bad_marketing_slogansCartoonist and best-selling author Hugh MacLeod once said, “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.”

It may be of no surprise that fewer than 25% of U.S. consumers trust ads and marketing messages in print or online publications. Yet every day we continue to fill our emails, websites, and promotional materials with meaningless marketing jargon and gibberish. Stuff that makes people, well, want to punch us in the face.

The problem is, most marketers spend far too much time trying to be clever instead of clear. Marketers have always wanted to deliver the most creative and compelling messages to achieve high response rates … but being creative and original is hard. So over the years, we’ve developed a library of marketing terms and clichés we can easily pull out of our back pocket.

In reality, these clichés aren’t actually that clever. They are a result of unremarkable thinking.

David Anthony Childs explains in his post:

“Lazy marketers use common clichés and sloppy, meaningless, or even misleading statements in building their brands. What many don’t realize is that the best and most memorable brands are presented in a way that is both undeniably honest and strongly marketable.”

I know, we’ve all used a cliché or two in our lifetime. Guilty as charged. But enough is enough. We need to band together and stop using following words, terms, and phrases. We’ll walk you through the 10 most egregious marketing clichés and show you how other brands are getting the same sentiment across in much more original ways. 

1) “Built from the ground up.”

Commonly used as a way to describe a strength or benefit of a product or company, this awesome phrase tends to run rampant in the technology and manufacturing industries. Look, in most cases, no one cares if your product is built sideways or upside down. Everything starts somewhere. Being built from the ground up might be something you’re proud of, but potential buyers couldn’t care less.

What to Do Instead

Your value proposition should clearly define how your products or services benefit prospective and current customers — what’s in it for them? Here’s what Dropbox has done to avoid this cliché:

Theoretical Cliché Version: File sharing built from the ground up.

Actual (Better) Version: Your stuff, anywhere.


2) “For x, by x.

Have you ever seen a statement such as, “by marketers, for marketers,” or “by designers, for designers”? I get how comforting that sounds — it says, “hey, I’m like you and know what you like!” But here’s the thing: that doesn’t tell me how you solve my problems (or even what you do).

What to Do Instead

A phrase like this shouldn’t be your core benefit or headline. Instead, ask yourself, “why does being made by X actually matter for my audience?” Here’s what Atlassian avoid this problem:

Theoretical Cliché Version: By software developers, for software developers.

Actual (Better) Version: Build the world’s next great thing.


3) “We do XYZ, so you don’t have to.”

If this doesn’t scream major marketing cliché, I don’t know what does. Consumer advertising is a primary offender, but really it’s seen everywhere — and it’s a sure way to get your audience to roll their eyes.

What to Do Instead

A little wordsmithing and repositioning is all this cliché needs. Test different positioning statements with your audience to see which benefits you offer are the most attractive — then focus on those benefits in your slogan. Here’s how BlueApron avoids this cliché

Theoretical Cliché Version: We prepare fresh ingredients so you don’t have to.

Actual (Better) Version: A better way to cook. Fresh ingredients, great recipes delivered weekly to your home.


4) “Do more with less.”

Another eye-roller but this one wins at ultimate vagueness. Do more of what, exactly?

What to Do Instead

Focus on what people can actually accomplish with your offering and what makes you different. Clarity here is key. Here’s how Kayak found a way around this cliché:

Theoretical Cliché Version: Search more sites in less time.

Actual (Better) Version: Compare hundreds of travel sites at once.


5) “Best-of-breed” or “World-class”

Best-of-breed is used to described “any item, product, or company considered to be the best of its kind,” usually in a specified segment or industry. Nothing screams, “I’m so great,” and “look at me,” than these terms. Please, save the good praise for the people who matter most in your business: your actual customers. 

What to Do Instead

Focus on the customer over yourself — Mint does, and it works wonderfully:

Theoretical Cliché Version: Best-in-class money management tools.

Actual (Better) Version: It’s easy to understand what’s going on with your money.


6) “Efficient and effective.”

Do your products or services make people efficiently effective? Gag a little just then? Yep. Even if your offerings really do help improve the effectiveness or efficiency of a company or individual, tell them how, in plain English.

What to Do Instead

Being efficient or effective is not an end result. Think about what is gained by improvement in these areas. Evernote, for example, helps me be more efficient at project-management because I can store all to-dos in one place. Here’s how Evernote does that:

Theoretical Cliché Version: Be more efficient and effective at your job with Evernote.

Actual (Better) Version: Remember Everything. Evernote apps and products make modern life manageable, by letting you easily collect and find everything that matters.


7) “X people can’t be wrong.”

Customer proof is a great technique for creating more demand. If a lot of people or companies are using your products, that’s great! But using the “5,000 customers can’t be wrong” type of message is trite and vague. It doesn’t clearly identify the value of what you offer.

What to Do Instead

If you’re trying to use the power of numbers, don’t forget to add the what or the why to your statement. Check out the below example from Basecamp:

Theoretical Cliché Version: 285,000 companies can’t be wrong.

Actual (Better) Version: Last year alone, Basecamp helped over 285,000 companies finish more than 2,000,000 projects.


8) “One-stop shop”

According to Wikipedia, the term “one-stop shop” or “one-stop source” originated in the United States in the late 1920s or early 1930s to describe a business model offering customers the convenience of having multiple needs met in one location. The phrase is now used as slang to describe everything from websites to TV channels where people can find most of what they need in one place. Hence, it has become a major cliché.

What to Do Instead

Get specific. Tell your audience what they can actually find in your “one-stop shop.” Scott Equipment has a great workaround:

Theoretical Cliché Version: “Your one stop for all your construction equipment needs.”

Actual (Better) Version: “If it digs, lifts, clears, builds or grades, Scott has it.”


9) “We go the extra mile.”

Actually, I rather have the bare minimum when trying to earn my business. I don’t expect you to go out of your way, or anything …

What to Do Instead

Be more specific on how your business goes above and beyond. Zappos and are great example of brands that successfully use this message.

Theoretical Cliché Version: We go the extra mile for all your homecare needs.

Actual (Better) Version: We’re making it easier to find better care for your whole family.


10) “The most cutting-edge, innovative, and robust solution of the future.”

Sounds like a boatload of terrible jargon, doesn’t it? Terms like “innovative,” “next-generation,” “flexible,” “cutting-edge,” and “turnkey” are gobbledygook-laden phrases that are so overused and abused they’ve become meaningless. Still, many marketers hold onto them like gold.

What to Do Instead

Avoid the corporate jargon as much as possible. Write like an actual human, as if you were speaking to someone face-to-face. does a great job of this on their homepage. 

Theoretical Cliché Version: Innovative Technology for the Future of Meetings

Actual (Better) Version: Better meetings for all.


So there you have it. Ten trite marketing taglines we should stop using now. What others would you add to the list?

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