Every category has a cliché it operates with. Advertising, in most categories, looks one like the other. Why?

Shilpa, society gets the advertising it deserves. A society gets the clichés it deserves. Take Australian advertising. It seems inane and basic at times. Society gets what it deserves. Clichés are similar. Consumer society thrives on clichés. At times, when brands move away from the clichés consumers are used to, there is dissonance. Marketers and advertisers hate this.

Clichés actually emerge from the lives of people. Every brand has layered sets of consumers. The bulk of them live at the bottom of the pyramid of societal evolution. A small segment lies in-between and an even smaller segment lives at the top. This small segment is self-actualising. It is non-cliché oriented. The segment at the bottom is cliché-oriented. It literally lives the cliché. Clichés rule.

In categories such as FMCG, which have larger proportions of bottom of pyramid (BOP) customers, the cliché rules. In high-end categories, such as Longines, for instance, the cliché is an untouchable.

The cliché is a safe terrain to dabble in. You normally can’t go wrong with it. The cliché, in many ways, is a part of dominant communication that is overt and clear with no subtle overtones at all.

Advertisers and marketers in most categories are worried about shaking up the status quo. They are willing to shake it all up if there is a pure guarantee of good returns. When no such guarantee is possible, people stick to the safe path. The cliché is, therefore, the safe path.

In the case of several categories, the most intelligent thing to do is to stick to the cliché. The cliché is a process consumers need to be walked through. Once that has been achieved, one can ditch the cliché. Consumer society itself propitiates clichés. The advertising man in creative possibly hates clichés, but the cliché is shoved down his throat as it is all part of strategy, based on consumer insight.

The language of the advertising cliché is interesting. There is language that is visual, verbal and cliché-oriented. Many a time clichés establish the foundation of the category that is being advertised. Once the cliché has done its job, all else can take charge. Edgy-buzzy creatives are all often built on the foundation of the base cliché in many categories. The cliché is the beginning. The cliché is the comfort food of the category establishment process.

When you launch a brand of quick service restaurant (QSR), do you have to think a lot about the format?


Mohit, yes, for sure!

Formats are specific to offerings. Formats are typically chosen depending on the profile of customers expected, customers’ expectations, prices, and other factors. A Swarovski outlet will, therefore, not work as a kiosk, just as a Coffee Day Xpress counter will not work as an exclusive outlet.

Store-in-store formats are typically employed for brands that wish to tap into the regular traffic that stand-alone stores attract.

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy expert and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. Mail your questions to cat.a.lyst@thehindu.co.in)