Selfie, omnishambles, youthquake and simples. What connects these disparate words is that they’ve all been named the Oxford English Dictionaries ‘word of the year’. These words may have been used widely, but it seems that their popularity is fleeting. It begs the question: how much time should marketers spend trying to capitalise on the next big buzzword?
Over before they’ve begun
Research conducted by Pulsar has found that recent ‘words of the year’ have very little longevity. Despite achieving fleeting fame, the words all represent snapshots of significant cultural moments in time, and as such have failed to make it into everyday conversation over a longer period.
The exception to the rule is ‘selfie’, the ‘word of the year’ in 2013, which was used 89 million times on Twitter in 2014. However, even ‘selfie’, a word that has made it into mainstream conversation, has seen a big decline in usage more recently, with 75% fewer mentions in 2017 than in 2014.
One reason could be because the action of taking a self-portrait is now so ingrained in society. Where ‘selfie’ differs to other words of the year is that it’s a modern expression of a much older trend; the self-portrait can be traced back to the beginning of the Renaissance after which the style became common practice for artists.
It seems that trending words are generally just a flash in the pan. With this in mind, marketers need to consider whether it is worthwhile building viral words into their marketing content.
The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long
Although meant as a cautionary tale, the massive potential for drawing huge traffic volumes is exactly why marketers should be listening out for trending words and phrases.
Already a recognised industry term, (and potential candidate for ‘word of the year’, at least in marketing land), ‘newsjacking’ describes the process of piggybacking on the latest news stories to get messages out to as wide an audience as possible.
Taking advantage of the latest word or trend is a similar process and has several benefits, including improving SEO performance, driving potentially targeted traffic to your site and ensuring your brand stays relevant and at the cutting edge of the latest developments.
But make sure you keep at least one eye on the horizon. Short-term gains definitely have their benefits, but shouldn’t be your only strategy. Make sure to offset this strategy with evergreen content that will stand the test of time. Google places plenty of emphasis on relevancy and recency, so the value of the latest trend will fall as visitors stop searching for it.
Words are powerful – Choose them well
Using the latest words offers the potential to engage with your target audience. It shows that you’re listening and that your brand is relevant – if you get it right. For exactly this reason, understanding your audience and the context of the words is crucial.
Thorough research is required to make sure the word is truly appropriate for your target audience, and that it will resonate with them. Carefully consider your audience profiles and personas, which should always be created using real research and in-depth data. ‘Omnishambles’ (word of the year in 2012) was brought to prominence by the BBC’s political comedy ‘The Thick Of It’. Its audience will likely be very different from those using words like ‘simples’ (2009) or ‘vape’ (2014). Consider if the word is something your audience would use and understand. If not, then you shouldn’t waste your time chasing hits.
Finding a buzzword’s origins and multiple meanings is not always straightforward. Robust audience insight is required to ensure the word is used by your target audience, and this shouldn’t just be during one point in time. Words and trends can evolve quickly, especially online. It’s a trap many brands have fallen into. Trends can start out harmlessly and quickly morph into something more sinister, as US fast food chain Wendy’s found when they innocently tweeted a Pepe The Frog meme, not knowing that it had been hi-jacked by the alt-right.
It’s important to keep on your toes and look to move with the times. Creating content that capitalises on trends requires a quick turnaround, and the capacity for these projects should be built into your plan.
As words evolve and diversify – for example, some audiences now talk about ‘belfies’ (butt selfies) and ‘helfies’ (new hair selfies) instead of selfies – you have the chance to create even more content. Look to refresh existing campaigns to include the latest developments with up to date creative that will resonate with your audience.
The time you spend trying to take advantage of the latest trend will vary widely depending on your brand and its audience. However, it should just form one tactical execution in a wider content strategy that always considers the bigger picture. Otherwise, you may be heading towards a content omnishambles.