“You should ensure that all your marketing efforts are effective.”

According to Wikipedia:

“A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards presenting a shallow, unifying wisdom over a difficult topic. However, they are too overused and general to be anything more than undirected statements with an ultimately little meaningful contribution towards a solution.”

Whether you’re in marketing and communications or not, you’ll see platitudes everywhere. And for some reason, platitudes are becoming the go-to format for many branded content strategies.

Let me give you a few examples of commonly used platitudes seen everywhere in B2B-type content:

Exhibit A: “It’s important to have a strategy.”

Honestly, how many professionals would think that their brand should go without a strategy?

Exhibit B: “Be patient and think long-term.”

Sure, but how? How exactly do I get rid of those pesky feelings of impatience and those internal pressures of producing results as fast as possible?

Exhibit C: “Always put the customer first.”

Once again, a perfectly valid approach to business in general: being customer-centric. But how exactly does one put the customer first? That’s the actionable type of advice we’re looking for.

Exhibit D: “You should produce epic content.”

Good content tends to perform better than not-so-good content. Right. Producing really, really, really good content must then be many times better? Please…

The Sad Part…

Platitude writing tends to do relatively well in social media. A text loaded with obvious statements and no real knowledge can still attract quite a lot of social engagement. How is this possible?

For one thing, people often hit that “Like” button (or emoji-button or whatever) without even reading the actual article it refers to. Instead, their engagement reflects how they agree with the headline and how it adds to their own personal world view1. It’s probably also a psychological bandwagon-effect2 at play, a way of signal belonging to important social circles.

In short: Those are not the kind of brand ambassadors your brand should be aiming for.

How to Fight Platitudes

If you’re a content producer — how can you avoid dispensing platitudes in your own persuasive writing?

As you copy-edit your content, also schedule a platitude check and kill them off without mercy. With a little bit of conscious editing, you’ll soon become ‘allergic’ to platitudes and removing them will become second nature.

Happy hunting!

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  1. See Wikipedia: Cognitive Dissonance.
  2. Wikipedia: The Bandwagon Effect.