At a different agency, my employer was quite fond of ‘blue-sky thinking’ and having ‘bonnet meetings’. The latter was a fancy way to describe delivering quick pitches outside a car and – to this day – I have no idea what blue-sky thinking means.

Whether using jargon, legalise, or even just using a word incorrectly, not speaking plain English is one of my biggest gripes. Although jargon can be fine among the informed, a lack of clear communication can be detrimental to all those involved in a campaign.

Unfortunately, some marketing agencies love jargon – to the point they start to alienate their customers and clients through overly-complicated language. However, there are some phrases which are sometimes used to confuse, hide an absence of knowledge, or just don’t make any sense.

If any of your marketing team starts using these phrases, it might be an idea to look for a more plain-speaking group elsewhere.

Let’s go viral

It’s hard to believe the word ‘viral’ has a negative meaning. If a disease goes viral, it becomes an outbreak and the ramifications can be terrifying. Yet, these days, ‘viral’ describes an advertising campaign which spreads rapidly throughout the internet.

“Let’s go viral” is generally useless as an objective. ‘Viral’ cannot be measured and is typically used by teams with no clear social media strategy. Furthermore, too many viral pieces are structured around what would work for an internet audience instead of an organisation’s customers. Therefore, even if a piece does go ‘viral’, it rarely leads to conversions.

However, if the intention is to gain more followers on social media, acquire page views, or increase the number of shares, all of these can be quantified. They can also be completed without creating a potentially expensive piece of viral content.

Agile marketing

‘Agile marketing’ is a phrase commonly used to describe several different teams working towards the same goal. However, some agencies also use the word ‘agile’ to represent their ability to react quickly to changing deadlines and focuses.

‘Agile’ is used as a buzzword all too frequently with many perpetrators not completely understanding what it means. Therefore, if this word crops up in your strategy, always request clarification as to what it entails.

Growth hacking

‘Growth hacking’ refers to a specific service accountable for business growth. In this situation, a designated ‘hacker’ will be responsible for growing an organisation. Yet, every aspect of a firm should be contributing to this.

As well as being a redundant service, ‘growth hacking’ is a phrase generally used by amateur agencies to sound more advanced.

A Team


If something goes wrong in a marketing campaign, some agencies will send in their ‘A-Team’. Alternatively, I’ve heard of marketing SWAT units or simply the ‘best of the best’ being deployed to solve the problem.

While this might conjure images of armed professionals abseiling from a military chopper, the reality is somewhat different. Mostly, this will entail marketers meeting in a boardroom to discuss solving the problem.

As a result, this is somewhat patronising to the client but a mythical A-Team shouldn’t exist anyway. In a competent agency, everyone is good at what they do. There is no need to hold some higher than others as it devalues the wider team’s efforts.

When something goes wrong, I’d rather have a professional tell me how to fix it. Otherwise, it’s unlikely the plan will come together.


‘Ideation’ is an ostentatious way of describing coming up with an idea. It seems to have originated from merging the words ‘idea’ with ‘creation’ and has been used without question by many marketing teams.

Yet, the word ideation already existed beforehand and was used by psychologists. Therefore, it has many meanings which we won’t cover here.

Ideation is often used to confuse the uninformed as opposed to assisting them. In a similar vein, ideation appears to have spawned the phrase ‘idea shower’. This creepy term is – again – trying to make the process of idea generation seem more impressive.


Similar to viral and ideation, holistic is another medical term which has made it into marketing. While we can speculate as to the number of marketers who wanted to be doctors, holistic marketing relates to how connected strategy is.

For example, this could involve multiple departments working towards the same goal or every aspect of a company – from customers to shareholders – being considered in an organisation’s development.

Yet, as we have seen with ‘agile’, the definition of holistic marketing differs from agency to agency. As a result, it has largely ceased to have any meaning. Therefore, if this phrase is used, always seek clarification.

Gurus and ninjas

The title ‘expert’ is earned. It is a statement which clearly marks someone as being more experienced than others in the industry. In a similar fashion, ‘guru’ is someone who is recognised as a teacher or master in their field.

Unfortunately, too many marketers use the title to make themselves seem superior. Not everyone can be an expert, but automatically claiming so without evidence betrays a lack of original thought and devalues how genuine professionals are perceived.

Similar to ‘A-Team’, other marketing job titles are there only to make the profession seem more exciting or fun, such as ‘ninja’ or ‘rockstar’. This is quite common in startups as this ‘fun’ portrayal is believed to separate them from the competition. Instead, it is only a fantasy which threatens to devalue their services.




Data is becoming increasingly important in this modern age and all marketers must adapt to better interpret this information. However, in an effort to make themselves appear more specialist, some agencies claim they possess marketing labs with dedicated data scientists.

Often, this is ostentatious messaging to disguise their lacklustre abilities.

Some marketers have also been known to claim their office is similar to a different location – such as a marketing garage. As we have seen above with startup culture, this ‘fun’ portrayal has the potential to undermine their services.

Fancy a conversation in plain English?

Jargon and buzzwords are quite common in marketing but we prefer to have conversations in plain English. As a result, we will happily keep you informed without trying to confuse you with bizarre terminology.

And there isn’t a guru or ninja amongst them.

If you want to discuss your marketing needs, get in touch with us today.