Fish jumping out of fish bowl

That’s right folks, you heard it here first, today is National Cliché Day. To mark this auspicious occasion we’re sharing with you ten of the world’s most clichéd marketing images. You’ll find them in countless different guises in almost every stock library, united by their generic blandness. 

Clichés will often be the first stop when trying to visualise a business concept, although sadly due to their very nature they are the absolute opposite of what good marketing should be. What was once a novel concept in one context once upon a time becomes pretty meaningless through over use. For successful businesses to create meaningful differentiation from their competitors, thought-provoking imagery is key. 

Kicking things off …

Goldfish jumping between bowls.

Cliché 1 - A goldfish jumping from one bowl to another bowl.

Nothing says change quite like a goldfish moving house. We see this all the time, and each time someone, somewhere thinks it’s brilliant, but most people just see a fish that’s been re-homed so many times he doesn’t actually know where he’s from anymore.

Connected white faceless people in a circle.

Cliché 2 - Connected people holding hands.

This image appears in boardrooms across the world, it’s a beautifully heartfelt visualisation of connected people, that is if you happen to be nameless, faceless, and white. And this isn’t the only place these little guys crop up, there’s a whole series of nameless faceless white dudes assaulting boardrooms and websites with various outfits, graphs and poses. We think it’s time these little fellas were retired for good.

Jigsaw puzzle

Cliché 3 - The jigsaw with the missing piece.

Hands up if you’ve used this? Come on be honest ... please don’t do it again! Somewhere there are millions of missing pieces waiting to find their way back to children's puzzles, please just let them get back to their boxes and let’s put them away for good. 

Pound coins stacked up to look like a graph.

Cliché 4 - Stacked up coins … that also look like a graph!

Financial services is a hard subject to visualise – no one knows this quite as well as we do. Let's try to be a bit more creative, no more stacking up the petty cash, it just looks like you’ve got way too much time on your hands when you should probably be busy looking after the economy.

An isolated handshake between two businessmen.

Cliché 5 - The isolated handshake.

We love a handshake, it’s a brilliant personal gesture, appropriate when you’ve met someone and want to express your gratitude, agreement or respect. But too often we see a handshake as shorthand for doing business with absolutely no context and often no body attached. So why not have a little more focus on the people and the business actually being done, rather than just the handshake.

An open cardboard box with a lightbulb coming out of the top.

Cliché 6 - Thinking outside the box.

We couldn’t have a list of clichés without using outside the box thinking. It’s a great thing to be innovative, to come up with new ideas, but let’s just call it that, or there’s a danger we’ll end up with lots of images of lightbulbs coming out of cardboard boxes, and really no one wants to look at that. 

Hands holding a seedling

Cliché 7 - Seedling in the hands.

Representing nurturing business growth and showing some eco credentials at the same time. It’s a great concept the first time you see it, but we guarantee you’ll see it at least five times in any business conference.

A series of archery targets with arrows in the bulls eye.

Cliché 8 - Hitting your targets.

So you’re on the archery squad for Team GB and you’re asked to do a presentation on hitting targets, what could be more apt than an image of a load of shots in the bulls eye. But Nigel from account’s isn’t even sure which way up to hold a bow if he’s honest with himself, so perhaps his presentation would be best left using something closer to his specialty.

An attractive call centre woman.

Cliché 9 - Attractive call centre woman.

Whilst this is a lovely image to use, this woman and her attractive friends are put to work on hundreds of web hosting and IT service sites across the globe. We can’t help thinking you will more likely be put through to a guy called Bob; he’s in a small cubical in a modest office that smells of ink toner. He’s covered in crumbs because he has just eaten a sausage roll, and he does not look like this. We do get it … sausage roll Bob doesn’t sell services well, but please let’s just give this woman and her attractive friends a rest.

A takeaway cup of coffee.

Cliché 10 - Coffee.

We ourselves are guilty of the over use of fresh caffeine, both in our culture and our marketing, nothing says ‘we burn the midnight oil’ quite like some over-caffeinated images of wired people meeting and sharing great ideas with the black stuff in hand. But let’s face it, if this is one of the most prominent USPs on your website, you’ve got problems. Whilst being a great aid for work it says absolutely nothing about who you are or what you do, so yes keep the coffee flowing, but don’t let it define you.

Without an identifiable photographic style you will be unable to stand out from the crowd, which is what all businesses need to succeed. So next time you need an image and find yourself using the very first thing that comes to mind … think again.