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The Unprecedented is Now Precedented, So Stop Using the Word

Now more than ever, during these times of great uncertainty, when things are crazy, chaotic and – wait for it – unprecedented, we’re here for you and we’ll get through this together. Bleck.

I think I speak for the American public when I say that the phrases above need to be locked away in a time capsule and buried for a long, long time. However, many marketers refuse to let these words go and, instead, have hinged their messaging on them.

Facebook, Apple, Uber, FedEx, Target, Lexus – all of these brands and many more have hopped on the unprecedented bandwagon. Sentieo put together a chart of the appearance of unprecedented in company disclosures over the last 15 years:

Certainly, unprecedented use of the word in 2020.

Over the course of a few short months, consumers are tired of being reminded of the current situation. We understand that what is happening today has never been done or known before (the definition of unprecedented). As comedian Jim Gaffigan stated so well in a recent monologue about these unprecedented times on CBS This Morning, “I just want to go back to the time of precedence.”

And that’s what marketers should keep in mind. Go back to marketing norms. Some solid marcomm advice has always been if you can’t add to the conversation, don’t say anything. Don’t stop marketing, but don’t jump on the meaningless message train either. According to, unprecedented has more than 30 synonyms, so how about using extraordinary, novel or unparalleled? All good words!

As we turn the page on COVID-19, whenever that may be, we’ll be subject to all of the ads showing/telling us what the “new normal” is or should be. Picture it, your screen fills with a rising sun casting its glow over the flowering field (cue music) as the advertiser reminds you that they were there to help you through the tough times and they’re waiting to embrace you as the new day dawns.

Let’s hope “new normal” does not become precedent.

This post is courtesy of MMC Account Manager Jen Kardian

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