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Dec 13, 2023

The top trends from 2023’s earnings calls: Barbie, pop stars and profanities

Data shows that this year was dominated by cultural hits and out-and-out swearing

As the year approaches its end, it’s a good time to reflect on the previous 12 months. Here at IR Magazine towers, we’re already hard at work compiling our ‘end of year’ pieces, as well as content that will throw the agenda forward to what awaits us in 2024.

This year was one for trailblazing of many kinds. While away for our South East Asia and Greater China events last week, I read with interest about Elon Musk’s latest pioneering business decision to tell one of his customers to ‘go f**k yourself’.

But Musk may not be quite the pioneer he likes to think himself. In fact, so far this year executives have used profanity on 179 different corporate conference calls, according to data compiled by financial research platform AlphaSense. That is about the same as last year’s count of 180 times and up from 92 times in 2018.

There are a few potty-mouthed chief executives who don’t mind getting rude in front of investors. One prolific curser is Jim Hagedorn of ScottsMiracle-Gro, who during a November 1 call gave an analyst a veiled compliment: ‘Dude, you’ve been eating your f*****g Wheaties’. He’s got form, too.

It’s not just rude words that are more common in earnings, AlphaSense’s data shows: in 2023, pop culture reigned supreme. Mentions of Barbie, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé in conference calls were all far higher this year as the trio boosted consumer spending in many sectors, whether directly or indirectly.

Elsewhere, mentions of ‘moat’ or ‘moats’ hit a new high this year after gaining new popularity. First widely coined by Warren Buffett, the use of the word – meaning a liquid barrier around a medieval castle, or a hedge against a financially material risk – grew to be mentioned 372 times in calls held in Q2 2023.

On a product basis, diet drugs – increasingly on the agenda in the US and Europe – became mentioned outside of biotech and pharmaceuticals company calls, as did ‘nicotine pouches’, with younger tobacco consumers quickly ditching cigarettes for other, smokeless forms of the drug.

The most significant spike recorded all year was akin to a ‘heart attack’, writes AlphaSense’s director of research Nick Mazing: mentions of ‘regional banks’, which usually hover at around the 50-per-quarter mark, rose to 408 in Q2 2023. Unsurprisingly, it was one of the most impactful news events of the year and one that sent the markets into shock.

As my colleague Tim Human wrote last week, it goes to show that the hallmark of what good financial communications is all about comes down to authenticity. Even if that does mean letting your chief executive swear a little more freely on this quarter’s earnings call.

Any thoughts about the words that defined your earnings in 2023? Let us know in the comments, on LinkedIn or email. I’m on

Laurie Havelock

Laurie has been part of the IR Magazine team for more than a decade, starting out as a reporter and research editor before becoming editor in 2023. He was previously acting business editor at the i newspaper and deputy business editor at The Daily...