Marketing Bladiblaa—How Most Companies Waste Their Marketing and How You Can Save Your Business

Your marketing should have a strong impact on your ideal customers—they shouldn't be able to just it pass by.

Your marketing should have a strong impact on your ideal customers—they shouldn’t be able to pass it by.

I’m not convinced marketers have ever known better, but at least now “marketing bladiblaa” plagues most (though not all) businesses.

The average marketing message is: “You should buy what we sell because… well… we’re the best choice. Just take our word on it.”

Whether the marketing message promotes a computer, blender, vacation trip, or car more often than not you won’t feel compelled to act. Neither is any one marketing tactic less prone to turning to bladiblaa; websites, PPC advertising, email marketing, and networking are all equally likely to lack the impact they could have.

Even many actually good reasons to buy your products and services can turn to marketing bladiblaa and lose all persuasive power they could have if you don’t recognize the issues. And then even a great marketing strategy will fail.

The only cure to this ignorance-blessed epidemic is making your marketing efforts focus on a strong value proposition, so they’ll never again wither away uneventfully while your ideal customers pass by.

Here are five signs of marketing bladiblaa and what you should do instead. And an almost hilarious huge-budget example of what marketing bladiblaa looks like.

Do You Recognize Marketing Bladiblaa?

Any marketing effort that doesn’t have the impact of a bulldozer on the intended target audience is marketing bladiblaa.

In other words, every marketing effort you put together should move people significantly closer to buying what you sell. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing any marketing?

Your marketing messages are essentially claims. You claim to have a great, fast, stylish, advanced, durable, effective, or secure product or service. Or you make a claim about something else.

Those claims can make people decide to buy your products and services. Or if your claims are marketing bladiblaa, people won’t even notice you.

There are several possible reasons your claims don’t have the impact you wish for. Here are five of them:

1. Claims that everyone make in their marketing

If your competitors already say it in their marketing, come up with something else to say.

Repeating the same claims don’t make your products and services seem like a better choice. Instead, the repetition makes you blend into a mass of indistinguishable options.

Conversely, you will stand out as a different (and better) option when you focus your marketing on the aspects of your products that make them the best choice for your target customers—those aspects are also building blocks for a strong value proposition (example).

Thinking, “my competitors already use those aspects in their marketing” is flawed because something that makes you the best choice has to be unique to you. At least the combination of aspects you emphasize has to be unique.

Another objection I often hear is about how “Every prospect just wants [blank], so I have to focus on that in my marketing.”

For example, most hair stylists will say something like, “You’ll look good” in their marketing. And sure, that’s essentially why people hire hair stylists.

But it’s a given.

Similarly, you wouldn’t hire a marketing coach unless you expected to make more sales because of it. Still few (top) marketing coaches spend much of their marketing efforts on reminding you of that implied promise. Instead, they say something that makes them stand apart from competition.

Your marketing should make you the obvious choice for your ideal customers. Repeating what others already say puts you firmly on the same line with everyone else.

2. Claims that aren’t believable

If your ideal customers won’t believe it, don’t say it.

The weight-loss industry is filled with unbelievable claims. “Lose 10 pounds per week” and other claims that are too good to be true won’t make people take action.

Sure, if your target customers believe bloated claims, your marketing can work. (Your business will still suffer, but that’s another discussion.)

You don’t have to exaggerate to make people think you’re embellishing the truth. Just because you know something to be true doesn’t mean other people believe you.

Maybe you know that your product is superior in every way. Or maybe your fiction book is really, really good, but people don’t believe you when you tell them how great your character development is or how unexpected the plot twists are.

So, if people won’t believe it, don’t say it.

Those unbelievable claims are a close sibling to another kind of marketing bladiblaa: claims without proof.

3. Claims that have nothing to back them up

If you can’t prove it, leave it out of your marketing.

Unethical and exaggerating marketers have turned your prospects into a hostile jury you need to convince.

For example, you can be certain that your service would help schools raise their students’ average grades by 20%. But if you can’t show credible evidence to back up your claim, people won’t believe you. Or at least the doubt that’s still hanging on is enough to drive your sales attempts to the rocks.

Whatever you say in your marketing should be “intuitively true.” In other words, don’t leave prospects wondering if what you said is true or not; what you say has to just “make sense.”

Every time you force people to take a leap of faith with you they get less prone to letting you influence them.

Doubt and confusion kill sales. And if your marketing makes people feel confused or doubt what you say, it’s marketing bladiblaa.

4. Claims that don’t create a cohesive brand image

If it doesn’t fit with your brand image, think of something else to say.

I avoid talking about “brand image” because the concept is so widely misunderstood. Or rather, the concept makes people’s minds run in circles because of how vaguely they understand how you create and maintain a brand image.

But since marketing that goes against your brand image is such an interesting example of marketing bladiblaa, I couldn’t avoid it here. It’s what made Nokia’s marketing strategy weak.

So, three things you need to know about “brand image” for the purposes of this discussion:

  1. Brand image—to large extent—means: how people perceive you.
  2. You create it (or to be exact, you direct it).
  3. You wreck it much more easily than create it.

First, you need to get clear on how you want people to perceive you. Your value proposition basically tells you what your brand image should be, so start with that.

Second, you need to figure out how your marketing efforts will create the right brand image. In other words, understand what kind of marketing will make your ideal customers perceive you the way you want. (Again, refer to your value proposition—it is what you should get across with your marketing strategy.)

Third, do nothing that would direct your brand image away from where you want it to go. One marketing message that isn’t in line with your brand image does more harm to you than 10 perfectly aligned ones.

All that can be condensed to: “Create a strong value proposition and focus all your marketing efforts to getting it across to your ideal customers. When you do that, you’ll end up with a strong, clear brand image without you ever saying the word ‘brand’ or considering how you’ll build one for your business.”

5. Claims that don’t mesh with what the prospect is thinking

If it isn’t in your ideal customers’ minds already, figure out what is and say that instead.

In otherwise well-crafted marketing, this is the mistake that often turns even a huge budget and effort into stress, downsizing, and giving up.

Your target customers have certain thoughts, believes, and opinions about the things you mention in your marketing.

How you talk about those things has to fit in with what your ideal customers already think about them. If your marketing doesn’t mesh with their “internal discussion,” they won’t give you a say in the matter.

For example, if you sell interior design services and your ideal customers value style more than any other aspect of interior design, don’t focus your marketing on price, usability, or personality.

And if they primarily see style as “an expression of who you are,” your marketing should focus on that. Don’t say things like, “make your home look trendy,” “a cheap home makeover,” or “create a perfect flow of energy.” That said, you should say those things if your target customers identify themselves as “trendy,” “money smart,” or “energy conscious.”

You can get to all the great benefits you and your products provide—and even be controversial—once you’ve earned your place in the “internal discussion” about the topic. But always start with what people think about already.

Marketing Messages That Pack a Punch

Simply put, a truly great marketing effort takes the target customers significantly toward the next step in your marketing strategy.

The “next step” can be signing up for your email updates. Contacting you for a quote. Buying your product. Or whatever is the next step in your marketing strategy.

But what makes a marketing message accomplish that?

Your value proposition is the best reason for your target customers to take the next step toward your goals. So, when your marketing gets it across, people are as likely as possible to do what you hope.

If you don’t already have a strong, clear value proposition, it’s very difficult to do any marketing that would create good results. You’ll get lucky occasionally. But unless your goal is to “occasionally get some results,” you’re more or less stuck without a strong value proposition.

Just to give an example of what you should never try, here’s a Subaru ad that’s a great example of marketing bladiblaa:

Almost every word in this advertisement is marketing bladiblaa. I came across this ad thanks to Ryan Healey.

Almost every word in this advertisement is marketing bladiblaa. I came across this ad thanks to Ryan Healey.

If you have examples of marketing bladiblaa, share them in the comments; I’ll add good ones to the post (with a credit for whoever contributed the example).

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Peter Sandeen

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  1. […] Marketing bladiblaa makes your marketing strategy fail to create any results. Even large companies waste their marketing because of it. See an example now.  […]

  2. lola said:

    All sharp points. Particularly liked number 1. How about an article that looks at examples of good marketing vs bad marketing with examples? With your take on what makes them good or bad? Just a thought – I look forward to your emails.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Lola,

      Thanks, I’ve been considering writing something like that. But somehow haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll keep marinating on the idea—hopefully it turns into something soon 🙂

      Cheers,
      Peter

      • Seconded – a survey of good marketing would be even more helpful, Peter.

        • Peter Sandeen said:

          Hi Bobbie,

          Yep, I’m well aware of that 🙂 I’ll come up with something when I get some bigger projects out of the way first.

          Thanks,
          Peter

  3. I had to comment because that Subaru ad actually made me laugh out loud 🙂

    Great post, you’re so right about most marketing being banal and uninspiring. That’s one reason I like to connect with potential clients in person — I’m a persuasive writer (I hope!) but when you meet me, I can’t hide my personality or my passion behind any kind of ‘professional veneer’. The people we work with seem to appreciate that ‘keeping it real’ quality.

    Authenticity connects and that’s what should be at the heart of any engagement, whether it’s traditional or social marketing or face-to-face communication. And locking down that value proposition is key!

    Thanks for the post, strangely I can’t think of any marketing bladiblaa off the top of my head but I will be back to share if I find a stand-out example 🙂

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Uju,

      That’s true; you’re personality (when it really comes across) is far from marketing bladiblaa—it makes people connect with you (though not all people will do that).

      And thanks, if you have examples, let me know 🙂

      Cheers,
      Peter

  4. Hey Peter this is a great post on your marketing message. I agree companies need to find a way to stand out from their competitors, be true to their brand message and be real. People can smell a phony a mile away and will never push the buy button.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Carol,

      Yep, a lot of attention goes into “what the people want” (which is a great improvement), but far too few companies really grasp “what makes us the obvious choice for our customers.”

      Cheers,
      Peter

  5. Hi Peter,
    Such a valuable article! I’ve literally changed my home page’s wording close to 100 times because it felt exactly like your word ‘bladiblaa!’ Now, in reading this, it gave me 3 awesome ideas on how to word some of the bullet points. Thanks so much!

    I truly trust and respect any of the information you provide because it always works!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Lynn,

      I’m really glad to hear that. Though not the part about having to change things 100 times 😉 Hope you find a wording you’ll be happy with for a while now.

      Cheers,
      Peter

  6. Steve C said:

    Example of bad: Store sent out flyer with “We give you piece of mind”. For non-USA readers, “peace of mind” is a good thing, “I’ll give you a piece of my mind” is sure to be negative.

    Of your 5 points, the troublesome one for me is #2, especially given the other 4 are satisfied. Two 2 issues are: a) how do I “dumb down” or “water down” the truth, and b) shouldn’t I use the full truth to diminish a large target audience way down to those few “ideal” clients who can believe it.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Steve,

      That’s a bit risky, yeah. People easily misread things…

      About hard-to-believe claims, the point was that if you can’t make people believe what you say, then you shouldn’t say it. If disclosing the full truth makes people believe it, great. But in many cases, it’s very, very difficult to make people believe some of the most remarkable results that some individuals have gotten (e.g., lost 50 pounds in 3 months). So, never water down the truth—just focus on the truths people believe to be true 😉

      Cheers,
      Peter

  7. Wonderful article.

    Why this article is named “Marketing Bladiblaa” rather than “Marketing blah, blah, blah”, any specific reasons ?

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Thanks 🙂

      I just thought “marketing bladiblaa” sounds more fun than “marketing blah, blah, blah.” And actually, “marketing bladiblaa” is technically a noun, which makes more sense than a phrase (“marketing blah, blah, blah”) 😉

      Cheers,
      Peter

  8. Damien said:

    Good stuff, Peter. The irony of the Subaru ad is that it probably cost many thousands of dollars to put together. It reads a lot like it was created by a committee! Perhaps the original idea was stronger but by the time everyone had their say the end result was pure sanitised bladiblaa!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Damien,

      Yeah, I’d be interested to see what the process was when this was the end result 😀

      Cheers,
      Peter

  9. Katharine said:

    Hey, Peter,

    What’s saddest about that Subaru ad is that their marvelous new invention of an engine really is a miracle and far ahead of any competitor’s. We own one. It is astonishing in such a low-priced car. More power with less gas use, zipping along and saving money. For real.

    But the ad focuses on blabber. Too bad. Maybe they’d like to hire me to write their next ad? Ha!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Katharine,

      Nice to hear that the product, at least, is worth the hype-y words 🙂

      Thanks,
      Peter

  10. nino said:

    Thanks for this article Peter, and congratulations for all your great posts.
    Unfortunately I was frustrated that the Subaru ad example only featured a large blank rectangle, seemingly actionable as a link, but not opening anything….
    Turned off my PC antivirus and firewall protections for a minute, just in case, but with no result.
    Would you mind to send me a copy of it, using my here above e-mail address ?
    Many thanks in advance,
    Kind regards
    Nino

  11. Jonathan said:

    Some great tips here for people who are having trouble with their current marketing strategy and for those looking to get into “good” marketing for the first time

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Jonathan,

      Thanks, glad to hear that 🙂

      Cheers,
      Peter

  12. […] Marketing Bladiblaa — How Most Companies Waste Their Marketing and How You Can Save Your Business (Peter Sandeen) – Peter hits the nail on the head by giving you five copy writing errors to avoid so that your marketing packs a punch – and lands the sale. […]

  13. Troy said:

    This post and site has really resonated with me! Really puts marketing as a whole in a different perspective, I have subscribed and bookmarked your site! Plan to see plenty of me around here lol

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Troy,

      Thanks, great to hear that 🙂

      Cheers,
      Peter

  14. […] that don’t really make a difference to their readers. In other words, their emails are marketing bladiblaa (marketing messages that lack any persuasive […]

  15. Hi Peter – I came back to this post again recently after reading it a while ago and it continues to resonate, particularly No.1.

    Despite knowing you need to differentiate yourself from your competition, there seems to be a reluctance by many businesses to go ahead and make claims which make them stand out from the crowd.

    It’s as if they’re worried they’re going to be put in the firing line by lifting their head above the trenches… even though they know it’s an essential element to their positioning.

    I’ve found this with some of my clients so I’m interested to find how often (if, at all) this reticence emerges when you are working with businesses.

    It appears to be an emotional basis for not wanting to stand out which leads to decision-making by committee and ads like the Subaru one.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Jody,

      Yep, it’s quite common that people are afraid of standing out.

      I haven’t really had problems with clients, though, because they come to me for that specific reason more often than not. But the fear comes up often when people just talk about the topic. Then again, when you can explain how important standing out is, very few business owners stick to being afraid—or at least they seem to decide to deal with the fear and move forward despite of the fear 🙂

      How have you dealt with it with your clients?

      Cheers,
      Peter

      • Thanks for the reply, Peter.

        Talking them through it usually rectifies it. If they aren’t receptive, then we usually find that out before we start working together so they don’t end up as clients. But most do, when I think about it.

        Also, when consulting, I insist on speaking to a selection of their current customers.

        Not only does this help me evaluate whether their value proposition is aligned with what their customers see as their point of differentiation, it also gives proof which reassures them about the claims they’re making.

        It doesn’t happen a lot. Sometimes, there is just a barrier we need to overcome.

        It’s all about mindset. Some of my clients have never thought through what it means to market your business, and so it’s gradual at the beginning.

        Once they hear their customers saying the positive things they want to say about themselves, it is usually the catalyst to moving forward.

        Jody

        • Peter Sandeen said:

          Hey Jody,

          To me it seems that people who don’t understand a specific way of working just won’t contact people/companies that work in that way 🙂 It’s a relief, really, because I don’t think it’s all that useful to try to convince someone of the merits of a “method” if they don’t like it.

          And yeah, when your customers say about you what you’d like to say about yourself… It’s great 🙂

          Cheers,
          Peter

  16. Such a valuable article! I’ve virtually modified my home page’s phrasing near one hundred times as a result of it felt specifically like your word ‘bladiblaa!’ currently, in reading this, it gave me three impressive ideas on a way to word a number of the bullet points. Thanks therefore much!

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  1. […] Marketing bladiblaa makes your marketing strategy fail to create any results. Even large companies waste their marketing because of it. See an example now.  […]

  2. […] Marketing Bladiblaa — How Most Companies Waste Their Marketing and How You Can Save Your Business (Peter Sandeen) – Peter hits the nail on the head by giving you five copy writing errors to avoid so that your marketing packs a punch – and lands the sale. […]

  3. […] that don’t really make a difference to their readers. In other words, their emails are marketing bladiblaa (marketing messages that lack any persuasive […]

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