When it comes to business presentations and copywriting, we commonly sneer at clichés, and you have perhaps at least once played a game of Buzzword Bingo – trying to spot business buzzwords as they are uttered in meetings.
Why are we so hard on clichés though when they often hit the nail on the head? If you want to make a clear point in business, a cliché does what it says on the tin.
The problem with clichés, like “think outside the box” and “at the end of the day“, is that they are often used lazily and without thinking. Because clichés can be generic, they are often used by people who are talking without really saying something. Clichés, though, are only clichés because they are popular. They are only popular because they can be applied meaningfully to so many situations.
A cliché offers a win-win – you get to make a point quickly and concisely, your listener knows what you are trying to say. Tell someone to “think outside the box” and “hit the ground running” and they know you want creativity, something out of the ordinary and you want fast action. “Pushing the envelope” means you are trying to cram more things in – not to be restricted by the bounds of the envelope. We’ve probably all worked in places where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians, where bosses talk about low hanging fruit and running things up a flagpole to see how they fly.
We all touch base with colleagues and clients occasionally while giving 110% to boost the bottom line while recognising that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I’m not a fan of meaningless waffle, or people using clichés to cover up their own lack of ability, but I am a big fan of Bingo buzzwords when they are used in a meaningful context.
After all, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.