Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Again, this is a fairly ancient phrase, dating back to the time of the Roman poet Sextus Propertius. It refers to how familiarity breeds contempt, but separation can create longing. Actually, when it comes to marketing, you don’t want to be too absent, or you will be the victim of that other expression: “out of sight, out of mind”.
Better safe than sorry. This is an idiom which can be traced back to Irish novelist Samuel Lover’s Rory O’More in 1837. It has since become a guiding principle for governments all over the world, and it certainly applies to business when the market gets rough. In a struggling economy, we make less risky decisions. And sometimes, in contradiction to this cliché, it’s the risk-takers who succeed.
Bet the farm. Here’s a phrase which stands in stark contrast to the previous one, in that it says you should risk everything when you have enough confidence in the outcome. In business, this can be an incredibly foolish proposition. Think of it as putting your entire company on Black 37 and spinning the wheel. This cliché is a good depiction of what not to do. In marketing, we like to test first, and rollout the program when we have a high probability of success.
Turn over a new leaf. This actually refers, in its original context, to turning the pages of a book. In a way, this is what we do with every re-branding initiative. Turning the page on your company’s message is often a vital part of staying relevant in an evolving marketplace. Of course you should never change messaging that is fresh and relevant.
Avoid the pitfall. “Pitfall”, has its origins in Old English. It refers to small holes (pits) in the ground that were dug to make enemy horses fall in battle. In business, this translates to avoiding obvious risks. A good way to do this is to make sure you do your research before launching campaigns and look for any potential failure points. In other words, make sure you avoid the marketing pits.
End of my rope. This phrase evolved from “at the end of my tether”, such as one that might tie a dog or a horse. It states that one has exceeded some defined boundary of tolerance. You may have been at the end of your rope on clichés, but I hope my elaboration on them has helped you see how useful the principles embedded in these “overused” phrases can actually be.
Eat our own dog food. The term is believed to have originated with Microsoft in the 1980s. While it was originally used in reference to software companies using their own internally-generated tools for software development, its usage has spread to other areas as well. The basic premise behind “eating your own dog food” is that if a firm expects paying customers to use its products or services, it should expect no less from its own employees. To marketers, eating your own dog food means that you should practice what you preach.
By the way, if you are interested in further exploration of the wacky world of business and marketing clichés, read this interesting Forbes article titled: 89 Business Cliché’s That Will Get Any MBA Promoted And Make Them Totally Useless.