A few weeks ago, the Des Moines area was blanketed with more than a foot of heavy, wet snow. And while I was cursing Mother Nature as I cleared my driveway, the neighbor boys across the street were building the biggest snowman I’ve ever seen. Easily 15 feet high and, at the base, 8 feet across. It was ridiculous and awesome and the kind of thing only a couple of bored, industrious 14-year-olds are capable of creating.
But spring has finally graced us (it’s nearly 70ºF as I write this!), and all that icy frustration is now running into the gutters. Except for that darn snowman. Although it’s certainly lost a little of its frosty glory, it’s still standing tall in a yard daring to turn green. At this rate, it might survive to see April.
And all that’s got me thinking about those stubborn trends — or, dare I say, crutches — in our business that just won’t melt away. What follows are just a few of them. They’re things we’ve all done and, honestly, will probably continue to do from time to time. But when we see them, or feel ourselves headed down one of these roads, we should stop and consider if there’s a more compelling way to push our message out into the world.
1. Headlines. Like. This.
I’m not sure whether it was Wrangler jeans (Real. Comfortable. Jeans.), Nuprin (Little. Yellow. Different.), or someone else that really got this trend started, but they’re the first ones I remember. And now we all copy their simple, over-punctuated syntax whenever we get stuck for a headline or tagline. Take three descriptors of your product or service, add three little periods, and you’re done. Easiest. Cop-out. Ever. There’s a more compelling, more creative, more engaging way out there, I promise you. Look deeper, and you’ll find it.
2. The before/after or side-by-side comparison.
We’ve all seen them. We’ve all thought about them. Heck, I’ve pitched them and sold them. And I should probably stop. These types of concepts are easy to arrive at (you’re directly comparing a world without the product, service or benefit to one with it. You place them side by side — done and done.), and even easier to dismiss. They usually take too long to get to the point, they make for cluttered, repetitive layouts, and they almost always fail to tell a compelling story. So what do we do about it? Well chances are, you can just lose the “before/without” half of the side-by-side. Toss it. Just show your audience the result.
3. Following trends.
And while we’re talking about trends you should ignore, how about this? Ignore all trends. Or, at least, don’t follow a trending simply because it’s a trend. Do it because it’s the authentically best way to solve the challenge in front of you. Or — crazy idea — set a trend instead. Be a leader. Try something new and novel. Take a big, aggressive swing and see if you can’t make history in your little corner of the world. After all, the point of all of this is to stand out, not blend in, right?
And that’s the larger point of all of this, of letting these trends and crutches melt away … stand out, don’t blend in. Simple to say, much, much harder to do. But you can do it. Just let them melt away and look for the green grass underneath.