Hey Brands, Is Your Marketing Plan On Fleek?

As part of our way of celebrating the final season of Mad Men, Adobe recently ran an #AdThrowback campaign that consisted of several retro ads using our existing digital marketing solutions. We played on instant coffee, pomade, roll-on deodorant and the funny phrases that our culture used to have. At the conclusion of the campaign and Mad Men, I began to turn my thinking from Throwback to Flashforward – what are the phrases that teens are saying today that might end up in your marketing campaign of tomorrow? Will they be on fl33k?

For generations, teenagers have been creating their own vernacular in hopes of differentiating themselves from stuffy old folks. The generation of teens today is no different – perhaps even taking it to a whole new level. Aside from a chuckle or two, can brands actually use this new lexicon to more effectively target millennials? In several 60-second spoofs, Hefty captured our attention by putting a humorous spin on an otherwise kind of silly fact – teens communicate in their own language. But Hefty got it right. Teens are out there, they’re listening and they have disposable income. Given the uptick in brands using the new teen lexicon, one Twitter account was created just to call out when a brand said the phrase, “bae.” But what does bae mean? What about “on fleek” or “throwin’ shade?” To help you avoid suffering from FOMO, here’s a list:


Teen Vernacular – A Few Examples of What They’re Saying

  • Bae – ‘before anyone else’ – someone is your bae if they’re super important to you
  • Throwin’ Shade – to give attitude or sass to someone
  • Swipe right – liking, accepting or approving something. (See the social app Tinder)
  • On Fleek – on point, perfect; replace the e’s for 3’s to be super On Fl33k
  • Bye Felicia – dismissing someone you simply don’t have the energy to put up with any longer
  • FOMO – fear of missing out
  • Hangry – so hungry, you actually get angry. (I get this all the time)
  • Cray – as in crazy
  • Yay-es – a more excited verison of yes
  • +100 – Not just +1 supportive in the Google+ sort of way, but overly supportive: +100
  • RIP me – expression meant to say you’re dying over something embarrassing or funny
  • Obvi – Obvious


How best to target millennials is on every marketer’s mind these days. Obvi. Stats put discretionary spending of this demographic somewhere around 1.3 trillion dollars annually with spending intent exceeding global averages by as much as 10 percentage points. They engage more frequently with brands and they expect a two-way marketing relationship. It makes sense to speak to them in a language they can relate to. But sounding “hip” or “on fleek” isn’t easy, and that’s the challenge: how to relate without sounding like the stuffy old man in sheep’s clothing.

What do you think? Is using teen lingo in marketing a smart strategy or a fail for brands?

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