If it’s improved, it aint new

I dislike the term New & Improved and I’m calling for it to be exiled from the common marketing vocabulary.

There are two main reasons:

1. The logical tangle. It seems to me that a thing cannot be both new AND improved. It has to be one or the other. If something is new then it simply cannot also be improved as nothing existed previously that could be improved upon. Equally, saying something is improved implies that something inferior previously existed and as a result it cannot be new.

2. It doesnt tell me anything. The phrase tells me only that the thing is New & (or) Improved. . And in fact, this really doesn’t tell me anything that might substantially influence my interest in doing whatever I’m supposed to with this product. If it’s new, what need is it filling? Why does it exist? If it’s improved, what was wrong with the previous model? How is it improved?  Take me on a journey. Help me recognize how this thing will impact my life.

I’ll conceed  a case could be made for exceptions that are both new and improved. Is the video ipod a new ipod or just an improved version of the old-fashioned audio-only ipod as it is still the same essential product (a portable digital media device produced by Apple)? What about a product with a set of features some of which are new and some of which are older ones that have been improved? Valid questions perhaps.

I can see why the phrase has hung around. "Newness" is a sought-after attribute. You have contributed something to the ecosystem and offered options or solutions where none existed. "Improvement" is a worthy and noble pursuit in both personal and commercial settings. It suggests innovation and a customer-centric focus (we are improving it so you can get more out of it, dear customer…). These are important and even necessary attributes and, if valid, worth highlighting.

But they cannot excuse lazy copywriting. Using New & Improved is a thin cover for a lack of imagination, insight and information. It doesn’t stimulate interest nor does it compel me to action. It is marcom white noise and is still used far too frequently.

Today I make the commitment never to use the phrase "new & improved" again (except cynically or in jest). I urge you do the same.

Updated: In the interests of being helpful and not just blustery, I like the "Re-" words for achieving the same thing as "new & improved". Reinvented, revitalized, reinvigorated and the like offer the same short and punchy tone that’s suitable for headlines, taglines and packaging. They also suggest the novelty and innovation that new & improved wants to convey.

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3 responses to “If it’s improved, it aint new

  1. The Himel Family

    Johnathan, you should blog more. 🙂

  2. Hey J!

    I wholeheartily agree that it’s a useless and meaningless descriptor; perhaps you could take time and expound on insidiousness of the term “pre-owned”.

    -Joe Breunig
    Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory

  3. I finished my new app and wanted to upload to iTunes, but it failed in the validation process. Therefore I had to improve it. So when it was released, it was new AND improved ! 🙂

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