The Marketing Clichés You Need To Stop Repeating

Originally published on iMediaConnection on March 16, 2015 on By
Drew Hubbard
The marketing clichés you need to stop repeating
Perhaps no group of people on Earth quite knows how to overuse a phrase like marketers do. That’s unfortunate for a profession where original thought is vital to success. But all the same, we find ourselves regularly adopting new sayings and terms and then subsequently beating all usefulness and cleverness out of them via repetition. And thus is born another marketing industry cliché.
At best, the repetition of marketing clichés is annoying. At worst, their incantation can actually be harmful to your efforts, as many of them serve to obscure issues where a little bit of clarity is desperately needed.
This article is not a first of its kind, nor will it be its last. You might even say that articles on clichés are — yeah. Cliché. But rather than spending the rest of this article discussing how irritating phrases like “strategic synergy” and “low-hanging fruit” are, let’s take a look at ones that are a bit less obvious in their treachery — and much more recent in their rise. The clichés in this article fall widely across the annoying-to-dangerous spectrum and, admittedly, represent some personal pet peeves. Please add your own peeves in the comments.
“The click is dead.”
First off, no it’s not. If it were truly dead, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You might think it should be dead. You might have even penned a scathing editorial at some point to this effect. But in fact, 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.”
Well, duh. Lump this one in with the other “so obvious it’s useless” clichés. Marketing has always and will always rely on the value of the content behind a given push. Perhaps as a result of this obviousness, there’s now a whole new breed of clichés built on content’s kingdom. 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 form of the above.
“Facebook is just for old people.”
First off, no. It’s not. 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. But sure, is Facebook particularly booming among the 35-plus crowd? Absolutely. And what’s wrong with that? Marketers love to declare Facebook’s relevance to be plummeting due to declines in its 13-17 age group. But at this point, blanket statements in that regard are overused and — more importantly — just not useful or 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. This statement is typically thrown around lazily when a marketer wants to make the point that his or her campaign ROI data is lacking in some regard. And 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 openly admitting it. Few people like to invest their money with marketers who tout their propensity to make “gut-reaction decisions” regarding media spend. 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” — to simply point out that they think about the customer experience before they do things. Well, OK. 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 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.” So fine. Measure engagement and look to improve on it as a metric. It’s a worthy pursuit. But it’s not your end goal, so maybe stop talking about it like it is.
“Think globally, act locally.”
This bastardized sentiment has been stolen from the environmental movement — the idea that you can make a difference in the overall health of the planet by taking action in your own community — and adopted by many industries. Marketers have seized on it and applied it mainly around the idea that multi-national brands should still target their marketing at a local level. But if you’re a multi-national brand, that notion isn’t an epiphany for you. It’s called common sense. So let’s just leave this phrase in the corporate responsibility realm where it belongs and can actually be useful.
“We think mobile-first.”
Argue all you want, but this one, like “customer-centric,” has already been ruined for everyone by all the folks who say it and don’t mean it. Or who say it but don’t really know what it means. Or who just say it too damn much. Either way, “mobile-first” has already lost much of the utility it briefly had as a concept. This design and development term, which means mobile considerations are prioritized and baked into an execution from the beginning, is sometimes now more widely applied in marketing to mean that whole campaigns are baked with the knowledge that people 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 truly put that into practice.
On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing strategist and owner of Foodie Content Studios.
The marketing clichés you need to stop repeating_2
Drew is mainly a dad, but he’s also a social media and content marketing guy. Originally from Kansas City and a graduate of The University of Missouri, Drew will gladly discuss the vast, natural beauty of the Show Me State. Drew and his wife, Lori, live in southern California with their handsome son, Walter. Drew is a freelance marketing consultant and writer.