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October 12, 2006

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Gobbledygook Manifesto -- Cutting Edge! Mission Critical! An analysis of gobbledygook in over 388,000 press releases sent in 2006:

» Viel Nonsens in Pressemitteilungen from the power of news
Cutting Edge, mission critical, groundbreaking, industry-standard - das Gobbledygook Manifesto“ von David M. Scott zeigt, wie viele nichts sagende Füllwörter in Pressemitteilungen verwendet werden. In 74.000 von 388.000 US-Pressemitteilungen kommt mind... [Read More]

» Ban these phrases from press releases from The Publicity Hound's Blog
Slap me if you ever hear me uttering the phrase thinking outside the box. Im adding it to David Meerman Scotts list of most offensive and overly used words and phrases in press releases. (I interviewed David several months... [Read More]

» Harness user-contributed network effects with data-driven tag clouds from Content Matters
David Meerman Scott this week published the“Gobbledygook Manifesto”, a ranking of the most overused meaningless hype terms included in press releases. David first surveyed PR execs and journalists to compile the master list, then turned to Factiva to m... [Read More]

» Endlich: Phrasenstudie und Bullshitgenerator 2.0 veröffentlicht from iBusiness.de Medien - Technik - Wirtschaft
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» FINALLY caught up on my feeds from Erin Caldwell's PRblog
It only took me an entire Sunday afternoon ha! As you can imagine, I came across a lot of interesting discussion; some I was already aware of from the little reading I have been able to keep up with. First up that caught my attention, more on g... [Read More]

» The problem with great products from Buyer Persona Blog
Marketers often lament the missing features in their products, telling me about the absence of some capability that they are convinced is absolutely necessary. I always wonder where they are getting their information. I know I can be a bit [Read More]

» The Gobbledygood Manifesto from Chaos Magnet
Yesterday, I confirmed my attendance at this years Microsoft Book Publishing Summit in March -- let me know if you're going! -- so I'm reminded of the work I did for them a few years ago. I'm especially reminded by... [Read More]

» Press release, marketing buzzwords to banish forever from The Publicity Hound's Blog
Blogger and former journalist David Meerman Scott, who I interviewed several months ago on “The New Rules for Press Releases, has written about banishing gobbledygook and buzzwords from press releases. I thought of him this morning when I ... [Read More]

» Welcome MarketingSherpa Viral Marketing Hall of Fame readers from Web Ink Now
If you are visiting Web Ink Now after reading the MarketingSherpa Viral Marketing Hall of Fame announcement, welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I am thrilled that one of my campaigns has been named to the Viral Hall of Fame for [Read More]

» Overused Marketing Words from sk-rt.com
One of my pet peeves is truly cliche advertising terms. This blogger sums it up perfectly. There's no such thing as industry standard! [Read More]

» Bombast and Techno-Babble from MarketingMuses
Here’s a profile from the website of a company that distributes computing and communications equipment for military and defense applications (the name has been withheld to protect the guilty). “(The company) was founded in 1989. Over the years since th... [Read More]

Comments

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Britton Manasco

Terrific piece. I would add that marketers (in business technology, anyway) can learn more from their professional services people than their product people. The professional services folks are responsible for implementations and need to have a good grasp of how the technology is used. They have -- to use some of Solution Selling author Michael Bosworth's Gobblegook -- "situational fluency."

I would also suggest that companies invest in profiling their customers in extensive case studies to better understand how they think and speak. Your customer case studies/success stories not only make great lead gen tools, PR fodder and sales aids, they can also -- as David suggests here -- be the foundation for the other marketing literature/content that you create.

Todd Defren

Brilliant. Great work!

Jonathan Kranz

How about "proactive" and "best practices," two of the most egregious BS offenders.

Why do marketers rely on this nonsense? A lot of what you say is true -- many marketers neither understand the customer nor the product. But I think there's another, deeper and darker reason: sometimes, they simply don't trust their product and don't want to expose it, naked and vulnerable, to a cruel and critical world. So instead, they dress it in a gown of rhetoric as a kind of linguistic protection. Maybe, just maybe, if they throw enough BS out there, no one will notice that the product isn't very good or that it isn't really different from what the competition offers.

You know what? It never works. But it doesn't stop people from trying.

Michael A. Stelzner

You inspired a post on my site David!

Melanie Surplice

Hi David,

You already know I find this stuff fascinating!

It inspired a post on my blog today too - but what I find really interesting is the UK stats - only 1 in 11 (just under 10%) of the 264,000 press releases issued over UK wires in the last 9 months contained a Gobbledydook term.

I'm wondering if it's a cultural difference between the US and UK, or if PR professionals in the US perceive the US media in quite a different way than UK PR professionals perceive their local media...surely, if PR-types are writing releases for a journalistic audience, they would be choosing the most appropriate language...? Or at least in theory, anyway.

I'll be watching with interest to see how the Gobbledygook manifesto spreads through the blogosphere.

Owen Lystrup

Great post, David.

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

Great list of offensive words and phrases, many of which show up repeatedly in companies' incredibly boring and pompous boilerplate.

I'd rather swallow shards of glass than have to read a press release about someone "starting a dialogue" with someone.

Pete Jelliffe

Just did a little number crunching, and I just wanted to confrim your findings. 74,000 articles with at least one buzzword/388,000 total articles is only 19%. Of that 19%, only 13% (9895/74,000) contained the most heavily used word "next generation", or 2.5% of the 388,000 article sample.

I agree these words are over used, but is a 2% occurence rate overuse?

Barry Graubart

David,

LoL - great post.
I love the chart, but the hype-master in me thinks you need to post it as a "top 10" list to increase your position on Digg.

Jessica Zimet

Read this post on marketingprofs.com, and would love to hear more about slicing the target audience into buyer segments and targeting each one. Hope you'll address it in future articles, or in your upcoming book.

Dave Schmidt

Right on. But I need to add a few of the biggest culprits. I conducted a survey of several hundred editors on our list a few weeks ago. Over 90% thought the adjective "leading" was overused (as in "a leading producer of") in press releases. In my opinion, it's a total throw-away. It means nothing, because everybody uses it.

To my surprise, "solutions" got only a 68% overused rating (although several editors sent comments underscoring their disgust with it). The word is not meaningless, it's just been ruined by overuse by releases and advertising from producers of standardized products (as opposed to custom-engineered products or services). Heck, a paper clip is a solution, isn't it?

I've got more survey data, and would be glad to share it via email, and through this venue. Fun subject, but also very important to those of us that are being pressured to succumb to corporate-speak every month as we toil to communicate for our clients.

David Meerman Scott

Dave, I would love to see your data! I agree that "leading" says nothing. I would really like to see the rest of your data. Can you post it here so others can see?? Thanks

Jay Coffelt

World-class post. It is truly a win-win. You've pushed the envelope.

John Richardson

David, Great Post.

These same words seem to end up in all of the mission statements too! No wonder nobody knows what their "mission" is...

John

David Meerman Scott

John, You're right! And the words also end up on the "about us" page of the company Web site. Thanks for reading. David

Ron Jones

I laughed myself almost to tears when I read your post. For the last six years, I've been in IT Consulting; first in the fortune 1000 market, now targeting SMB.

I have a theory about the motivations behind this "buzzword compliant" marketing campaign architecture.

Although hardware companies (a certain 'big name in routers' comes to mind) are not without shame in this, it's the software companies who seem to be the most offensive in their usage.

I believe that this stems from two or more primary causes:

1. The marketing departments at these companies either want to do justice to the pace of innovation that the developers are setting, OR they feel inadequate and less intelligent by comparison and are trying to compensate.

or (more likely)

2. Software is an intangible product, so in addition to the packaging and display, marketing wants to dress it up with highfalutin' $64.00 words in an attempt to give it some gravitas. It also helps to better justify the pricetag. Similar to the more serious nature of financial services marketing.

Although I can never be certain, I believe that I once lost out in a job interview when the potential employer asked me if there was anything I found challenging about their product or their company. To which I replied "I can't understand your collateral, it doesn't tell me what your product actually DOES" (fresh out of the military, I thought they wanted me to be honest).

And perhaps I'm a bit on the slow side, but it took a year and half for me (a networking guy, not a software engineer) to finally understand the whole "dot net" thing from Bill & Co.

Ron

David Meerman Scott

Ron, What a great comment -- many thanks. I love the story about (possibly) not making the cut in a job interview because you weren't gobbldygook compliant. Priceless stuff! But imagine if you had koined said company... Cheers, David

Jay

Synergy is a big-time gobbledygook offender to me. Ditto for "leveraging" and "relationship management."

cottageman

Excellent post! The stuff that is contained in many over-the-top press releases is truly priceless.
This is of course where search engines and their keyword insight can help - no user would ever search for the gobbledygook stuff; so why do marketers still stick with this language?

Sandy Calhoun

Nice work. Read this next time you find yourself lost in a hailstorm of flying muck: Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun. It's an old standby for the sane.

Cheers, Sandy

Mary Topper

Love the post - esp. that there is data behind it. I'm in tech PR and am a big proponent of leaving the ambiguous words and the office jargon out of our writing/ conversations.

BUT - I find it ironic that you mention "industry standard" making your eyes glaze over, while the slogan of your own company reads " Industry Standard in Technology Product Management and Marketing Education".

George Dovel

In 25 years of writing marketing materials for high-tech B2B, I'm sure I've committed every gobbledygook sin ever imagined and possibly created a few new sins along the way. Here are three additional nuances that might help explain this phenomenon:

1. Marketing writers often write for the wrong audiences. They tend to have limited contact with the "real" audience but constant contact with the managers or clients who sign their paychecks. Semi-subconsciously, too many marketing messages wind up aggrandizing the creators of the product rather than communicating the product's benefits and applications to intended buyers. These product creators want to feel like they are innovative, industry-leading, best-of-class people, so they want to see the fruits of their labor described in such terms as well. (Not being critical here; it's human nature, really.)

2. As all marketing writers know, it's easy to promote a unique product that cost-effectively solves a real customer problem in a way that's new and different enough to be intriguing but not so new and different as to be scary or weird. We also all know that such products are extremely rare; that's just not the way the industry works. However, to make every fractionally incremental advance seem important, we too often crank up the ol' rhetorical air pump to puff up the message.

3. In high tech (at least in the fairly exotic/obscure corners in which I've worked...semiconductors, computational fluid dynamics, optics, electronic and mechnical signal analysis, etc.), marketing writers are more or less shoved into the middle of a conversation between the scientists/engineers who create the products and the scientists/engineers who buy and use the products. Even with an engineering degree and a quarter-century in the industry, I have to be on guard constantly to make sure I don't dumb down the conversation simply so that I can temporarily participate in it. When we writers don't fully understand what the customer wants to know (a not-uncommon occurrence, I believe, given the lack of customer contact, the technical complexity of the subject matter and constant schedule & budget pressures), slipping into blather-speak is an ever-present temptation.

Given all the human and technical elements involved, meeting the gobbledygook challenge is not easy, but it can be done if everyone in the messaging food chain commits to it.

David Meerman Scott

Wow George. Your perceptions are spot on. I agree 100%. Many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

David

Bill Alexy

I think the word widget is overused

Anton D'abo

This is interesting but you've forgotten that these phrases often exist in the "About X company" at the footer or in the Editorial Notes section. Were the footers excluded from your data? If not, this would make a HUGE difference in your findings.

I would say terms like Flexible isn't exactly Gobbledygook especially in Engineering or Chemical publications!

However, having worked in Tech/Financial PR for 5 years I'd say you've hit on a good point.

From another perspective each industry keeps it's exclusivity by creating barriers to readers. Editorial staff do little to disuade PR professionals either. Thus the onus is on the dysfunction of B2B journalism is not only with the PR professionals!

Tatiana Tugbaeva

Wow, David! Terrific job on this blog post!

I am new to the industry, but I have noticed that B-to-B companies are especially guilty of using Gobbledygook or, as they call it, 'corporate language.' The problem is that many of them view this type of language as something that adds credibility to what they have to say and to the companies themselves. It seems that companies would have to step out of their comfort zones to stop using big but hollow words and start speaking like and to their audiences.

Ange

Just... a great and usefull analysis.
A french copywriter.

David Hunt

Great post.

A couple additions: anything ending in -friendly, the suspicious noun value-add, and the redundant product anti-bacterial soap(what kind of soap is NOT anti-bacterial?).

Also, you could do a whole section on greenwashing words, starting with "eco-friendly"

Elizabeth Cockle

Fantastic post!

Almost two years later, none of these "cutting edge" terms have disappeared from marketing and PR copy.

As a copywriter and official buzzword banisher, I'm always on the lookout for new buzzwords to banish in my monthly newsletter. In each issue we attack a buzzword and offer effective non-jargon, non-cliche alternatives. The Factiva chart is a goldmine!

Patricia Faulhaber

David, I just finished your New Rules book and printed off the free guides you have listed here.

I just wanted to say great work on all!

Although I have experience with all of the technologies discussed in your book, I think the writing and the step-by-step can be appreciated and actually implemented by those pr and marketing professionals that have had no contact with the new mediums (believe me there are people working out there that have not touched the online resoures yet).

It is difficult to try the new rules without having some guidelines or instructions if you will and I think your book does a great job of providing some much needed resources to those who want to try and just have not made the leap.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Patricia. Glad you enjoyed the book.

Cyndy Mac

Brilliant! I highly recommend "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots" (Fugere, Hardaway and Warshawsky)

http://tinyurl.com/bnuvve

Ardis Lille

First, I take issue with your anecdotal method of gathering the 25 words. Not all of the words in your list are gobbledygook and with a little effort your polled participants could have come up with much better offenders like the ones you included in your article: groundbreaking, industry-standard, cutting-edge, etc. I'd like to add: optics, incentivize, data mining and solutions. However, please remember that there is a difference between overused, useless words and industry lingo that has evolved as shorthand to convey complex concepts. In the industry that I serve, Flexible and Scalable each save about a paragraph of explanation.

Second, regarding the start of your second paragraph ("The results were staggering"), I would like to say: Avoid clichés like the plague, David.

Third, "marketers don't understand buyers" is a naive and unfair claim. Marketers often start out with well-crafted and insightful language, which is then beaten out of their work by unsophisticated, egotistical CEOs and their ilk.

Generally, I appreciate the spirit of your manifesto. However marketers don't need to be debased any more than they already are; they need positive suggestions for improving their work when it needs improving and they need counsel on how to defend their work when non-marketers think they can reach the audience better with gobbledygook.

David Meerman Scott

Ardis

Thanks for the comment.

I updated the analysis for 2008 which you will find here http://www.webinknow.com/2009/04/top-gobbledygook-phrases-used-in-2008-and-how-to-avoid-them.html

I'm not saying these word are always wrong. If your buyers understand flexible and scalable and that is meaningful, by all means use those words.

David

KNITFreedom

Hi David,

I think it would be helpful if you included a list of the top words not to use! I mean in a simple format like a list, that people could print out and pin to their foreheads (or their computer screens).

Thanks for the article!

KNITFreedom

I typed the words up, in case anyone else wants to copy and paste them.

Next generation
Flexible
Robust
World-class
Scalable
Easy-to-use
Cutting edge
Well-positioned
Mission critical
Market-leading
Industry standard
Turnkey
Groundbreaking
Best-of-breed
Enterprise class
User-friendly
Enterprise-wide
Interoperable
Extensible
Breakthrough

David Meerman Scott

Thank you KNITFreedom

Josh


David, very interesting and informative article.

It amazes me how buzzwords spread throughout a company or industry like influenza. I hate corporate buzzwords so much; I created a blog about it (http://talkliketheboss.com). I think bosses are the blame (hence the name of my blog) for all of these silly terms.

I'm all about simple, cohesive communication so thanks again for not "Drinking the Kool-Aid."

Cheers,
Josh

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