What Is A Buzzword?

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Doritos made a big change in 2013. The chips were the same; the bags the chips came in were redesigned. 

Brand refreshes are common. Sometimes they reignite interest in a product line and sometimes they cause issues, like the Tropicana refresh in 2009. There are similarities between refreshing a brand and the regular turnover in buzzwords.

Just today I saw a tweet comparing leaders to heroes. Leaders climb the mountain, heroes head back down to help others climb the mountain.

In 2015, one would have said that a manager climbs the mountain while a leader heads back down to help others climb the mountain. In reality? Good leaders also tend to be good managers and heroes; they are all the same thing.

Language tends to turn over fairly regularly. Words we once found relevant become taboo or lost in the luster of newer, shinier words and sayings. A post on LinkedIn suggested that we should stop focusing on “brands” and start focusing on “voices.”

What’s the difference between a “brand” and a “voice”? Nothing to anyone who understands that brands have always incorporated a “voice” and “personality,” but everything to a crowd of people who have obsessed over personal and professional “brands” for the past few years and who have realized that their new logos and expensive website re-designs are no substitute for an improved or quality product.

So now we call them “voices.” Now you are a “hero.” Today you are a liberal, tomorrow you are a progressive, and next year you may be a crusader.

Sometimes we bring back old words and make them new again. Sometimes we pretend words we’ve known to exist for ages have a sudden surge in meaning or relevance. This is especially present in the world of leadership education. Everyone is trying to get an edge, to sound different, to resell the same bland talking points about great leadership with a new coat of paint.

The problem is, we are simply repeating ourselves with fresher word choices. Just like cool once meant what awesome, rad, fire came to mean – we begin to lose the quality of our language when we place such a heavy focus on a specific set of words.

Fraternity man and women have largely had enough of “values,” so naturally those who made a life teaching “values” are shifting to other mediums, following cues of the celebrities of the fraternity/sorority world.

Don’t let this post get you down; it’s natural for things to change over, just don’t resent the words we once loved. Don’t overuse “hero” or “voice” or “fire” or “wigless.” Sometimes it’s fun to just talk as you talk and let others enjoy what you have to say instead of worrying whether or not you are saying it appropriately. Hell, I’ve done it, and I almost have 6 regular readers on this blog! (jk, it’s more than that.)

Folks may say that fraternity is different today than it was. Perhaps. Today we say “new member,” yesterday we said “pledge,” tomorrow we’ll say “associate,” three years from now we’ll say “honorable potential initiate” and all the while we may wonder why hazing persists.

Today your founders cared about “values,” your founders actually cared about “friendship,” but tomorrow they may have cared about “citizenship.” Should we shame people who suggest fraternities are about “friendship” and that new members are “pledges”? No. Not if they aren’t doing anything wrong.

But, for the record, fraternities have always been about the network because networks of friends are important. No matter how unpopular that truth becomes, it will remain the truth.