The glory days of Marketing Clichés are over

There’s a famous saying that once said, “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.”

It may be of no surprise then that as time goes by, less and less consumers are trusting the ads and marketing messages they come across in print and online publications. This is particularly concerning since trust is obviously a vital ingredient for business success. Yet, every day marketers continue to fill emails, websites, and promotional materials with meaningless marketing jargon and gibberish. Stuff that makes people, well, want to punch them in the face.

The problem is, most marketers spend far too much time trying to be clever instead of clear. Marketers have always wanted to deliver the most creative and compelling messages to achieve high response rates … but being creative and original is hard. So, over the years, a whole library of marketing terms and clichés have been developed in which marketers can easily pull out of their back pockets.

In reality, these clichés aren’t actually that clever. They are a result of unremarkable thinking.

I love this quote from David Anthony Childs:

“Lazy marketers use common clichés and sloppy, meaningless, or even misleading statements in building their brands. What many don’t realize is that the best and most memorable brands are presented in a way that is both undeniably honest and strongly marketable.”

I know, we’ve all used a cliché or two in our lifetime. Guilty as charged. But enough is enough. It is time to understand that consumers have wised up to our antics. Before we had the means to measure engagement and garner real time feedback, we may have thought that they worked. But now we know better. Or at least we should know better.

Marketers that want to really engage with their customers in the modern age need to stop using outdated clichés and advertising catch phrases, and instead focus on what their customers really want from their business, product service, etc, and look at how they can communicate the ability to provide this in a clear, simple and appealing manner. The good news is that there are a lot of businesses that have wised up to this phenomenon and are out there reaping the benefits.

As an example, here are a few outdated versus new ways that we’ve picked up on in recent times, where brands are getting the same sentiment across in fresh, new and much more original ways.

Built from the ground up

Commonly used as a way to describe a strength or benefit of a product or company. But, in most cases, no one cares if your product is built sideways or upside down. Everything starts somewhere. Being built from the ground up might be something you’re proud of, but potential buyers couldn’t care less.

What to Do Instead – Your value proposition should clearly define how your products or services benefit prospective and current customers — what’s in it for them? A great example of this is from Dropbox – “Your stuff, anywhere.” Clear, simple and on point

For x, by x

Have you ever seen a statement such as, “by marketers, for marketers,” or “by designers, for designers”? I get how comforting that sounds — it says, “Hey, I’m like you and know what you like!” But here’s the thing: that doesn’t tell me how you solve my problems (or even what you do).

What to Do Instead – A phrase like this shouldn’t be your core benefit or headline. Instead, ask yourself, “Why does being made by X actually matter for my audience?”

A software company a couple of years back turned this on its head by switching from “By software developers, for software developers.” to “Build the world’s next great thing.” Straight away, customers know what they can aspire to by investing in this software

We do XYZ, so you don’t have to

If this doesn’t scream major marketing cliché, I don’t know what does. Consumer advertising is a primary offender, but really it’s seen everywhere — and it’s a sure way to get your audience to roll their eyes.

What to Do Instead – A little wordsmithing and repositioning is what this cliché needs. Test different positioning statements with your audience to see which benefits you offer are the most attractive — then focus on those benefits in your slogan. Here’s how fresh food delivery service HelloFresh avoids this cliché:

Instead of using “We prepare fresh ingredients so you don’t have to.”, they’ve gone with “More than a meal”. By combining this with their company name, they are instead tapping into the modern need for fresh, healthy, quality meals

Do more with less

Another vague eye-roller that’s been used far too often. Do more of what, exactly?

What to Do Instead – Focus on what people can actually accomplish with your offering and what makes you different. Clarity here is key. Here’s how hotel booking site Trivago found a way around this cliché:

Instead of running with a clichéd version such as “Search more sites in less time”, they’ve instead gone with the simple and literal “Find your ideal hotel for the best price”. You see? Effective and engaging doesn’t need to be overly clever or complicated

Best-of-breed or World-class

Best-of-breed has long been used to describe any item, product, or company considered to be the best of its kind, usually in a specified segment or industry. Nothing screams, “I’m so great,” and “look at me,” than these terms. Please, save the good praise for the people who matter most in your business: your actual customers.

What to Do Instead – Focus on the customer over yourself.  Merlin, a manufacturer of garage door openers does, and it works wonderfully. Instead of a cliché such as “World class technology and reliability”, they’ve gone with “Make life easier with a Merlin”. Aren’t we all looking for life to be a little easier after all?

These are just a few examples. There are plenty more out there. Believe me, I could go on all day. What would you add to the list? Feel free to comment below


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