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Everything on Mashable is a “holy grail”

holy_grailIf I edited Mashable, I’d ban the phrase “holy grail.” Over the last few years, tech writers and the people they quote have used it to describe practically every marketing and technology fad.

Behold a cliché out of control:

  • July 11, 2013: “Helping brands get true social ROI is the holy grail advertisers are looking for.”
  • May 1, 2013: “[A] majority of companies still view engagement as a “funnel,” in that a broad range of actions are directed towards the holy grail of company communications: the purchase point.”
  • October 31, 2012: “A sensible, social way to share mobile video has long been the Holy Grail for Internet entrepreneurs.”
  • October 10, 2012: “Looking at the new Sling devices — especially the Slingbox 500 — I was struck by how close the system was to being the holy grail for consuming place-shifted content.
  • October 2, 2012: “Overall the goal is not just to more broadly deliver a message, but to ensure that it is delivered from trusted friends—the holy grail of marketing.”
  • June 28, 2012: “Is second screen the holy grail of interactive advertisement?”
  • June 22, 2012: “Keeping score allows for continuous improvement and repeatability — the holy grail of new product development.”
  • June 20, 2012: “Murray calls AR clothing the ‘holy grail of augmented retail experiences.'”
  • March 2, 2012: “Have We Found the Holy Grail of Marketing?
  • February 28, 2012: “This new service, which represents a holy grail of sorts for cord cutters, comes by way of startup Aereo.”
  • October 18, 2011: “The Super Bowl is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
  • August 31, 2011: “[H]ere is the holy grail of social media — getting people to be advocates for your brand by sharing with their friends.”
  • July 2, 2011: “Customer satisfaction has long been the Holy Grail for retailers.”
  • March 25, 2011: “Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail because it allows machines to converse more naturally with people.”
  • November 24, 2010: “One untapped solution marketers should explore is integrating social networking — especially location-based checkins — with the point-of-sale systems many businesses already have in place….This is the holy grail of location-based marketing.”
  • October 27, 2010: “We might not have reached the Holy Grail of Tumblr Meets WordPress harmony, but we’re a lot closer.”
  • October 19, 2010: “But while shared advertising is considered the Holy Grail, getting people to share is often an elusive goal.”
  • March 5, 2010: “While social networking functionality excels at connecting teams around projects, information, and qualitative data, it falls short in its ability to drive quantitative, actionable insights — the holy grail for project managers and enterprise forecasting groups.
  • November 16, 2008: “Kwyno may not be the Holy Grail. But one thing is clear: with the mobile phone rapidly becoming our gateway to the web, and thousands of services allowing for calls to be issued via their APIs, the personalized command line is an idea worth revisiting.”
  • September 21, 2008: “Is Tweader the holy grail that we’ve been searching for?”
  • May 23, 2008: “[S]urely that’s the holy grail of advertising: users engaging meaningfully with brands, and an interaction model that goes with the flow of the app, rather than against it.”
  • May 23, 2008: “Engagement is the holy grail, it seems, for all social networks, applications and games: a transition from the pageview factories of yore (hi, MySpace) to Facebook’s meaningful interactions and enviable session times.”
  • April 25, 2008: In a multi-screen, multi-platform environment where viewer engagement is the holy grail, Jacked has created a complementary TV to PC platform embracing viewers’ use of the PC to search for programming-related content while watching television to establish an enhanced viewing experience.”
  • December 19, 2007: “The holy grail of all us people who work in Firefox day in, day out (and, unfortunately, often endure slowdowns and lockups) – Firefox version 3 – seems to be near completion.”
  • November 11, 2005: “This really is the holy grail of advertising – perfectly matching sellers to highly receptive buyers.”


Okay, you get the picture.

I’m picking on Mashable because they’re an easy target. But start looking for “holy grail” in your favorite trade pub—or just do a Google search for something like “holy grail of marketing“—and you’ll marvel at how often it comes up. And how often it’s used by hacks hyping some dubious idea.

* * * *

I started this post with the thesis that “holy grail” was an exhausted phrase and should be retired from tech and marketing journalism. But now that I think about it, the phrase “holy grail” does serve a purpose: It’s a signal that the writer or speaker can’t actually explain why the subject is important.

When you encounter a “holy grail” in an article, stop reading and get back to doing real work.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Marketing, Words

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