8 Minute Read

Biggest Marketing Cliches You’ll Ever See

You’ve seen them…total marketing cliches. Ever wonder why in a world that literally runs on advertising, we’re still using the same tired cliches year after year, decade after decade. Why a modern day commercial for a user car lot has echoes of 1980s snake oil salesman about it? The reason is not so much that marketers get lazy, or even that they have no original ideas of their own. The reason marketers continue to use cliches is because they TOTALLY WORK. Want proof? Check it:


“Forget everything you know about X!”

This one seems so damn catchy at first. You are basically laying it out there that you have rewritten the book on whatever it is you are selling. The truth is that loads of companies use this, so much so that I don’t remember anything anymore. Not to mention human memory is particularly terrible and we don’t need any help forgetting as it is! Instead try to bring up specific points of difference between your product and what is currently out there. Then it will be harder for the audience to forget next time some other company tells them to forget everything about X. On the other hand, you’ve likely clicked on at least three articles or emails with title today alone, so the efficacy of it cannot be denied.


Generic pictures of smiling (FAKE) employees

Employee happiness is really important, in fact we’ve written about that in the past, so believe me when I say I’m not trying to bash keeping your employees happy. What I am against is the trend of taking photos of what are clearly models smiling while wearing headsets or typing on computers. First off use your own employees! That has got to be insulting when you basically tell them “Hey, we think you are too ugly and/or sad to photograph. So scoot over while this person pretends to be a happier, better version of you!”

Maybe we do it because, most people aren’t happy with their job. Instead of pictures that are so fake and saccharine they make everyone’s teeth hurt, try actually making your place of work an engaging place to be…then take pictures.


Art Supplies = Diversity

Whenever someone wants to talk about diversity in the workplace, either promoting it or talking about how diverse they themselves are, they ALWAYS use a close up of some combination of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils. paint brushes, chalk basically anything that has color and comes in a 24 pack.

First, let us take a moment to appreciate the pure irony that comes from the lack of diversity in photos ABOUT DIVERSITY! I know coming up with photos to use is hard, especially when you don’t want to take more than 10 seconds to find ones not on the front page of google, but take the time. More importantly if you are so pro diversity then show me! The fact is that diversity in offices is still a struggle even for companies that try their hardest to be, or appear, diverse. You showing a picture of art supplies doesn’t prove to me that you are diverse, it shows me that you don’t have a diverse enough staff to take a picture that proves you are diverse. On the other hand…JK this one is dumb. Stop it.


The Next Big Thing In _________

Whenever companies want to tease that their product or service is going to be great they break out this line while they smirk to themselves about how clever they are, meanwhile anyone that reads this is visiting their optometrist to see if their unstoppable eye rolling is terminal. You don’t get to decide what is going to be big, consumers still have that power and if you come out saying “We are better than literally anything else!” you are going to have a lot of expectations to live up to. Ads like this are usually a sign that your reach has exceeded your grasp, try to keep it grounded and remember that plenty of larger products and services have flopped. On the other hand, going big when you have limited funding is often the only choice, especially in a crowded marketplace.


Visual Cliches

I laid out some specific instances that cause my already high blood pressure to reach dangerous levels but there are so many other visual cliches that I had to make this section. The truth is that no idea is original, everything has been thought of at least once but some ideas are more original than others. Your picture of a road sign with your company name and “the future” or “the right way” written on some of the signs is neither clever nor impressive to anyone. The fact of the matter is that if you use the same imagery that people have used time and time again people might remember it but they probably won’t associate it with your product. Be different, stand out THAT is the way to get people to remember whatever it is you are trying to get them to pay for. You are probably wondering what qualifies as a cliche so you know how to avoid them luckily there is a list! On the other hand, it would be really hilarious to use all the cliches in one giant cliche marketing book!

Coming up with something that will burrow its way into human memory is a daunting task to say the least, and it’s natural to want to take the path that is already there. The assurance that something will work, because it worked before, is almost too appealing to overlook but chances are you got into marketing because you had a spark of creativity and individuality that you wanted to put to work selling things to people.


Don’t let your desire for safety snuff out your creativity, avoid cliches and blaze a new trail in marketing!