Protesting against the cliche

Not a cliché in sight

Oh, how I wish this were true! But it’s not. Sadly B2B marketing is still adorned with cringe-worthy clichés that company executives are approving! For some reason, a percentage of the business-to-business community seems to have an addiction to using a variety of clichés whether they appear in copy, graphics or photography. It’s our job, as professional designers and copywriters to rid the world of these over-used marketing icons and convince these offenders that enough is enough… really we’ve had enough! Join us, in our campaign against the cliché!

But enough of what exactly?

Well, here are some examples of cliché stock imagery that we think companies like Gettyimages should ban from their collections: The relay baton. The lightbulb. The handshake. The chess board. All perfect examples of images that need to be abolished (unless you are selling lightbulbs, in which case you are allowed one or two as product shots only!).

cliche images
Less specific, but notoriously and annoyingly overused are those team stock photos that show perfect groups of gloriously happy people, with perfect beaming smiles, thumbs and fists raised, often leaping in the air. People, this is not real life! Unfortunately, we still see far too many of these, even though, they’ve been around for decades. And now there’s a whole new bunch of imagery to be wary of. A few years ago depth-of-field action shots became the trend, but be careful, trends quite often become clichés, because everyone likes the idea and then steals it, thus rendering it over-used and unusable by us superior ‘Cliche Killers’.


cliche images 2 This type of image, for example, was once considered quite different, now, everyone is using it. “Cliche!”
There’s nothing unique about a cliché USP

Product descriptions and unique selling points (USP) are often plagued by Cliché monsters (ironic really!). When you see products described as ‘best-in-class’, ‘unique’, ‘unrivalled’ or ‘market-leading’, you know they are probably not. These claims are likely not only to be invalid but are also potentially quite harmful to the brand. If customers are reading about similar claims by competitor brands, then suddenly your USPs become less credible. And we don’t want that do we!

When is a cliché not a cliché?

When you use them ingeniously. Because clichés are immediately recognisable, they can do a lot of ‘the hard work’ to convey the unique value of a brand — as long as we think of a new way to apply them. A cliché can get to the heart of a specific benefit for a particular audience, but the secret is to implement an unexpected twist or use it in a play on words.

These three B2C companies took clichés right out of the ‘Book of Clichés’, but put a unique spin on them and created taglines that were both memorable and humorous:

Shave Time. Shave Money. (Dollar Shave Club – razors and grooming products delivered to your door)

We’re cooking now. (Denny’s – a 24/7 restaurant)

Works like a dream. (Ambien – medication used for the short-term treatment of insomnia)

A different approach to dairy-cow footbath

So how do we escape the Cliché monsters and start producing creative ideas that can demonstrate a fresh social relevance of the business proposition? Sometimes it’s about changing the perspective, making surprising connections. Take for example a dairy-cow footbath producer who is challenged by the fact that footbath hasn’t changed in 20 years. It’s still long, ankle-deep and, most important, swimming with too much copper sulfate metal. Add that it’s a largely overlooked category, even a great metal-minimizing solution like HOOF-TEC™ would need help turning heads. Enter “Too Much Metal,” a campaign created by our talented BBN USA’s Milwaukee agency, that tackles metal mania with in-your-face, heavy-metal hair band bros. Shot by celebrity photographer Matt Hoyle in New York City, this campaign quickly and unforgettably rocked the client’s target audience with useful, high-impact media placements both internally and out in the field. The campaign went on to be awarded numerous creative accolades by NAMA, PRSA and the BMA B2 Awards.

 way too much metal

A surprising approach to mainframes

Micro Focus, a global software company that bridges the coding gap between old and new IT systems, had created a new Mainframe Solutions product set. This would make the mainframe a whole lot more agile, so an enterprise could create and deploy more innovative systems. BBN UK’s London agency decided it was necessary to turn the market’s perception of mainframe agility on its head – literally. They created a series of “agile” mainframe animals: an elephant on its trunk, a gorilla sprinting and a rhino leaping. Visually, they quickly communicated that the mainframe was now a different beast altogether. The message and strapline were “there’s a future in the present.”

Aimed at CIOs of IBM’s largest mainframe customers, senior C-suite and IT management, the campaign ran worldwide and included video, press and online advertising, direct mail, email and a 24-foot life-size elephant sculpture – more than 50 assets in eight languages. The campaign won several creative accolades including ‘Best Creative Campaign’ at the B2B Awards.

microfocus elephant

So go for surprising, new and different.

And don’t forget humour, even in B2B. A great slogan for a vacuum cleaner: nothing sucks like an Electrolux. That might not be the most original idea, but it catches people’s attention. Avoid dull, tiresome, and tedious. Fight the battle against the cliché monster. Campaign with us for more creativity in B2B marketing. Make it fun, entertaining, and smart.

Our Top 20

We’ll leave you with our top 20 overused business marketing clichés. Score yourself a point for every one you’ve used!

  1. Thinking outside of the box
  2. Win-win situation
  3. Value-added proposition
  4. Maximize customer satisfaction
  5. A leading provider of…
  6. Best of Breed
  7. Seamless integration
  8. Scalable
  9. Robust
  10. Client-Centered
  11. Impactful
  12. Marketing-driven
  13. Faster, Cheaper, Better
  14. Industry Standard
  15. User-experience
  16. Integrated approach
  17. User-Focused
  18. Industry Leader
  19. Thought Leader
  20. Game changer


If your score was more than ten, then speak to us about how to rid the world and your marketing of clichés.

This is an article from BBN’s Buzz Magazine on creativity in B2B marketing.

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