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  • Writer's pictureDylan Parry

Pass the cliché

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Last time out I suggested Covid-19 had brought about a convergence in tone. 

Now, watching this, it’s clear that brands are converging not only on a single, ’safe’ tone – they’re converging on a single set of messages. They’re saying literally the same things. 

I guess the thinking goes a bit like this:

  1. We’re a brand with product to sell. Despite everything that’s going on, we need to be out there.

  2. We can’t not talk about Covid-19.

  3. But actually there’s nothing about our product that makes us more relevant (cliche alert) in these unprecedented times. 

  4. Let’s just acknowledge life is a bit tricky right now and tell people we're (cliche alert 2) here for you.

In one sense, there’s nothing really disagreeable about any of this, which is probably why we’re seeing so much of it. Brands are rightly cautious about looking insensitive and self-interested. 

But it’s hard to see what it achieves, given its eminent forgettable-ness and uselessness (surely the most sibilant word, incidentally?).

If there’s no aspect of (cliche alert 3) being apart that gives you timely relevance, it feels like you have two options: 

  1. Make yourself relevant/useful, in whatever way fits who you are (the Brewdog approach)

  2. Say little or nothing about Covid-19 and carry on carrying on

Option 1 won’t work for every brand of course. And even if you do go this route, it’s easy to end up looking even more insensitive and self-interested. A brand looking to spin a public health crisis into positive PR for itself is pretty gross, let’s be honest. It’s all well and good to spot an opportunity to do something worthwhile, but make sure your intentions are right and don’t shout too much about whatever it is you’re doing.

Option 2 may feel insensitive at first, but on closer consideration it’s arguably the most sensitive, respectful thing to do. Your brand presumably exists because it offers something useful to someone. Let’s assume that this usefulness is broadly unaffected by Covid-19 (maybe you sell phone chargers or frying pans). Is it so bad to keep on marketing your thing without making a grandiose, redundant, slightly patronising statement on the (cliche alert 4) status quo? Especially when it’s already been made by so many others.

People still need to charge their phones. They still need something to knock up their omelettes in.

Of course you should consider the context that your message will be received in. That’s always part of the job of the communicator.

But if you really believe you are (cliche alert 5) here to help, isn’t it more helpful to just get to the point?

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