How canned copy cost the apprentice 21 July 2011

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Drama, intrigue and the battle of big egos. Not the current events around the phone hacking scandal, but the grand finale to The Apprentice 2011. After all the tasks and the tantrums, the contest is over. One of the interesting things that came out on the final night was the impact of clichés on the fate of Jim, the series bigmouth.

Hot air, not hot candidate?

Much was made in the final interviews of Jim’s inability to speak without using set phrases. One comic moment was the very dignified Margaret trying to encourage Jim to define himself without using clichés…The post-show discussion on his performance made much of this – the main thought being that the clichés showed him up to be insincere.

You’re fired

As I’ve written before, clichés do have a powerful effect (in copywriting and elsewhere) when used carefully. The strategically placed cliché is a staple of much advertising content and other copywriting, used to startle by breaking expectation. But it’s when the clichés become commonplace that copy can end up receiving the same response as Jim’s banter. Mr Eastwood certainly entertained, but his clichés cost him his credibility.

Why to avoid blanket clichés in copywriting:

  • Set phrases used consistently end up dulling the personality of a company’s voice – making it sound the same as everyone else. Where’s the commercial impact in that?
  • Constant clichés tend to wash over the reader, rather than exciting their interest.
  • The over-used catchphrase can end up sounding fake, meaning that copy undermines trust in a business, instead of building a meaningful connection.
  • Content that continually spouts ‘everyspeak’ tends to reduce a person’s understanding of the things that make a service or product special.
  • Canned copy tries to talk to everyone – instead of focusing on a specific market or audience.
  • The use of clichés also suggests a lack of imagination and who wants to suggest that their business isn’t innovative or creative?

Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, July 2011

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