How to put the kibosh on bad marketing clichés

Christopher Willis, CMO for Acrolinx, details how Artificial Intelligence can help eliminate overused, undervalued clichés.

stop sign

We’ve all opened a marketing email, press release, or letter that’s made us cringe. Whether it’s “world-leading,” “game-changing,” or “blue-sky thinking,” there are plenty of terms in our industry that are so overused they’ve lost their lustre or – frankly – become a bit embarrassing.

Let’s face it, most marketers use clichés on a regular basis. And while there’s nothing really wrong with these words, they start to lose their value when people use them over and over. If every company said it had game-changing, world-class, data-driven technology, one of two things would happen; you’d either start to question if those descriptions actually meant anything, or you’d simply look right past them. Either way, the words end up not doing their job.

So, what’s a cliché?

According to Wiki, a cliché is “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work, which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.”

In B2B marketing, terms such as “solution,” “proactive,” and “leverage” were once new and fresh, but they’re now so common, they offer nothing interesting or insightful. Not only have these words lost some of their impact, using them can make your company’s tone of voice sound stale and dull. Of course, sometimes you might need to use a cliché that you know your audience will respond to. But remember, you could pay a high price if you wind up sounding like everybody else.

Another thing to remember is that it’s not just words that are clichés. People, places, and ideas can be clichés too. The notion of a romantic honeymoon in Paris might be considered a cliché, or the concept of recent college graduates working at the local Starbucks. You should also consider images. A stock photo of two white businessmen shaking hands isn’t the only way to demonstrate “business.” And a girl jumping in the air isn’t the only image that complements a story about exam results.

How do we avoid them?

So, why do so many marketers resort to clichés? Their vagueness is often appealing: they refer to general, universal, common selling points that we can all understand. Marketers often find it hard to translate their product to actual, concrete benefits (such as the amount of money or time they might save), so instead they stick to more obvious concepts like “quality”.

But, being too general in communication can hurt. For example, quality means different things to different people. It also doesn’t help marketers reach their number one goal of being clear and concise.

Instead, marketers must look at whether the content they’re presenting is really doing its job. It’s important to avoid superlatives (even if you believe you really do have the world’s leading, all-time, best, super, game-changing product) and to only make claims you can support with hard evidence – that actually means something to your customers.

Also avoid stereotypes if you can. Not all artists are poor, not all students drink strong cider and not all millennials eat avocados. This applies to both the personas you might resort to in your writing, and how you define and target your customers. It pays to do your research and really understand the people you’re talking about.

Using tech to help

Of course, one of the best ways to avoid clichés is to know which ones you most want to avoid and then to read your content out loud to find them. It’s really easy for clichés to make their way into your writing, and sometimes you won’t notice them until you do this.

But it can be a time-consuming and tedious process. Plus, you might not always know that something’s actually a cliché. And that’s where Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can help. While it analyses your content, delivering guidance on how you can make it better and more aligned with your content strategy, it also points out clichés. You can then decide for yourself if you want to remove them from your copy.

While clichés will always be a thing, if you want to keep your B2B content fresh, you’d be smart to leave them out of your content. To help you get started, here are some of the worst offenders:

Expect the unexpected – Ironically, it’s totally predictable

Leading – A claim so grand, and used so often, that it’s lost all meaning.

Disruptive – Great if it’s true, but many brands fail to identify what they’re disrupting

Speaks volumes – Does it really? Why?

360 degrees – So you ended up where you started?

Industry standard – A good one to use if you’re trying to make it sound like you provide exactly the same service as your competitors

Innovative – But using the same word to show it as everyone else

Checking in/touching base/following up – Are you done nagging us already?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: