Service of Watch What You Say: Deep Six “Diet” and “Old”

December 16th, 2021

Categories: Diet, Old, Words

Image by Skica911 from Pixabay 

I’m surprised that there are only 24 entries in the “words” category on this blog. Two recent articles in media report that marketers are avoiding “diet” and anything to do with “old.”

“‘Zero sugar’ has replaced ‘diet’ for many no-calorie soft drinks,” wrote Danielle Wiener-Bronner on “Canada Dry and Schweppes ginger ales, 7Up, A&W and Sunkist, made by Keurig Dr Pepper, now label their diet drinks ‘zero sugar.’ (One exception is the namesake Dr Pepper brand, which will still come in ‘diet’ packaging in addition to a different zero sugar version.) The reason for the overhaul: The word ‘diet’ has fallen out of fashion — especially for Millennials and Gen Z-ers.” Millennials are 25-40 years old and Gen Z-ers 9-24.

Image by Vesa Minkkinen from Pixabay

Wiener-Bronner reported that Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages North America, said that the offended are bothered by both the word and the concept–Gen Zers don’t want to follow diets–“But distaste for the word diet doesn’t signal an aversion to no-calorie beverages.” These sodas “hit the mainstream in the 1960s.” The market reached $11.2 billion in 2020 and is growing faster than the standard sodas with sales of $28.2 billion that year, up 19.5% and 8.4% respectively.

The Key to Marketing to Older People? Don’t Say ‘Old.,'” was The New York Times headline for Corinne Purtill’s article. “According to company lore, the idea for Nike’s CruzrOne sneaker — a well-cushioned, thick-soled running shoe that debuted in 2019 — originated with a conversation between a Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield, and the company’s co-founder Phil Knight”. Knight, in his 80s, slow runs 8 miles a day.

“By positioning the CruzrOne as a shoe with excellent support for runners who — for whatever reason — go at an extremely slow pace, Nike can offer a product designed for the older athlete to the general market. It’s a perfect example of what Rob Chess, a Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer, calls ‘stealth design’: a product that addresses specific needs of older consumers in a form that doesn’t scream, well, ‘old.'”

“You basically put all these elements in that make it much more usable by an older customer, but you don’t necessarily advertise and play up those elements,” Mr. Chess said. “Or if you do, you certainly don’t position them as, you know, ‘Gee, we’re doing this for older people.’ (A Nike spokesperson declined requests for interviews.)”

Have you noticed other words marketers avoid?

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8 Responses to “Service of Watch What You Say: Deep Six “Diet” and “Old””

  1. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I’ve noticed real estate folks no longer say “master” bedroom but rather say “primary.”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s a good one.

  3. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: “Master” is from days of slavery so they updated the lingo

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: and maybe also because it leaves out a Madame or two “masters” or…you get it

  5. lucrezia Said:

    Marketers’ aim is to sell, not to push quality. They create fads in order to haul in big bucks. Instead of lasting a lifetime, big ticket items such as cars and appliances reportedly have a built-in short life span. If I had my druthers, I’d haul them in for consumer fraud and let them sing their catchy jingles behind bars!

    Old is a good word. Three modest letters describe a great deal more than trendy multi-syllable cover-ups. Simpering euphemisms used to replace honest words are sickening.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wrote years ago about young men especially who fear offering a seat to an older person in a subway because they often resent it and snap at the kind gesture. A distant cousin of my husband’s told us that her husband resents being offered a seat or any other symbols of deference to his age because he runs for miles daily and is in good shape and doesn’t think he looks his age.

    Once old, such as the 80-something founder of Nike, you’d think you’d get over it but if pointing out the benefits of a product that would positively impact an elderly demographic while simultaneously negatively impact sales….delete, delete, delete!

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    So much of our language today is artificially manipulated that I am not sure of what is considered acceptable, appropriate, or appealing any more.There definitely seems to be resistance to addressing older people except in publications that cater to them. It is hard to understand how this self-defeating language works. Does the consumer believe or respond more positively to delusional language or smarmy euphemisms? I think the use of the word “misspoke”, so popular in the last 5 years, is the best example of twisting language so as not to say what is really meant. It seems a bit like trying to hide behind one’s hand.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A perfect image–hiding behind a hand like a four year old–and Americans should be used to hyperbole in marketing by now. Watch the vintage promos for early 20th century films on Turner Classic Movies with headlines such as “the best story ever told.” Every AM radio station in the NY Metro area boasts the most something–listeners, followers, responsive audience etc. Word manipulation and inflation never gets old.

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