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  • David Butcher
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Do you like clichés?

I do. They help cultural tribes stick together. They bind fashionistas or film buffs or football fans. They’re the soul of catchphrase comedy.

But clichés can become a problem when companies explain what they do. 

A dictionary will tell you a cliché is an overused phrase or opinion that betrays a lack of original thought. Is this the best way for a company to present itself? 

Financial services companies, particularly investment management ones, often use clichés freely: “the customer is at the heart of our business”, “innovation is in our DNA” and “a unique approach.”

I fear these risk becoming meaningless – through ubiquity, repetition and interchangeability (“the customer is in our DNA”, “innovation is at the heart of our business”, and so on).

If you’re inclined to agree, can I suggest a few practical tips?

1. Write as you speak. If you’re an engaging presenter, or a teller of wry anecdotes over a drink or the dinner table, then use this real voice in your writing. Your readers will prefer it to manufactured authenticity or sincerity.

If you’re less confident, even better, because you can write as you’d like to speak. You have the time to consider which words will have the greatest impact.

2. Look at what the competition does and write anything but that. If customers are at the heart of their business – then why not look at your own customer model and describe it in plain English? The chances are you’ll find something in the detail that enables you to show what you do differently. 

3. Use data and examples freely. Financial services are the original big data companies, with most having more useful numbers to hand than just about any other type of company . Moreover, with many portfolios having some 20-25 holdings, investment management firms are full of examples. 

It’s not a crime to use a cliché. 

But other options are available – the English language is a toolkit of almost limitless possibilities – and it’s a fine thing to create something new, and see other people use it. 

If you think your company can be described more memorably then why not get in touch? We’re very good at explaining things in ways that make people say, “that sounds interesting, can you tell me more?”

Author: David Butcher

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