Are clichés classics in disguise?

“The reason that clichés become clichés is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.”Terry Pratchett, Author

Effective promotion of brands, products and services is all about artful communication and clever copywriting but, when constructing marketing messages, it’s all too easy to fall back on clichés. Much of the time this happens without us even realising, partly because these well-loved, well-worn phrases have woven themselves so neatly into our everyday vernacular; they’re just part of the way we speak.

That might leave you wondering if clichés are really such a bad thing, especially when a fundamental rule of marketing communication is to ‘speak in your customers’ language’. Well, these often-used marketing phrases aren’t all bad but if you really want to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, you’re better off approaching clichés like most classics; with the view that a modern spin on the traditional design is usually what ends up looking most current.

It’s a fine balance – this blend of past, present and future – so we’re here to give you some ideas on how to re-invent some of the copywriting clichés that might be gathering cobwebs in the corners of your website or on the pages of your marketing collateral (hey, we’re all guilty)…

‘Today, more than ever…’

‘Today more than ever, people are looking for banks that let them manage their accounts 24/7/365.’ ‘Today, more than ever, you need a toothbrush that delivers superior plaque removal without harsh damage to the gum line.’

Today, more than ever, you need an alternative phrase! Using the words ‘today, more than ever’ has a rather cinematic tone to it – so if your next sentence is about bathroom grouting then your message is just going to sound a bit phony. Make your point in a more genuine way by using a scenario people will be familiar with, to illustrate your point with language that actually fits with your product.

‘It’s up to you…’

‘Choose from a full HD TV with over 2 million pixels or a 4K ultra HD TV with over 8 million pixels – it’s up to you.’

In a world where we’re not just spoilt for choice but almost bamboozled by it, saying ‘it’s up to you’ is stating the obvious. Besides, when have you ever let someone else choose your new telly? You’re the one paying for it! If the point you’re trying to make is that you’re able to give the customer choices, then clearly illustrate the options on offer and those TVs will sell themselves…

‘Need a blah for your blah blah?’ or ‘Looking for a hum for your drum?’

‘Looking for new kitchen flooring for your home?’ or ‘Need a personal trainer who really understands your fitness goals and your lifestyle?’

Hands up if you’ve used this one? Yep, us too. The issue behind this copywriting faux pas is not a weak USP but simply a loose grip on how that USP translates for the customer. Ask yourself what the drivers and barriers to purchasing new kitchen flooring might be for your target audience and answer their question with your compelling strap line, rather than asking it. Think about why your customer needs a flexible workout routine and demonstrate how you can deliver that from the outset. We get engaged with marketing messages because they sync with our thoughts and show how something might fit into our world. So be creative; don’t just think about what the customer needs, think about why they will care.

‘Autumn will soon be upon us’ (insert any other overused seasonal hook here)

‘Autumn will soon be upon us and boiler maintenance is essential to avoid inconvenient breakdowns’ or ‘The new school term will soon be upon us, so you’ll need a washing machine that’s fast and economical’.

Seasonal messages are perfectly fine and for some products and services they’re essential. That said, read your marketing copy back after you’ve written it and see if it jumps off the page. No? Is that because you’ve just used the same conventional, bland terms as everyone else? Seasonal messages are everywhere, so throw something original and unexpected into the pot and watch customers take more notice. Address the season in an unusual way, otherwise you’ll just dull your customers senses until they switch off altogether. How about: ‘Keep hearing ghosts in the cupboard? Get your boiler serviced to avoid the Halloween chills.’

‘State of the art’

As in, ‘state-of-the-art dog walking apparatus’ (leads) or ‘state-of-the-art refreshment station’ (water cooler).

Many, many brands claim that what they do or sell is ‘state of the art’, so it loses meaning. Even worse, by using this phrase you’ll risk looking like that person at the party who’s trying much too hard to prove that they’re still ‘with it’. If what you’re selling is truly cutting-edge (most things aren’t but that’s ok, often they don’t need to be…) then let the product/service features do the talking; state the specifics and show that you’re a pioneer, don’t tell.

If it’s been a while since you dusted down your marketing materials or website, we can help you get your sparkle – and your customers – back. Brevity is a marketing agency offering copywriting services in Basingstoke and we’d love to roll our sleeves up and get to work on turning your clichés into fresh, new copy. Call us today on 01256 536 000 or email