Some are blatantly self-inflating, some are too vague for their own good, and others just sound downright disgusting.

We’re all familiar with those wrung out, miserably overused industry terms that have been leeched of their original potency. They’re the ones repeatedly (and often inaccurately) applied to such a broad variety of subjects and situations that they’ve taken on undesirable connotations as a result. And they’re the words I’m now promoting replacements for in an effort to abolish their exhausting reign over modern marketing discourse.


Image from Nina Matthews, licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Calling all marketing professionals far and wide: Reinvigorate your vocabulary with the following synonyms for our most overused industry lingo. I guarantee you’ll sound a whole lot fresher, and your peers will thank you for it.

Key Refreshing Synonyms You Should Use:

  1. Guru: Seen as corny and overused. Alternatives include specialist, veteran, virtuoso, ace, or adept.
  2. Something-er-other ninja: Criticized for its nonsensical application. Suggested replacements are aficionado, authority, buff, or whiz.
  3. Tweeps: Considered cringe-worthy. Simpler terms like followers or friends, or more creative ones like comrades, cohorts, or minions, are recommended.
  4. Scalable: Described as vague. Better options include flexible, transferable, malleable, growth-worthy, future-proof, or providing specific examples of scalability.
  5. Growth-hacker: Viewed as a buzzword with little meaning. Alternatives are dynamo, hustler, motivator, and catalyst.
  6. Actionable: Critiqued for its broad application. More specific terms like deployable, augmentable, implementable, or detailed descriptions of its benefits are advised.
  7. Optimize: Overused across various contexts. Enhance, improve, hone, cultivate, sharpen, or refine are suggested for variety.
  8. Snackable: Questioned for its relevance. Digestible, easily-absorbed, concise, or short are seen as better descriptors.
  9. Viral: Described as an unrealistic goal or promise. Alternatives include curiosity-invoking, inspiring, well-crafted, commendable, share-worthy, or infectious.
  10. Revolutionary: Criticized for overstating the novelty or impact of a product/service. Suggested replacements are radical, innovative, imaginative, exceptional, or groundbreaking.
  11. Thought leader: Seen as pretentious. More tangible descriptors like award-winning or critically-acclaimed are recommended.


Let’s face it… this one is completely corny, and its use has become laughable among many circles. According to this word’s definition, “a leader in a particular field”, you’d have to be pretty darn esteemed to use it in the first place. Some hearty alternatives to consider are specialist, veteran, virtuoso, ace or adept.

Doesn’t “optimization ace” or “social media adept” have a nice ring? Or perhaps “web development virtuoso” is better suited to your taste. Way classier than guru, am I right?

Something-er-other ninja

Here’s an exceptionally silly use of a word that’s utilized far too often, and constantly in contexts where it makes no real sense. Ninja has become a suffix that’s tacked onto industry specializations ranging from social media and PR to content marketing and SEO. In case we’ve forgotten, a ninja is a warrior who’s highly trained in the martial art of ninjutsu, stealth and espionage.

So, for example, if you’re labelling yourself as a “PR ninja”, you’re quite literally a stealthy public relations person who’s good at spying on and killing people with your bare hands. Not exactly a good thing.

Let’s do ourselves a favor and forsake this popular and nonsensical use of an ancient word in light of more flattering (and less boastful) identifications. Try aficionado, authority, buff, or whiz on for size instead (or refer to the synonyms I provided earlier for guru, because they’ll work just as well).


How about just followers? Or friends? This word may, admittedly, be cringe-worthy purely based on the way it sounds, and maybe that’s just my opinion. But it doesn’t always hurt to resort to a simpler, more relatable term to avoid confusing your readers – especially when it’s a word that’s being used to address them directly.

If these somewhat mundane suggestions won’t suffice, get creative by calling out your social media peers as comrades, cohorts, compatriots or minions. Anything is better than “tweep”. Yuck.


Scalable is an incredibly vague word that provides no frame of reference for the recipient, and surprisingly this one’s one of the worst offenders on my list. Vague adjectives don’t help you tell the truth, and more than anything they’ll do well to confuse your readers.

Instead of saying scalable, say flexible, transferable, malleable, growth-worthy, future-proof or simply illustrate a concept that quantifies your subject’s alleged “scalability”:

“Our ____ grows exponentially with your audience”

“…seamlessly adapts to all modern software platforms”

“Designed to meet the changing needs of your business”

Wham bam! Scalable doesn’t stand a chance.


Who exactly qualifies as a growth hacker? Like ninja, this is one of those terms that more and more people seem to label themselves with, and for increasingly trivial reasons.

The most popular definitions for this word are “a person whose true north is growth” and “[a person who exhibits a] mindset of data, creativity, and curiosity.” So, assuming we’re all doing our jobs correctly, aren’t the large majority of marketing professionals “growth hackers”? And if everybody’s [at least to some degree] a growth hacker by nature, then doesn’t it become more of a trendy label than a substantive job title?

On that note, let’s come up with a few substitutes for this word that are slightly more meaningful. Dynamo, hustler, motivator, and catalyst are all relevant synonyms to describe someone’s dedication to improvement, without sounding like a broken record.



With roots in law, this is a word that’s now applied to an endless variety of situations. It has come to describe something that can yield action, such as advice, a service or a strategy.

But what kind of action, exactly? Calling your analytics software “actionable” (for example) could mean the analyzed data can be used to spark a sales boom, or that it’s simply printable. Aren’t there more thorough and specific ways to sell whatever you’re referring to?

Deployable, augmentable and implementable will give your language some variety if you’re seeking a basic synonym for this word. But to give the same statement more substance, consider detailing what makes your subject tick. Perhaps your strategy is easy to execute, positive results are historically proven, or your advice is readily implemented. All solid alternatives to the now-deflated “actionable”.


Optimization has its place in terms such as “search engine optimization”. But it’s being chronically overused across the board, and there’s such a plethora of good-looking synonyms at our disposal.

Here are a bunch of worthy candidates: enhance, improve, hone, cultivate, sharpen, or refine. There’s a lot to be said for tasteful word variation and captivating your audience’s interest, so try not to repeat yourself with “optimize” when there are so many other ways to say the same thing.


I don’t see anyone biting into blog posts or nibbling on tweets, so why is snackable used so relentlessly these days? Sure, it’s a catchy term that’s super easy to tack onto just about anything content related, and I can understand its appeal.

But just because it’s cute doesn’t mean it’s smart to use over and over again. Here are a few quality adjectives that say the same thing: digestible, easily-absorbed, concise or short.


Viral this, viral that. Everybody wants to be viral, and it seems like this word is thrown around mostly as people and businesses describe their desires to “go viral”. But there are a few big problems with the widespread use of this term.

Making a promise out of “viral” or aiming for “viral” as a goal doesn’t quantify a real number or result. It’s just sort of like saying, “We want A LOT of shares on our new post” or “We’ll get everybody and their mother talking about your ad campaign”.

The reality is that nobody has control over whether something goes viral. You can take measures to improve your chances at mass popularity, but the biggest part of this is being in the right place at the right time. So what’s a more reasonable term to replace this “viral” phenomenon with?

How about curiosity-invoking, inspiring, well-crafted, commendable, share-worthy or infectious? Any of these will do well to get a similar sentiment across without carrying the overblown connotations we associate with the word “viral”.


Is it really revolutionary? Is your product or service radically new or innovative? Is it actually creating a sudden and complete change to an entire industry or practice? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…

Sure, maybe you’re Google or George Washington and you could call yourself revolutionary without lying to anyone. But otherwise stick to slightly more modest words: radical, innovative, imaginative, exceptional or groundbreaking.

Thought leader

Thought leader fits right alongside revolutionary and guru on the superbly stale bandwagon. It’s another term that helps people talk themselves up without any sort of concrete verification. 7 billion human beings are silently generating thoughts every second of every day; so what gives someone the right to put their thoughts at the top of the ladder?

We can do better than this. If you really want people to know you’re the bee’s knees, give them a reason to believe you. Perhaps you’re award-winning, critically-acclaimed, or possess some other prestigious designation that vouches for your intelligence or aptitude.

I know I haven’t covered all the worthlessly trendy words in our collective repertoire, so holler if you have any other offenders for me to vanquish with my thesaurus tongue.

-Synonym hustler out.