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The First Rule is: Don’t be Cliché


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Branding is about getting people to buy into what you are trying to sell them. To persuade them that your honey is sweeter and fresher than the next persons. You do this by using words that attract their attention. Words like “superior”, “unparalleled”, and “cutting-edge”. You might also use imagery and video that evoke particular emotions.

In a saturated world densely populated with an endless stream of brands competing for consumer interest, it becomes pretty common to hear repetitive tropes and phrases that have either been overused to the point of redundancy or have virtually no actual meaning in and of themselves. We call this the branding cliché. And it’s not something to be taken lightly, especially in an age where the consumer is more aware than ever of corporations trying to sell them things they don’t need. After all, who hasn’t seen Fight Club?

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There are, of course, many businesses that offer legitimately useful goods and services that do improve the way we experience our daily lives, which makes it that much more important for these companies to brand themselves in a way that doesn’t make them look like generic, kool-aid selling, suit monkeys.

“Your one-stop go to solution for top quality, all-natural premium grade whatever” has been heard a billion times over. What does premium even mean? Ask yourself. Premium compared to what? If everyone sells a premium product than nothing is really premium!

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Branding should communicate a clear and truthful message to consumers, informing what they can legitimately expect to receive in exchange for parting with their hard earned moolah. Here’s a short list of branding clichés that you should avoid:

1. Dodge overly broad-stroke phrases like ‘We connect people”, “Customers are the heart of our business” and “We’re one step ahead”  – these propositions are vague, generalized and don’t actually deliver specific, tangible advantages for your customers to digest. Instead, magnify the micro-level efforts that your company takes to actually improve itself. This could be anything from how you diligently focus on tracking delivery of items or how every product is triple tested in-house by staff.

2. Just because you’ve seen another brand succeed with a particular campaign, don’t copy and paste the idea over – branding is about differentiation not assimilation so if you’re selling sports shoes, instead of trying to beat Nike at its athlete focused game, find a niche that sets you apart and run with that, like the durability of your material for example.

3. “We think outside the box” or any similar derivative is a great philosophy to hinge your company on but instead of declaring an overarching paradigm, a more effective strategy would be to actually describe how your brand has broken the mold in its actual business operations.

4. We briefly mentioned the use of imagery and video earlier and how this can be a major cliché trip mine. Here’s basically everything you need to avoid in a two and a half minute video :

What works for other brands might not work for yours. Be we can ensure you this will: Be authentic. Have a clear vision. Own a conversation that it’s truly yours and tell your story.

Is your brand being cliché-zed? What is your way to avoid sounding cliché in your branding efforts?
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