Ditch these tired marketing clichés now

Beyond the ‘drilling down’ and ‘10,000-foot views,’ there are plenty of misguided notions about social media, customer engagement and the rapid embracing of mobile technologies.


Perhaps no group of people can overuse a phrase the way marketers do.

That’s unfortunate for a profession in which original thought is vital to success. All the same, we find ourselves adopting sayings and terms—and beating all usefulness and cleverness out of them via repetition.

Thus are born marketing clichés.

At best, the repetition of industry clichés is annoying. At worst, their incantation can undermine your efforts, as many obscure issues require absolute clarity.

Here are some clichés infiltrating our discourse of late:

“The click is dead.”

No, it’s not.

You might think it should be dead. You might even have written a scathing post saying so. Plenty of people are still counting clicks—and selling them and getting paid for them and giving all credit for the sale to the last one.

So, go ahead and continue to decry these facts. Your frustration is justified, but don’t plan the click’s funeral until its heart actually stops beating.

“Content is king.”

Lump this in with the other “so obvious they’re useless” clichés.

Marketing has always and will always rely on the value of the content behind a given push. There’s now a whole new breed of clichés built on content’s reign. They generally follow the pattern of, “Content is king, but [fill in the blank] is queen.”

That blank might be filled by “distribution” or “credibility” or any number of equally obvious concepts. Either way, it’s overplayed, and you’d do well to stop chanting any variation of the above.

“Facebook is just for old people.”

Wrong again. Facebook might not be the only or sexiest platform of interest to teens and college kids, but it’s hardly a youth wasteland.

More than 60 percent of high school grads use it every day. Is Facebook booming among the 35-and-older crowd? Absolutely. What’s wrong with that? Marketers disdain Facebook’s relevance due to declines among the 13-17 age group, but such blanket statements are just not useful, nor even correct.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

People love to quote (and misquote) this assertion by John Wanamaker—typically when a marketer wants to say that campaign ROI data are lacking.

Sure, throwing around industry quotes can make you sound smarter than you are, but it’s time to put this one out to pasture. We get it: Attribution is hard.

“We make data-driven decisions.”

If you do, good for you. If you don’t, you’re probably not admitting it openly.

Few people like to invest their money with marketers who tout their propensity to make “gut-reaction decisions” regarding media spending. So, let’s drop the broad “data-driven” cliché. Be prepared to get specific with your methods, or don’t bother at all.

“We take a customer-centric approach.”

The notion of being “customer-centric” isn’t just overused; it’s usually misused. Marketers often use the phrase to mean “customer focused” simply to say they think about the customer experience before they do things. Who doesn’t? You do want them to buy something, right?

The bigger problem is that, at its core, “customer-centric” is intended to be something far more specific. It refers to a marketing strategy that revolves around understanding customer lifetime value in a way that enables you to focus on high-value, real-world segments.

I’ll wager that more than 90 percent of the folks who use the term have absolutely no grasp of how to segment customers according to lifetime value.

“It’s all about engagement.”

No, it’s not. It’s all about sales.

Engagement is just a nice step in between “nothing” and “making the sale.” Measure engagement, and strive to increase it. It’s a worthy pursuit, but it’s not your end goal, so stop talking as though it is.

“Think globally; act locally.”

This bastardized sentiment has been stolen from the environmental movement—the idea that you can enhance the planet’s overall health by taking action in your own community—and it’s been adopted by many industries.

Marketers have seized on it and applied it mainly around the idea that multi-national brands should target their marketing at a local level. If you’re working for a multi-national brand, that notion isn’t an epiphany. It’s common sense.

Let’s leave this phrase in the corporate responsibility realm where it belongs and can be useful.

“We think mobile-first.”

This one, like “customer-centric,” has been ruined by all the folks who say it and don’t mean it—or don’t really know what it means, or just say it too damn much.

This design and development term—which means mobile considerations are prioritized and executed from the beginning—is used in marketing when whole campaigns are developed with the knowledge that people today access a lot of information on their mobile devices.

We get it. Mobile is important. At this point, too many marketers have just started to use the phrase “mobile-first” to stress that they know mobile is important—even if their sites and campaigns don’t put that knowledge into practice.

Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing strategist and owner of Foodie Content Studios. A version of this article ran on iMediaConnection. Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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