of it is a wasted exercise. Focus on the audiences that matter and speak to them authentically; if your message hits, the content itself will do most of the work for you.
  • Jumping on the “blockchain” and “crypo-” bandwagon — we get it, blockchain is hot. But it’s still nascent and there have been lots of fraud and failure (thousands of blockchain and crypto projects have failed so far). Jumping on this tech without demonstrating true expertise is not going to make you sound cool or exciting; it’s going to shoot your credibility. And if you’re pursuing this industry because it’s the “new gold rush” and you’re hoping to make a quick buck, godspeed.
  • Jumpin on the “AI” and “machine learning” bandwagon — folks love to wrongly throw these around interchangeably to sound like what they’re doing is more sci-fi than it actually is. AI and machine learning have moved from the conceptual phase into an implementation phase and now people want to actually see not only how the sausage is made but also its real-word results and impact. A set of algorithms does not AI or ML make; be clear and upfront about what your tech is and isn’t.
  • “Data-driven” — I was torn whether to include this because in 2018, all of business strategy should be “data-driven” and it will be increasingly so in 2019 and beyond. Being “data-driven” or using “data-driven” methodologies are not unique anymore; they are expected. On the other hand, many businesses still feel unprepared or ill-equipped to monetize or utilize data and they need a bit more hand-holding as they undergo digital transformation. Ultimately, what sets true practitioners apart is their ability to explain how data analysis translates to value. Connect the dots, apply analysis and insight, illustrate a trend, and back that into every decision to create value.

What buzzwords have I missed? Comment below.

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