Put down the holiday cliche, and no one gets hurt

by Carl Natale on November 1, 2010

Don't do it.

Put down the cliche, and no one gets hurt

I agree there should be some sort of law against starting the holiday shopping season this early. But it’s still not too early to work up your holiday marketing plans.
While you’re strategizing and crafting material, I want you to keep something in mind. There is one phrase I want you to remember:

Tis the Season

Remember it well because I want to strike it out of every piece of copy you see.

Take it off ads. Don’t insert it into press releases. And bloggers, using it in headlines is not as clever as you think it is.


  • It says nothing: The season can refer to any season: Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Passover, Kwaanza, Festivus, etc. It uses three words to describe nothing.
  • It is overused: Because the non-denominational, politically correct appeal is strong, it can be used anytime. So it is. Using it doesn’t set your copy apart from all the other uses of it.
  • It is the first resort of the unimaginative: Why bother to figure out what is unique about your business when you can just slap on three words and call it done? Do you really want to pay for that?

My apologies

I do this every year. Perhaps this qualifies as a cliche. But if my rant can prevent just one use of the phrase this year, I will be a happy man.

While we’re at it

There are a few other cliches that I want take a swipe at:

  • Red-nosed deer crossing mashup: Every year, a newspaper photographer will take a picture of deer crossing sign with a red ball added to the nose. Since I live in Maine, I’m sure someone will doctor a moose crossing sign or two. Oh I’m not opposed to the holiday-inspired vandalism. It’s taking the photo of the sign and showing it to everyone who has seen it a hundred times before. This includes newspaper photographers.
  • Sign of the times: So if a picture of the red-nose deer crossing does make it in the paper, there’s a good bet that someone will put a kicker over it that says “Tis the Season” or “Sign of the Times.” (Now you see why I’m writing this?) My example aside, the sign kicker usually is used to describe a sign with a very clever or poignant message. Nice way to pay homage to good work.
  • Road to nowhere: Anytime you have a story about detours or road problems, it’s nice to know you have a cliche ready to use. Perhaps it’s a signal for David Byrne fans to stay at home and listen to their Talking Heads tapes. Otherwise, it’s overused and misused way to much in the name of “I’m too tired to think about what’s in front of me.”

And with that I wish you good luck. I hope you create compelling and cliche-free copy this year. Consider it the gift that keeps on giving.


I’ll put that on the list for next year.

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