Sometimes you really wonder how vendors can utter certain things with a straight face.

Over the years I’ve sat through hours of presentations from highly reputable companies which have tried, and struggled, to distill their mission or breadth of products and services into one, tiny, easy-to-remember string of words. Occasionally, they work. More often they don’t, and the ones that don’t are much easier to remember. That’s why I recently created a slideshow called, The 11 Most Baffling Vendor Catchphrases.

Some answers to potential questions: Why 11? Because I couldn’t think of 12, and I didn’t want to come up with a dozen just for the sake of it. Why so much Microsoft? Because they reinvent themselves more often than Madonna. Which one was the worst? It’s a toss-up, and although they weren’t listed in any kind of order the first slide may be the one that fell the flattest, in my opinion.

What’s truly sad – sadder than anything these vendor marketing departments ever came up with – is the fact that so many in the media happily helped spread them. I include us, of course. Troll through our archives and you’ll see plenty of references to the catchphrases I’ve chosen. Yes, it’s sheer laziness, but it also shows how difficult it is to even paraphrase what vendors are trying to accomplish with some of their products and services.

I should add that these were nearly all product and service-related. They were not necessarily slogans that tried to sum up a vendor’s core values. They were, and are, time-sensitive and true primarily in a certain point in time. That doesn’t mean Microsoft no longer cares about secure software, or EMC doesn’t want to know how information changes in an organization over time. But the emphasis may be very different compared with when the catchphrase was tacked on to press releases and keynote speeches.

The media aren’t the only ones to regurgitate these catchphrases, of course. Reseller partners frequently incorporate such things into their own marketing efforts, and even industry analysts will sometimes cite them in their reports or in their sound bytes to people like us. The only ones who never seem to repeat the catchphrases? Actual IT managers or CIOs, who tend to ignore them in favour of getting to the heart of technology that solves their business problem. Vendors seem to think their catchphrases can capture the current state of enterprise IT, or offer a vision of how it should evolve. Perhaps it’s time, in an age of social networking and crowdsourcing, to let them voice such things themselves.

Check out the 11 Most Baffling Vendor Catchphrases and see for yourself. Then tell me which ones I missed.