Clichés on Steroids – 3 Keys to Keep Banality from Killing your Brand
Image still counts – actually, it counts more than ever in the hyper-competitive world of brand marketing. And in the word-driven (search and social media) world we live and work in, words are often our primary, or at least initial, image creators. As I always tell clients, creating a brand image is about helping prospects imagine what it’ll be like to buy, use or in any way be part of your brand. (Or, to borrow more theological terminology, words incarnate, putting flesh and bones on your brand promises, so make sure you use words that can breath life into ideas.)
Unoriginal should be unacceptable
So why do so many leading brands rely on the stalest of clichés in their communications? Case in point, a recent post from a major business consulting firm entitled “Marketing ROI on Steroids.” I read the title before seeing the attribution and immediately assumed that the source must be a small-time player that can’t afford, or doesn’t care, to invest in fresh communications. But it’s from an A-list name that not only can afford to do better, but which, at least in the long term, can’t afford not to.
Tired language implies brand fatigue
It’s hard to imagine a more exhausted, less-pumped-up cliché than “________ on steroids.” and yet there it was, paired with a less-than-imaginative image of what used to be called dumbbells (I’ll let you make of that what you will). Taken all together, it could only detract from my expectations as I began to read… in fact causing me at first to dismissively skim the article (before catching myself in my own pledge to not post about things I haven’t thoroughly read).
Still, I don’t mean to be hard on just one firm – many other good business thinkers fall into the same trap of assuming that original thinking will stand out on its own merits, even when communicated in unoriginal language.
3 key to keep clichés from killing your brand
Just to be sure I’m not simply harping, but also helping, I’d like to offer three simple steps that can conquer the scourge of hackneyed hyperbole and confidence-killing clichés.
1. Get help.
If you just want to put words into your messages, get a dictionary (there are dictionaries of clichés, you know). If you want to put meaning and a unique brand voice into your marketing and other communications, get professional, outside help (the outside part is important, because even if you’re a communications firm, you need perspective, and that takes input from the outside). Yes, this is a self-serving suggestion – but also an important one.
2. Get tough.
I came of creative age under the tutelage of the late legend Phil Dusenberry, at BBDO New York, a great writer and idea man whom his staff often referred to as “Redo-senberry,” and his shop as BBDO: Bring it Back and Do it Over. The point is, learning not to settle for the first OK, workable idea was a matter of survival… and it still is, in this very unforgiving, seen-it-all-before marketplace. So demand more of yourself and of those writing, designing and creating for you. Give great direction, and expect great work in return.
3. Get a voice.
If you take the time to develop a unique brand voice – which of course comes after developing a unique brand positioning and personality – clichés just won’t sound right to you. To develop that voice, make sure you adhere to points 1 and 2 above.
What are some of your least favorite marketing clichés?