Does marketing talk need a refresh?

Marketing talk needs a refresh

What exactly makes you different?

Here is a sample of what marketing businesses say about themselves and their services.

“Innovative” (Innovative, as in you came up with the iPod sort of innovative? Ah, not that kind of innovative)

“Expert team” (Well, they are not going to say “we’re an agency stuffed full of dummies, amateurs, and mediocre types”)

“Creative” (Another single word, non-description. Who would claim to be anything other than creative?)

“Unique, fresh, original…” (Fresh is fine. No-one is unique or original, we all have influences)

“We help our customers stand out from the competition and gain new business through creative thinking and design” (Hey, hang on a minute, all the other agencies are saying that!)

“Our work is driven by creativity” (Code for: Don’t trust the other guys, they are just in it for the money. And…between us…they just copy ideas)

“We pride ourselves on approaching marketing differently…” (Hang on…just checked…we’ll add you to the growing list of agencies making that claim! We’re all doing it differently)

“We deliver outstanding results on time!” (Bet you serve up some stuff that’s decidedly average, and a tad late on occasion too)

Do any of the words and phrases listed below tip you towards choosing them?

I haven’t made up any of these stock phrases. They were captured in real time, from real life companies.

And I left out the ever present, and particularly jaded adjective, “passionate”.

If you (the customer) are looking for help with your marketing, all that these phrases do is generate copious amounts of verbal fog. They are opaque, vague, an accumulation of characters to skim read and largely ignore.

Sameness doesn’t stand out

If every marketer you come across is an “expert” on social media, or a “guru” who can expand your online presence exponentially, how can you tell which one you should be choosing?

A further thing to notice from the not-made-up-phrases is their disappointing sameness. If an agency is innovative, creative, and different, why do they all sound the same? Not exactly a good start. Not exactly helpful. Not really doing what it claims to do on the tin.

Of course, marketing companies don’t have a monopoly on the use of clichés begging for retirement, as anyone who has encountered the overworked phrases “our customer service makes us different” or “a family run business” knows all too well.

Stale sales rhetoric

All of the not-made-up-phrases listed above are a species of rhetoric, marketing and sales rhetoric, to be precise. Now, I love a good rhetorical flourish as much as the next writer, but rhetoric, far from being a great accoutrement, can easily become empty and meaningless.

It is something of an irony that far too much sales and marketing language simply doesn’t stand out at all. None of this inspires confidence.

If you were a baker you wouldn’t serve stale bread. Why would you serve up stale language?

What makes you different?

Most businesses in this sector wax and wane, oscillating between work that is remarkable, thoughtful, compelling, and energetic, to work that is, in all honesty, middling, passable, and just plain “good”.

It’s time to look again at the language we use about ourselves. But an even better approach would be to showcase the language we put into the mouths of others.

There is a principle that offers a more objective standard.

It is: “Show, don’t tell”.

Don’t tell people that you are creative. Let them look at your work and tell you that it is creative.

Don’t tell people that you are innovative. If you are innovative, they will tell you.

If you really do things differently, others will notice.

Your portfolio makes you blend in or stand out, not what you claim for yourself.

Show, don’t tell.

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