Not a week goes by that we don’t hear a marketer use the term “impactful.” It’s used so frequently that internet reference sites are starting to recognize its legitimacy.
Here’s the problem: it’s not a word. Nor should it be.
It’s a contrived buzzword used too frequently to describe something that has “impact,” the verb form of which means “to have a strong effect on someone or something.”
What does that mean anyway? It’s akin to saying, “The boxer’s punch was impactful.” Yes, it had a strong effect. But was it a crippling blow to the torso or a strong jab to the chin? What effect did it have on the opponent: did it knock him back, knock him down or knock him out? What was the outcome of the impact?
In the marketing business, the inference is that the “impact” is generating some sort of result. If that’s the case, the adjective of choice should communicate the specifics of the outcome rather than the mere presence of one.
When you use “impactful,” you’re using the buzzword as a convenient crutch. You’re not communicating as clearly as you could. You’re not fully expressing the intention of your work or idea and its expected result.
So what is it you’re trying to say?
Is your idea something that moves people to action? Then it’s “compelling” or “motivational” or “aspirational.”
Will your message make people take notice? Then it is “memorable” or “unforgettable.”
Will it create an emotional response? Try “evocative” or “inspirational” or “rousing.”
Will it encourage people to see things in a new way? Then it’s “insightful” or “perceptive.”
We already have plenty of words to describe the effect that our messages have on our audiences.
Let’s give full use to the words we have before we invent ones that might sound important but don’t deliver full value to one’s work.