25 Marketing Cliches You Should Avoid at All Costs

Marketing is about communication and creativity. That’s why it’s so distressing to find it riddled with cliches. You might even say we’ve reached Peak Marketing Cliche, but that in itself smacks of cliche.

Here’s Digiday’s stab at identifying the most egregious, which just may bring you to forswear them from your vocabulary. Thanks to many in the agency and marketer worlds for your contributions to this list. Please add your own in the comments, or tweet us @digiday. We’ll update this with the best suggestions.

1. “Mad Men to Math Men.”
We get it. Data is important. Agreed. And everyone still loves a Don Draper reference. The problem is this analogy is a good three years old. Time to let it go.

2. “It’s time to put the customer at the center.”
Variations of this bon mot are a favorite of brand executives. Talk about received wisdom. And yet, you can be sure this will elicit enthusiastic retweets. Regardless, the tweets aren’t worth it. Let’s accept that marketers should cater to consumers and move on.

3. “Data is the new oil.”
You know someone non-technical wants to sound techie when this one comes out. At best, it’s crude, since without refining data, most of it is worthless. Also, it’s worth adding that our addiction to oil is at the root of all manner of ills facing our planet. Consider that.

4. “We need to have an authentic conversation with our consumers.”
Most people do not want a conversation with toothpaste. Also, the authentic part makes me think you weren’t being genuine previously. What’s up with that? It’s like when someone starts a sentence with “frankly”: you can be sure they’re regular liars. Not a good look.

5. “It’s still about a Big Idea.”
The Big Idea went through a bit of a rough spot. The onslaught of new tech platforms shook its foundations. Suddenly, it was all about “micro-interactions.” The Big Idea is back. People like to roll this one out to prove they’re not just following fads. No need for the reminders.

6. “Open the kimono.”
Awkward in any context, but doubly so when you’re talking about hawking consumer packaged goods. No wonder consumers aren’t into all this engagement you want.

7. “This is a 360-degree campaign.”
You do realize that when you do a 360, you wind up right where you started?

8. “We fail fast.”
Silicon Valley has given the marketing world many things, including its worst cliches. At this point, even the most conservative brand will at least pay lip service to “failing,” and you might as well do it quickly if you’re going to screw things up.

9. “That’s the connective tissue of the campaign.”
Gross again. Marketing has gone from an overreliance on war metaphors — campaigns, targets — squarely into the medical field with “connective tissue” and “viral.”

10. “This is a bespoke solution.”
Brits get a pass. Americans, we say “custom.” This isn’t so much a cliche as it is dumb.

11. “We’re not chasing bright, shiny objects.”
Except for when that Snapchat campaign gets you killer PR.

12. “Blue-sky thinking.”
Did consultants give this to agencies? In any case, this is no better than “think outside the box.” It might be worse.

13. “Content is king, but distribution is queen.”
And you are a joker.

14. “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Funny, you’re talking about tools.

15. “That’s the low-hanging fruit.”
We’ve heard about this fruit-picking for a while now. You’d think by this point, all of the convenient fruit would be gone and people would be climbing up the trees.

16. “We’re dipping our toes in the water.”
The more you say this, the more I think you can’t really swim.

17. “We wanted to do something impactful.”
Let’s consult Urban Dictionary on “impactful”: “a nonexistent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is.”

18. “We want to surprise and delight consumers.”
Creepy. Makes brands sound like clowns. Kids are scared of clowns. At least the smart ones are.

19. “It’s all about great storytelling.”
Yes, the stories. The problem is much of the grunt work of banners and taglines and the like have very little to do with storytelling.

20. “For our brand, it’s about engaging the consumer.”
This isn’t only a cliche, it’s an out-of-date cliche. Basta.

21. “Maker culture.”
This is a cliche to watch. Notice how agencies don’t talk about actually making things, just having a “culture” about making things. There’s a difference.

22. “Curated experience.”
Stop. You’re not working at an art gallery; you’re at an ad agency.

23. “Disruption.”
Not OK in any form. Let Silicon Valley have this one.

24. “We need to be choiceful.”
Stop. Never acceptable. Ever. Also: not a word.

25. “This is a tentpole idea.”
Join the circus.

Read more on ridding adland of impenetrable jargon and cliches:

The Digiday Dictionary shows what jargon really means.

We built the Ad Tech Jargon Convertertron 3000.

Tom the Copy Editor gives the academic’s view of jargon.

Image via Shutterstock


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