5 cringe-worthy corporate writing fails

5 cringe-worthy corporate writing fails
(photo by Jason Eppink)


Here’s a short list of corporate writing and marketing fails that makes me squirm. Do you agree? What else would you add?

  1. “Solutions” – Drainage solutions. Paper solutions. Vending solutions. Ugh. Personally, this is an automatic red flag. I think it’s designed to sound important and professional but to me it sounds vague and empty. As in the picture above, it implies a problem that doesn’t exist. Tell me exactly what it is you actually do in a simple way. Be approachable and honest.
  2. Naming product features – This one makes me think of car adverts. Have you noticed that every time you see a Ford ad, there’s always some new, trademarked feature? SYNC 2. EcoBoost Engine Technology. Easyfuel. These features never get explained in the ad which leads me to believe they’re not that revolutionary. Wouldn’t it be better to just use clear, understandable language?
  3. Fake science – beloved by the cosmetics industry, my current favourite is the Neutrogena advert for a “hyaluronic enriched gel matrix.” What? Neutrogena have even baffled themselves because they spell it wrongly on their own product website. Twice!
    Another company has small print stating “97% of 57 women agree after one week use.” There’s so much wrong with that it’s hard to know where to start…
  4. Opaque straplines – an organisation near me states on the outside of its building that it’s “outstanding by standing out.” I can see what they might be trying to say, but in the end this just feels like tautology. Generally, don’t try to be too cute or too clever. It’s very hard (lucky?) to get it right and is often divisive.
  5. “Changes” – as in “From next month, we’re changing the price of some of our tickets.” Honestly, do you give your audience so little credit that you think we don’t know that when you say “change”, you always mean “making something worse”? Just tell us you’re putting the price up, tell us why and tell us you’re sorry.

The bottom line is that I think simplicity and openness always reflects a business in a better light and makes me feel more emotionally connected to them. Which is a good thing for us both, right?

RESEARCH QUESTION: Do you agree with these examples? Do you have any of your own?

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