This Paperclip is a Solution

paperclip is a solution

IT’S LAME: “Solutions”

In our recent survey of business editors, 68% rated the word “solutions” as overused in press releases and other business marketing communications. This is not to conclude that the word is meaningless. Problem-solving is an expected part of the sales process, and in many cases, it’s a critical element of a product or service where there is application-related “value-add.” Too bad that “solutions” has been ruined by overuse, especially by producers of standardized, off-the-shelf products.

Web home pages and capabilities brochures are peppered with it; we’ve seen as many 6 or 8 uses in the first few paragraphs. When it comes right down to it, everything you really need to buy is a solution. A paper clip is a solution. So there isn’t much punch or insight that comes from calling it a solution.

Substitute words you could use? “Answers” or “remedies” … or simply leave the word out. Example: “ABC Company provides business software solutions that help…” can be edited to “ABC Company provides business software that helps…” without losing any meaning or clarity.

It’s even more dangerous to rely on “solutions” to anchor a tag line, or even a whole branding strategy. In his article No more solutions, please in the February 12th 2007 issue of B-to-B magazine, Mike Stefaniak comments: “By 2000, the term was quickly becoming devalued from overuse. Today, it’s dead—void of any capacity to differentiate a company’s brand.”

“Solving problems is now as expected as quality, speed, innovation, ‘highly-engineered’ or a host of other prerequisites for competing. Nonetheless, far too many business-to-business companies continue to stake their brands to entry-level attributes. And ‘solutions’ remains at the top of the list.”



In this era of business collaborations and partnerships, how do you describe two people or business entities that are in sync, working together as events and opportunities unfold. “Mapping” is a novel term. It connotes both “tracking” where you’ve been, and also looking forward…breaking new ground. In the right context, it can impart a sense of achievement. Speaking of which, we’d like to do some mapping in sync with your thoughts and wishes. Please feel free to contribute power words or sour words (lame or game), or information on resources for business-to-business communicators.


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6 Responses to “This Paperclip is a Solution”

  1. Janine Krasicky - J9 Media Solutions Says:

    Well, as you can see from my company name, I won’t be agreeing with the thought that the word “solutions” is lame. I admit that it can be somewhat overused in certain situations, but when branding my firm, I wanted something that showed the value of what the company offered. J9 Media didn’t say enough so we went with J9 Media Solutions. We offer many variations in the media game, but it is the “solutions” to our customers’ problems that adds value to the client. Of course, that is just my 2-cents worth! j9

  2. Dave Schmidt Says:


    Thanks for comment. No offense intended to my esteemed (or is that “steamed,” slightly) colleague. “J9” by itself would be just fine, I’m thinking. Or how about “J9 Media Barage” – that’s what us PR folks like to do. J9 Media Heist? Be specific, comrade.

  3. Janine Krasicky - J9 Media Solutions Says:

    You’re welcome. I’m happy to reply. And I’m really not steamed just adding fuel to the fire. You’re correct, J9 by itself has become sufficient over time, but as we launched the brand it was important to share the value we provide. Perhaps a rebranding will come later since many clients now call us j9?

    I will note J9 Media Barage or Heist would not be a good indicator of what we do. We practice targeted and specific media relations. Thanks for the banter, j9

  4. Adrian Says:

    Adding a blowtorch:
    The last time I ground out the word “solutions” in a marketing context was sometime in 1996 – and then only under threat of having a white hot needle jammed under my fingernail. The word has become a cipher, and the only puissance it may still possess is on the chalkboard in a particle physics class. Our duty as professional communicators is to differentiate our clients with pith, grace and enduring imagery. “Solutions” has been stripped of those qualities by ignorance, misuse and monumental overuse. Dave is right: find another word. This one’s done broke.

  5. Mike A. Says:

    Hi Dave; as “mapping” is still considered “game,” maybe Janine should go with ‘J9 Media Cartographers.’

    Okay, maybe not…

  6. Paul Hoernschemeyer Says:

    One if the best tests I’ve found for inclusion or exclusion of a modifier is: “as compared to what?” Applying that test to “solutions” — as in J9 Media Solutions — might lead to:
    “J9 Media Problems”?
    “J9 Media Status Quo”?
    “J9 Media Complications”?

    Try an unexpected word combination (e.g. J9 Media Bundles?) to describe your value proposition. It might cause someone to pause and think that if you can position yourself so creatively, maybe you can do the same for them.

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