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A Developer's View On Marketing Buzzwords

Developers have a particular aversion to the buzzwords and phrases used by managers, executives, and PODs (Persons Other than Developers). This developer shares his views on some buzzwords that simply must go. Lean in and read this game changer!

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Everyone can think of words in the English language that they either despise or, at least, make them cringe in revulsion.  

Then there are those words that people take somewhat seriously at first, but then, over time, come to loathe those same words.  At the top of this list for a lot of people are likely buzzwords used in popular culture; namely, marketing buzzwords.

You know, those buzzwords that THOSE managers and executives feel the need to use to assert their relevance to a conversation or organization.

Now, if you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you are a developer (or at least a person with a technical background).  At the risk of painting with a wide brush (or possibly just describing myself), many developers have little patience or tolerance for ineffective means of communication (or, "BS").  So naturally such technical people typically have an aversion to marketing buzzwords.

From that perspective, I present to you a list of five frequently-used buzzwords/trends that I hope will die a quick and violent death:

"Game Changer"

This one is a bit of a double whammy.

First off, there is a tendency for people to believe something, in their less-than-humble opinion, is so earthshattering and so fundamentally important that it MUST be a "game changer".  For example, because a manager made a change to an Excel macro that eliminated some calculations, it is considered a "game changer".  No, it isn't.  You just happened to make one part of your job a little easier.

While I understand it is a slippery slope and a matter of judgment, the use of this term as an emphasis of self-importance is perhaps this term's biggest affront.

Secondly, the discrepancy between the implied fundamental shift and the actual phrase's "vagueness" (a "change" could be small or it could be large) adds to the ridculousness of the use of the buzzword.


This one is along the same lines as "game changer".

The usage for this term seems to be prolific when a manager/executive is describing a technology/business he/she read about/talked to someone about/overheard mentioned in an elevator to someone who has never heard of the item being mentioned before.

In an attempt to stay relevant without investing much time and/or research, the user of the buzzword (buzz-adjective?) arbitrarily assesses a large degree of importance to something he/she either knows little about or, because he/she had a moment of understanding about the item, all of a sudden feels that he/she is now a well-informed expert on said item.

In other words, it is a blanket overstatement of something's importance.

"Lean In"

While I can certainly appreciate the need to engage your audience, this over-used and pretentious phrase is used by many a manager to show that he/she has something important to say and his/her audience simply must listen.

The phrase is condescending in nature: Assuming that your listeners are unable to make up their own minds concerning the gravitas or importance of your message is an insult to the intelligence of people everywhere, especially developers and engineers.

"Hack" or "Hacking"

In 2014, everyone's favorite curmudgeon Maddox published an article and video concerning this same phrase (you can find it here, but be warned: Strong language possibly NSFW).

These days, any kind of tip, trick, or advice is considered a "hack".  At some point in the past 10-15 years, computer hacking and hackers became hip, cool, and in vogue.  The act of hacking is typically the act of gaining access to or re-appropriating a system through surreptitious, unintended means.

And hey, just because actual hacking usually involves novel thought, cleverness, skill, and tenacity, why should that prevent laypeople from usurping the related terms for their own use?

For example, Maddox references an example where someone's idea of a "hack" — presented at a conference in front of hundreds of people, no less — was to shake your hands in the sink a few times before drying them with a towel after so your hands would dry more quickly.  Seriously?

This applies to all of the current buzzwords, like "growth hacking" and "life hacks".

Please just call things for what they actually are.


"CEO" came into the popular lexicon in recent decades. Along with the CEO, other C-titles came into their own in different but important silos for a company, e.g. CFO, COO, CTO, and even CIO.

These titles have more meaning in larger organizations, which stands to reason.  Of course, the impressive-sounding titles made their way into smaller organizations where they perhaps are not necessary needed (yours truly is no exception, although in fairness I was given the title!).

Now, though, instead of having VPs and directors of certain departments, we have what seem like a bit of a stretch for C-titles.  Some egregious examples include:

  • Chief Marketing Officer

  • Chief Digital Officer

  • Chief Creative Officer

  • Chief Diversity Officer

  • Chief Visionary Officer

The list goes on.

I have to admit, though, I'm kind of partial to a C3PO (insert backronym here).


There are some who would argue that the words/terms/phrases above represent the evolution of language, since common usage seems to often dictate what is officially accepted into our collective lexicon.  To that I say: Fair enough.  I understand.

Now, I do not necessarily agree with that stance.  That said, this article was meant to serve more as a semi-humorous reminder of the absurdity that can and does creep in to our every day lives, especially while at work.

Plus it feels good to vent about these things once in awhile!

Are there any buzzwords you would like to see go away in a hurry?  Leave a comment and make it known!

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