What does "ubiquitous" actually mean?

Benno Maggi explains in his column "What does... actually mean?" terms from the field of marketing and communication. This time he explains the adjective "ubiquitous".

Was bedeutet eigentlichIt just feels right to call things ubiquitous, because that just sounds so lofty and clever. Metaverse, Bitcoin, NFT and other terms from the digital wonderland are ubiquitous or omnipresent. The former just seems a bit dusty and the latter even firmly in the style of the noughties. And since "all-or-nothing" currently applies everywhere in communication and marketing, i.e. either something works properly or not at all, the adjective is also perfectly suited here. Even if its original fields of application are actually biological or theological contexts: Our industry is used to stealing terms from other disciplines and appreciating them.

In biology, the characteristic of living beings not to be bound to one location is called ubiquitous; in theology, it means the omnipresence of a God. In business, and thus in marketing, something is called ubiquitous if it is used everywhere (campaigns) or is available everywhere (products).

Important in the age of omnichannel

The origin of the word lies in Latin. This is reason enough to make those who use it seem more academic. It derives from the Latin adverb ubique which can be easily controlled with everywhere can be translated. Even the Duden says it is part of the upper language in its general meaning. So whoever uses it receives a knighthood, so to speak, from the highest authority.

But what are we trying to say? Everyone would like to be present everywhere: omnipresent. But the noughties are calling, and omnichannel marketing is almost impossible to win in small talk. If you believe the Omni-Channel Maturity Index (ORI) of Swiss stationary retailers, which has been published for the third time, then we are not doing badly in Switzerland. Thanks to the near-duopoly of Migros and Coop and all their subsidiaries and sisters, to be sure. They are by far the best at making goods available (soon also alcoholic beverages) everywhere and to everyone.

However, the need is not purely Swiss. The tech giants in the U.S. in particular are also increasingly going back to brick-and-mortar (physical/stationary points of sale): Amazon and Tripadvisor are just showing the way with their stores. However, very few can afford to be present everywhere. That's why the word is also used where things are "only" widely distributed, which seems to be the case even more quickly in the increasingly narrow bubbles of social media.


Benno Maggi is co-founder and CEO of Partner & Partner. He has been eavesdropping on the industry for over 30 years, discovering words and terms for us that can either be used for small talk, pomposity, excitement, playing Scrabble or just because.

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