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Drearily Commonplace and Predictable Marketing

Yes, I am talking about yours… In the past couple of articles I talked about why marketing isn’t working as well as it used to, and I built a case that television and big companies have basically ruined your life.

Okay, maybe they haven’t ruined your life, but they have lulled you into a false understanding of what it takes to be successful in marketing. The result of emulating what you see in the national media is that almost all marketing pieces are either institutional–creative pieces built more for aesthetics than for selling–or menu-board-style ads that basically say “here’s what we have for sale and here’s how much it costs.”

The final result, whether institutional or menu-board style–is that platitudes dominate marketing and advertising.

What is a platitude? Let me give you some definitions from dictionary.com: “A platitude is a trite or banal remark or statement- especially one expressed as if it were original or significant”. I’m not that bright, so I wasn’t exactly sure what the words trite and banal meant. Further research revealed that trite means lacking power to evoke interest through over use or repetition, and banal means drearily commonplace and often predictable. So let me summarize all those definitions into one: Platitudes are words or phrases that are drearily commonplace and predictable; that lack power to evoke interest through over-use or repetition that nevertheless are stated as though they were original or significant.

Does this describe, let’s get personal…your marketing and advertising? Is it full of words and phrases that are expressed as if they were original or significant, even though they’re not? The key words there are what? As if they were original or significant.

In advertising, you will see and hear platitudes all the time; you will hear things like… Largest selection, most professional, lowest prices, highest quality, best service, fastest, most convenient, largest in the state, more honest, experts in, specializing in, works harder, get the job done right the first time, been in business since 1431 BC, and all that kind of stuff.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be those kinds of things. Those, obviously, are foundations to build your inside reality on, right? So what is the problem? Where is the disconnect? Think about it. If your advertisement says that you have high quality and great service, is that drearily commonplace and predictable? Does it lack power to evoke interest through over-use or repetition? Is it nevertheless stated as though it were original or significant? Does your inside reality—what really makes you good–does that shine through? Can prospects tell, specifically, what makes you valuable to the marketplace when you say “quality and service?” See, you cannot describe, demonstrate, exhibit, reveal, or display your inside reality using platitudes…it’s impossible…which results in an outside perception that you are what? That’s right: Just like everybody else. No distinction. No separation. No differentiation. None. You just flat-out cannot make your inside reality and outside perception match up using platitudes.

If you have ever felt like you have got a great business, but that you are the best kept secret in town, chances are extremely high that you are a master of the platitude. In fact, if you have ever run any marketing piece of any kind–ever–chances are it was littered with platitudes…which is exactly why I can verbally accost you without ever having met you and tell you that everything you have ever done in marketing is wrong. If you don’t think so, go grab your stuff right now, because I’m going to give you some evaluations that will objectively confirm everything I am saying right now.

Let’s go more global here–and talk about not just your company. Don’t you think that the definition of platitudes describes almost ALL marketing and advertising? I mean all marketing, including brochures, websites, signage, onhold messages, billboards, tradeshow booths, direct mail, and anything and everything else you can think of? I will extend that to everything you see from network television ads for soft drinks and pickup trucks to the ad in the localfish-wrap newspaper for the corner pizza shop. In addition, yes, I will extend it to you, regardless of how big or small your company is, or how much experience you have doing this.

All marketing is full of words and phrases that are drearily commonplace and predictable, that lack power to evoke interest through over-use or repetition, and that nevertheless are stated as though they were original or significant. All ads are full of platitudes, which are a direct result of your growing up in the era of the “brand builders” seeing that stuff all the time and literally, I mean honestly, not knowing any better. Hey, it’s hard to know what you don’t know. Quick, make a list of everything you are currently not aware of. It’s a short list, because you don’t know!

That is why almost every ad stinks, why almost every brochure is boring, and almost every website is stagnant. Almost all marketing is UNDER-LEVERAGED–which means that it doesn’t make as much money as it should. Nobody knows any better. Nobody, including you.

Still not sure if you believe me? Let’s go over a couple of quick evaluations you can use to see if your marketing and advertising gets caught in the platitude trap or not…

Platitude Evaluation #1 is called “Well, I Would Hope So!” When you make a claim, don’t think about it in terms of coming out of your mouth….think of it in terms of it entering your prospect’s ears. Then you’ll realize how ridiculous most platitudinal claims sound. Whenever you say something, ask yourself if the prospect will immediately respond with: “Well, I would hope so!”

Here’s an answer that a huge printing company gave as their number one reason to choose them over the other sixteen zillion printers: “We help the non-professional print buyer understand the various options available.” Well I would hope so! You’re a printer! Isn’t that what you do?

See…it is a platitude, drearily commonplace. Lacks power to evoke interest through overuse or repetition. Or try this one from a management training company: “Our training leads to change! And it will increase productivity, performance, and profit.” Does anyone hire a management consultant for any other reason than to do those things? Finish the following statement… Well I ______ ______ _____ !!! That’s a platitude if I ever heard one!

Or what about an auto mechanic that says, “We are honest. We fix your car right the first time.” Well I would hope so. Is it believable? Does it tell you anything about the company’s inside reality? Here’s a clue for you: Companies can easily get away with lying when they use platitudes. What else would you expect the guy to say? “Hey, we are lousy. We’ll fix things that aren’t broken, and make sure the original problem goes unsolved so you will bring it back so we can fix it and charge you again.” Of course not. Everyone’s always going to say wonderful things about their company if they can get away with it.

Again, the problem is that if your company has an exceptional inside reality, and you are using all the same platitudes as everyone else, the outside perception is that you are what? That’s right: Exactly like everyone else. And that’s a tragedy, and that is why you are not selling as much as you should, even if you are currently selling a lot. You have got to break past the trite and banal remarks and communicate more powerfully! These platitudinal statements are about like the haircutter telling you that your hair will be shorter after it’s cut, or the gas station telling you you’ll have more gas after you fill the tank. Always, always, always use this important evaluation question whenever you make any claim.

You can take this test right now as you read this article. Answer this simple question: why would anyone choose you over your competitors? Then honestly evaluate it against the “Well, I would hope so!” evaluation. Yes, this is a real exercise. Go ahead and answer the question right now. If you cannot come up with the answer instantly and articulate it well, you can bet that your customers don’t know why.

Write your answer down. Now look at your answer… is it a platitude? Is it a word or phrase that is drearily commonplace and predictable that lacks power to evoke interest through over-use or repetition that you have nevertheless stated as though it were original or significant? Does your inside reality shine through? Next, check out all your printed advertising and marketing materials. Do they pass the “Well I would hope so!” evaluation? Or are they full of platitudes? If not, then you need to make changes. Or you had at least better hope and pray that one of your competitors doesn’t start working with us!

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