7 Boring Marketing Narratives that Need to Die (Seriously, Are You Even Trying?)

I need to preface this piece by saying this: This is just my opinion. It could be interpreted as a well meaning criticism of the state of the industry as a whole. Or on the flip side, it could also be a caffeine fuelled rant on the unoriginal and uninspiring tropes that flood the advertising space.  Boring marketing narratives are flooding the industry

If you’ve ever seen an ad that made you think, “Wow, I just wasted a few precious minutes of life”, then this is for you.

We’re going down the rabbit hole and talking about the marketing narratives that need to retire. Before we begin this, let’s consider why they’ve stuck around for as long as they have. Like any business activity, the profit motive for marketing means communicating an evocative message that triggers a boost in sales. Yet many companies rationalise that a safe bet is to take a simple and bridled marketing narrative that appeals to the masses. Innocuous, safe and pleasant enough to make a sale. Safe bets don’t always guarantee safe returns.

1. We Exist.

This is the most common trope in marketing. This is a “build it and they will come” mentality that is pervasive in most marketing strategies. Considered the first port of call, simply saying we’re the solution to your problems is half the battle in convincing others you are viable product. The problem is that the message merely stops there. There is no concerted effort to go any further.

Event marketing suffers from this trope. It’s the promise of an experience you enjoy but can’t really compare to, because the experience stands alone and can only be compared to previous iterations.

If that’s all it is, why bother trying?

2. We’re New

Don’t get me started on this one. It’s marketing launch tactics that scream, “you’re gonna love us even though you don’t know us yet and haven’t invested in our brand’s promise of quality”, that make you want to unleash rabid dogs onto the “geniuses” that use this. 

Wondering where you find this? Look no further than small businesses looking to break into a saturated local market. Personally strolling through Marina Times Square AKA the bubble tea capital of Miri, you can’t help but be confronted by sad and plain copies of original concepts, hoping they can game the market with the mystique of a new competitor in town.

The problem? This is simply unsustainable. The veneer of newness fades and the mystique of curb appeal wears thin if value isn’t translated to differentiation. Translation? People get bored of new things. New isn’t always better.

Boring Marketing Narratives

3.We’ve Changed

Have you really though? When brands reinvent themselves, hoping to get customers into the doors with a new look, flagship product or pledge of repentance, they open themselves to a world of scrutiny.

Is it any good? Is this a gimmick? Have they really changed? Can we trust a chameleon brand? Is this reinvention or deflection? All these questions that revolve around authenticity and customer loyalty.

My biggest pet peeve? Companies treating customers like we’re goldfish: short memories and easily distracted by shiny new things. All the while doing little to bury the dead.

The caricature of the cartoonish buffoon who slowly takes takes an indiscrete step backwards from a colossal mess up, comes to mind. 

What they fail to understand is that people need closure. A simple slide of hand will not cut it. Bury your dead.

4. We’re better than the rest.

The lack of creativity in this one is simply underwhelming. The benchmarking of a product’s USP’s against that of another competitors, often devolves into a product pot shot competition. Despite brands being cautious not to directly label competitors, for fear of libel suits, companies often resort to recreating the competitor persona with easily identifiable similarities to existing competitors.

The core message: We are harder, better, faster, stronger.

What we get: We are marginally better (because we say so) but we blow things out of proportion because hyperbole is a part of our creative licence.

Habitat in the wild: e hailing ads, household cleaning products etc.

No one likes a braggart. Let the product do the talking.

5. We’re Edgy and Sexy

We all know the one company that courts controversy like a wall street banker with a favourite  stripper he just can’t quit despite the missus being pregnant with his third child. Try as they might to keep on the straight and narrow, they’ve found love in the arms of the imprudent. Companies these days doing the Miley Cyrus of rebrands, taking the proverbial wrecking ball to their Shirley Temple personas and carving a message of untapped sex appeal.

While its a great step forward for mankind to be more sex positive, I highly doubt the spearheading of the national conversation by the “corporatocracy” is a welcome sign of humane capitalism.

Disingenuous does not even begin to describe the effect of companies co-opting sexual empowerment for profit.

What’s next? Marketing cars to women by telling them the boot space is large enough to comfortably have sex in? #ThankYouNext

Boring Marketing Narratives

6. We’re the Future

I’m sure you are. Every product in town is constantly looking to reinvent the wheel and claim notoriety as the single most revolutionary invention since soap and sliced bread. While some products have truly delivered on this promise (Smartphones and thermomixes are legit the future though) some have given us simply the least inventive and almost laughable changes to existing products. All the while, hailing every successive iteration as the alpha and omega of products. This version is also ironically better than anything in its class.

Yeah sure. Next year, when you roll out the new and improved product that is “the future” am I supposed to forget the last futuristic contraption?

Its old, its boring and it perpetuates the idea that customers want better versions of the same. This trope should only be used for inventions that well and truly break the mould.

If your invention doesn’t challenge the status quo and have the industry shaking in their boots, it does not deserve the honour of leading the human race into the future. 

Back off loser! Actual Inventions ONLY!

7. We Care, They Don’t. Trust Us

This is a recent trope that takes potshots at their competitors indiscretions. While attempting to disguise the digs as USP differentiators, a company can seriously mar their reputation by mudslinging. 

The idea that you are a better alternative because your competitor has been caught with his or her hands in the cookie jar, reads as a cheap trick to kick a dog when its down. Its unsavoury and lets people know that your company is willing to harvest its competitors misfortunes to draw blood.

The big tech industry is infamous for this, and while it may rally the brand loyalists to your camp, it makes the on the fencers very uncomfortable.

This double edged sword can only be wielded by the mightiest of market shares. 

Boring Marketing Narratives

To sum up, you have options. Better ones. If you can get your marketing team to ditch the coke habit long enough to create coherent campaigns, you might just strike gold. Just avoid the above at all costs.