Dec 13

Holiday break time.

In every ad agency for which I’ve worked, I advocated long and hard for the agency to do the civilized, humane thing and close from Christmas eve through January 2. My efforts went nowhere. Even though everyone in the industry knows that, since virtually all clients, and all resources, vendors and many employees of these agencies will be gone during this period of time, the powers that be, of which I was sometimes supposed to be one, steadfastly refused to close. Sometimes there was no rationale offered, because, I suspect, they couldn’t come up with one that made sense. In a couple of instances, the rationale offered was that opportunities can arise at any time and it’s our duty to be open to every possibility. Of course, by this logic, the agency should have been open 24/7/365. Of course, some of these powers that be would have been delighted to be open ALL THE TIME. Of course, these powers wouldn’t be around all the time, but some unfortunate grunts would get stuck with graveyard shifts and the like. No skin off Mr. Big’s nose, because, for him, no skin in the game in terms of making the sacrifice and being there, at the ready, all day, every day.

And, looking at it in terms of probabilities, the chance of a new opportunity popping up on, say, December 27, is extremely slim. Most clients, the ones who create opportunities, are away from their desks, enjoying the holidays.Besides, even if that did happen, the chances are overewhelming that this opportunity would still be there on January 2, since even agencies that remain open at this time are skeleton-staffed, so there’s not really anyone one there to marshall the absent troops to respond to the opportunity. Whatever it is, it will wait until January 2.

All of this is by way of saying, I’m shutting down the blog from now through sometime early next year. Thanks for reading, whoever you are. And have an enjoyable, or at a minimum, bearable, season of cheer and gift cards.

Dec 13

More thoughts on how wrong love is.

Three or four posts back, I addressed Pure Insurance’s tagline, Love Your Insurance, reflecting on whether love was an emotion one could actually feel for an insurance company or policy.

I concluded that the juxtaposition of love with insurance was so jarring, it was probably a good, provocative tagline.

Since seeing that tagline, I’m seeing the invocation of love in taglines as a trend, an adfad, and a very worrisome one.

Let’s consider two recent examples. First, there’s . . .

Keurig. Brew The Love.

Now, though I’m not a coffee drinker, I do understand that coffee is a very emotional thing. People do speak of loving this or that coffee. I can relate, because love is an appropriate word to use in describing my relationship with Diet Coke.

So, what’s the problem? There’s something about conflating a product with such a passionate emotion about that product that feels . . . forced, contrived, overstated? It’s similar to Coke’s  Open Happiness tagline. This line trivializes or diminishes happiness, and Keurig’s line does the same with love.

On to the second, more objectionable example. It may not be a tagline, technically, but it is the concluding thought of a TV spot, and it feels tagline-ish. It’s for Subaru. I’ll give you a little context by including the line preceding the tagline-ish line, which connects the tagline to the benefit, sort of.

Love a car that lasts. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

Really? Love is the differentiator? Other cars can’t evoke this emotion, only Subarus? Is that what they’re saying? Or are they saying Subaru owners all love their subarus? If they didn’t, their cars wouldn’t be Subarus, but only unloved facsimiles?

Or are they claiming that the car is manufactured with love? Is the love installed by the Subaru company, right there next to the fuse box? “The Love Goes In Before The Name Goes On” to paraphrase the old Zenith tagline?

Whatever they’re going for here, it sounds false and cynical to me. If the line was more about “There’s a lot to love about a Subaru” or “There’s More to Love with Subaru” or something along those lines, I have no problem. Cars are a big deal for a lot of people, and many of them really do seem to love their cars, to the extent that you can characterize a strong positive attachment to an inanimate object that is incapable of loving back, as love.

And if this were the anchoring thought, then “Love a car that lasts” could become one in a list of attributes, each of which people love, i.e. “Love a car that accelerates well”, “Love a car that gets good MPG”, “Love a car with lots of headroom”, etc.

I’m not suggesting a new tagline rule: “Never use the word ‘Love’ in a tagline.” As the Pure Insurance tagline demonstrates, sometimes it may be a powerful and effective word. I guess I’m just cautioning all you tagline writers out there, tread very, very cautiously with love. Of course, if the tagline writer is any good, there should be no reason to remind him/her that the words that comprise a tagline should be very carefully considered. That’s kind of the entire drill.

Nov 13

Lazy? Cheating? Historically ignorant?

I know there are no new ideas. I also know that, if we haven’t seen a particular advertising idea for a decade or two, it’s apparently fair game for some other brand to use it. Though, personally, I’m not okay with that.

But when a company grabs an idea before the corpse is cold, I call that shameless, intellectually dishonest, intellectual property theft.

Perhaps I’m being too unforgiving. You tell me.

As you should be aware, New York Life has anchored its ad campaigns with the same tagline for decades. That tagline is:

The Company You Keep.

As far as I have been able to determine, the new New York Life campaign, featuring a new tagline,  Keep Good Going, debuted this year.

Today, I came across an ad by the Principal Financial Group, the headline of which is:

With a 96% retention rate, judge us by the companies we keep.

I’m sure that Principal isn’t the first or only company to “borrow” this particular play on words. But, given that New York Life and Principal travel in many of the same circles as financial/insurance companies, it strikes me as brazen that they would use this thought so close on the heels of the now retired The Company You Keep tagline.

Having seen this ad, I know think of Principal as being unprincipled and I’m even less inclined to consider using their services than prior to seeing this ad. Is this too harsh a judgement? What possible rationale could Principal offer to justify this ripoff?

These and other questions . . .

Nov 13

Burning a bridge I wasn’t even aware of.

The agency is called Hawkeye. Until today, I had no awareness of them. I assume that if you live and breathe ”B2B”, you are aware of them. I noticed them because they ran a half page ad in the final printed issue of a Crain’s publication called “B to B”.

I had a visceral reaction upon looking at this ad. I guess that’s good on some level. You don’t want your advertising to be invisible. However, my reaction was one of advertising horror. The headline of the all type ad is, “We make it our business to elevate yours.” This is a slight variation on a headline we’ve seen about a zillion times, over decades, usually from some B to B agency. Right away, two strikes against Hawkeye. The second strike is because, not only is this headline beyond worn out, it also states something that is so generic, and so obvious, that it truly should go without saying. It expresses a thought that almost every B to B business, speak nothing of every B to B agency, would subscribe to. Because, well, what would the alternative be—” We have no interest in whether what we do helps our clients succeed.”?

But wait, There’s more. The “tagline”. Here it is:

Integrated. Digital. Agency.

First, it’s not a tagline, it’s a descriptor. Second, Hawkeye has clearly succumbed to the rapidly spreading fad of putting a period after every word in a “tagline” for no good reason. I’m not talking about taglines that consist of three adjectives, each followed by a period. That’s a whole different worn out approach to the tagline. I’m talking about taglines that consist of some three-word phrase, which, normally, you would see sans periods. Only, for some reason, the phrase is chopped up into three distinct words, each followed by a period.

I imagine their rationale is that, by putting a period after each word, they are emphasizing each word, because they really really mean each word. As if to say, “No, this is not lip service. We are serious when we say we are really, truly, integrated. What’s more, we don’t just SAY we’re digital, we eat, sleep and breathe digita. AND, we are, in point of fact, an  authentic, 100%, there’s no denying it, agency.”

Make no mistake. Hawkeye is not just an integrated digital agency. They are an integrated. digital. agency.

So, they’ve put a very uninteresting descriptor, expressed faddishly, in the place where you’d expect to find a tagline. Again, unexpected is usually a good thing. But unexpectedly lame is not so good.

I went to their website and found the same general problem throughout the site. All of the language was indistinguishable from the language on every other unremarkable B to B agency website. They hit every point, say everything they’re supposed to say, but it’s all said in the same way, using the same jargon, the same buzz words and currently fashionable phrases, expressions and other language, as everyone else. I realize the word “generic” is overused, but it is SO applicable here. Reading the stuff on their site made me cringe AND wince.

On top of which, they commit the cardinal sin of featuring what appears to be a whole different tagline on the home page as they do in that print ad.

The website tagline is:


I don’t really know what that means, but, at least, it’s a tagline, not a descriptor.

And I suppose it makes me a little curious what they intend by that tagline.

I didn’t take the time to look at the section of the website housing samples of their work. I assume  they have some good samples and success stories. Pretty much every agency that is still in business has some of those.

I don’t doubt that Hawkeye employs many very talented people. It’s a mystery to me, however, why they didn’t assign some of their talented people to create the print ad and the website.

Now all that’s left for me to do is cross “Hawkeye” off my list of agencies to introduce myself to in the hope of getting a freelance assignment. Safe to assume, they won’t be interested.

Nov 13

The Pure Insurance tagline has me flummoxed.

Pure Insurance’s target audience is people of “high net worth.” Their tagline is:

Love Your Insurance.

Upon seeing this line the first time, my immediate reaction was, “Oh, give me a break. What an incredible (in the sense of ‘not credible’) tagline. NOBODY loves their insurance. Insurance is like banks, only worse. One’s feelings toward one’s insurance company range from indifference, in the best case, to loathing, with the latter being more typical.”

It’s been about a week since I saw the commercial that ended with this tagline.  It’s still with me, gnawing at me. After that initial reaction, I started thinking, “Hmm, am I wrong? Is it possible to love your insurance? Could there be an insurance company that provides such great service, or something, that its customers don’t just not hate it, don’t just have vaguely positive feelings toward it, but actually love it?”

The intent of the tagline is to shake up our assumptions and perceptions about insurance companies, to provoke the kind of questions that I started having. I am beginning to think that this tagline is wildly successful. After all, I’m always preaching that a tagline needs to evoke a reaction. Well, this one sure does. At least for me.

I even started thinking, “Should I look into this company? Would it be worth the hassle of changing insurance companies to find out if Pure Insurance is worthy of love?” Fortunately, that inertia that so many companies count on to retain customers overwhelmed any inclination I may have had to switch. But that is the first time, as far as I can recall, that one advertisement, especially for a considered purchase like insurance, has affected my thinking so dramatically.

And here’s how an advertisement can be successful in ways that it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure: If, let’s say, two years from now, I have a bad experience with my current insurance company. I decide that I’ve had it with them. There’s a very good chance that I would switch to Pure Insurance to give them a try. By that time, I may not even recall why I’m inclined toward them. But that one ad could wind up being the deciding factor.

Of course, since I’m not really a “high net worth” person, it could be that Pure Insurance won’t even want me. In which case, I would never have the chance to love my insurance. Wow. If it’s possible to love your insurance, it must also be possible for your insurance to break your heart.

Oct 13

Shouldn’t we stop sanctioning deceit in the advertising we create?

Certainly, it is not the job of advertising to establish or dictate the moral code to which we should all subscribe. On the other hand, don’t we have some obligation not to tacitly approve of immoral or unethical behavior. It is not uncommon to see a commercial, typically for some pedestrian consumer product, in which one of the characters in the spot deceives or just plain lies to another character. Usually, such scenarios are presented in a kind of tongue-in-cheek, wink wink manner, which, presumably, is supposed to make it okay.

But I think that, oh so subtly, the message we are getting, collectively, from all these commercials is that small deceptions and white lies are not just perfectly okay, they’re kind of cute and funny. Whether these scenarios are presented in an entertaining, humorous context or not, it sure feels to me like the advertiser is sanctioning the behavior.

Let me cite a few examples I’ve noted over the last year or so. Please forgive the lack of links to these spots. Digging up these links would be way too much work and not worth the effort, no offense.

I think it was last year that Walmart ran a Halloween spot in which kids are trick or treating, and lie about whether they’ve already been to a particular house or not. We’re supposed to think it’s cute and charming that these kids are cheating at trick or treating.

In an AT&T spot, a son lies to his mom about studying when he’s actually screwing around on the computer. We come to realize that mom is actually onto her son’s deception, and thinks it’s funny and cute.

In a Tide spot, mom borrows her daughter’s top, gets a stain on it, pretends she doesn’t know where the top went when her daughter asks if she’s seen it, then mom sneaks off, washes the top, and returns it to daughter’s drawer, with the daughter none the wiser.

There’s a spot for EA Sports Madden game where dad and son create a ruse to deceive mom, who’s in another room, into thinking that they’re going to walk the dog. Mom is fooled, and they proceed to fire up the game.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking, sheesh, Tagline Jim, lighten up and get a sense of humor. This all sounds pretty innocuous, just some harmless fun.

If these were rare and isolated examples, I might be inclined to agree. The problem is that this pattern of portraying deceit as cute and okay has a long standing history. It is a firmly entrenched tradition in advertising, going back to the “classic” “Ancient Chinese Secret” Calgon commercial from the 1970’s, and I’m sure, far earlier than that.

And, keep in mind, these are not over the top, farcical, cartoonish, no-resemblence-to-reality commercials, where  there is license to behave in all sorts of reprehensible ways, precisely because what makes such behavior funny is how preposterous it is. Instead, the commercials I’m talking about are “slice of life” spots, where the action is taking place in some facsimile of a real world context, with more or less real characters doing more or less real things, albeit in a lighthearted way. This is not Ren and Stimpy land, but something more like Modern Family or The Middle-land. In sitcom land, bad behavior generally comes back to bite the guilty party, so we are presented with “the moral of the story”. In the commercials I’m talking about, this never happens. The deceiver gets away with it, often with the knowing snicker of an enabling parent or other co-deceiver.

If ad agencies employed staff ethicists, it’s likely these commercials would never get made. But that’s never going to happen. And the legal departments of the ad agencies that have them have no problems with such commercials, since ethics and morality are none of their concern.

I don’t usually play the role of the handwringing old biddy when judging advertising, but in this case, I think that this fast and loose behavior by ad agencies and their clients is one of those many insidious little trickles that, over time, erode the character of a culture. In a society like ours, where, for example, academic cheating is embraced as just how things are done by most students, maybe we should think a little harder about whether we should be creating advertising that re-inforces this general, smirking disregard for honesty.

Oct 13

Further evidence that we live in the era of non-response—REVISED.

I am leaving this original post below, just the way I wrote it, but now I need to preface it with BIG RETRACTIONS regarding two of the three companies that I accused of non-response, Abt and Frito Lay.

I should have known better and I should have had a little more patience. I jumped the gun and truly regret having done so. I have drawn a line through everything I said below that turned out to be false, and, again, I apologize to both Abt and Frito Lay for wrongly taking them to task. Despite the fact that two of the three examples I thought I could point to, to confirm my contention that we live in the era of non-response turned out to be counterexamples, I hold fast to my contention. I consider both Abt and Frito Lay to be exceptions. Okay, now, if you’re curious, what follows is the original post with the parts that aren’t true crossed off, and some additional thoughts added in, bolded. Why I am doing this rather than simply deleting the post? I’m not exactly sure, but maybe I think it will be instructive.

With all this talk about making connections with your audience, having conversations, building relationships, I found it very interesting that in one week, I sent out emails to three different companies, each of them representing an opportunity for that company to start or sustain a conversation with me, one of their customers. And, so far, I haven’t heard squat back from any of them.

1. The first brand I emailed was Abt, a megastore in the Chicago suburbs. This store has one location. It is a palace, a shrine to all that is good about my religion, consumerism. Customers come from hundreds of miles away to buy at Abt. They sell appliances, electronics and a ton of other stuff. It is a legendary, dare I say iconic brand around where I live. I am a discerning consumer, and Abt is my default store for almost anything they sell. Their prices are competitively low, but it is their process and their customer service that set them apart and above any competitor.

It has been driving me nuts for years that they employ a lame tagline—Pleasing People . . . since 1936. After my most recent purchase there last week, (a washing machine), I resolved to fix their tagline. While I hadn’t spent much time intentionally mulling their tagline problem, I’m sure somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I’ve been chipping away at it for a long time.

The day after they delivered the washing machine, it came to me. A very simple thought that accurately reflects how I feel every time I walk in the doors of Abt.

Abt. What Retail Looks Like In Heaven.

There it was. I was pumped. Right away I dashed off an email to Bob Abt, the most senior member of the Abt family who is still active in running the store. I explained my thinking and offered to GIVE him the tagline, with no strings, just because I want Abt to have good tagline so badly.

I expected a polite rejection from Bob Abt within a couple of days. It’s been almost a week.

I should have waited a full week. Today, a week since I sent the email, I got a phone call from John Abt with just the polite rejection I anticipated. We had a very pleasant and respectful conversation regarding the tagline, and his company’s decision that they would be keeping their current tagline. John expressed his appreciation that I had taken the trouble to provide them with feedback. He indicated that, contrary to my assumption, people do in fact notice and compliment their current line, and that the Abt family feels that referring to how long they’ve been in business does provide a reassurance to their customers, particularly their online customers who may not be from this area and may not know the Abt brand.

So I learned something from John Abt, and for that, I am very appreciative. I should never have doubted that Abt would get back to me.

2. I ordered an item from a Catalog Classics by phone. It was a horrible experience. The two minute transaction took 20 painful minutes. I emailed them, telling them I wouldn’t be patronizing their catalog again, explained why and asked them to take me off their mailing list. Not only have I gotten no response, but they started sending me emails promoting items from their catalogue. I hadn’t previously been on their emailing list. Now I was, which meant I had to separately email them to unsubscribe.

3. I am a heavy user of Lay’s Light and Ruffles Light potato chips. These are the chips made with Olean, a kind of oil the body can’t digest. This means fat-free potato chips, in effect. This brand was hurt when it first came out because of some alleged study that plagued it. The study said some percentage of people who consumed the chips experienced “anal leakage.” This study was widely covered by the media. Unfortunately, the media didn’t make much mention of the fact that the percentage of people experiencing anal leakage was something like .1%. It didn’t matter. Once “anal leakage” stigmatized these products, it guaranteed limited success for the product, despite the health benefit. Everyone I know who had tried the chips told me they experienced digestive issues. Ah, the power of suggestion. Or else, through some remarkable statistical anomaly, all these people I talked to happened to belong to that .1%. Gosh.

Anyway, recently, all of the local stores that had carried these products don’t seem to be stocking them anymore. I emailed Frito Lay to ask why. Had the product been discontinued?

To quote George Harrision, “No reply.” Until yesterday, when I got an email from a Frito Lay representative who, with regret, confirmed that, in fact, these two products had been discontinued. This was not a form email but an actual response by a human to my specific question. Of course, she sent along coupons for some of their other reduced-calorie products, hoping that I might consider consuming them instead of the chips I like. That was thoughtful, if also self-serving.

Three brands. Three squandered opportunities to connect. To quote Napoleon Dynamite, “Idiots.”

In the case of Abt, I will forgive them and continue making trips to heaven every chance I get. Nothing to forgive.

I don’t patronize Frito Lay, aside from those two products, so they’ve lost me anyway, if they have in fact discontinued the item.

And I can’t imagine what the catalogue company could say to me that would win me back, but I sure wish they would have made some attempt.

I blame the Era of Non Response on two things: a general tendency toward incivility in our culture, and the advent of email. It’s so easy, for some reason, to disregard an email, which wasn’t true way back in the day when companies received complaint letters. Ah, those were the good old bad old days. Despite falsely accusing Frito Lay and Abt of these crimes of omission, I stand by my contention that, far too often, individuals and companies choose not to make the tiny effort to at least acknowledge the receipt of an email.

NOTE TO  JOHN ABT AND BELINDA AT FRITO LAY: I hope that, in recanting my harsh and baseless judgements regarding your companies, I have successfully minimized or perhaps even erased the damage done by the original post.

Oct 13

The undeniable power of alliteration.

Today I was staring out the window at my branch office, (AKA, the Burger King adjacent to the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Illinois), when a semi truck crossed my visual field with

emblazoned  on the side.

Now, I could pick at this logo/tagline because the designer chose to eliminate the period after “U”, making the remaining period not so much a period as a graphic element that just looks sort of like it should be a period. I find this confusing and stupid, but that’s not what I’m commenting on today.

No surprise, I want to talk about the tagline. First, having visited the website, I was very pleased to see that this company understands, as precious few brands seem to, that the tagline and logo should be treated as one cohesive visual element, so that whenever the logo appears, the tagline does too.

Anything less than this signals a half-hearted semi-commitment to the tagline, and a lack of understanding regarding how taglines work and how to get the most from them.

But what struck me as most interesting is their percussive use of alliteration. They lay the alliteration on so thick, you can’t help but be struck by it. It makes the tagline nice and sticky. I applaud U.S. Foods for embracing alliteration as a way of making their tagline stand out and stick. I know some of you out there are rolling your eyes. Alliteration is such a cheap and easy trick. Well, yes and no. Alliteration by itself is no great accomplishment. But alliteration used to accentuate a tagline that highlights a benefit or, better yet, a brand’s differessence, is an accomplishment. It doesn’t take a genius to create such a tagline. But it does take some effort, which is something far too many brands don’t seem to be willing to put in regarding their taglines.

I was going to nitpick the line because kitchens don’t cook, people cook, if you’ll excuse the paraphrase. But, actually, kitchens do cook in a metaphorical sense. Just as the joint is jumpin’, a kitchen can really be cookin’. So, the other thing this tagline has going for it is this subtle second meaning that is rich with emotion.

Keeping Kitchens Cooking implies that U.S. Foods is reliable, offers a full range of the stuff kitchens need to “keep cooking”, and probably some other attributes that U.S. Foods wants to tout, but that I’m too lazy to try to figure out.

The tagline is still less than ideal because the benefit they’re highlighting is one that their competitors probably have a legitimate claim to as well. It isn’t very differentiating. It doesn’t really get at their differessence.

Still, I like the line. It’s nice and simple, more meaningful that it might appear at first glance, it has some sticktoitiveness to it, and, it is of a piece with the logo. I would also argue that there is something inherently pleasing or likeable about their use of alliteration.

I give it a B.

I long for the day when some of you out there take the time to take me to task when you disagree. As it is, I can only assume from the lack of push back that I’m always right.

Oct 13

Is the value of a tagline’s memorability overrated?

The value of a tagline’s memorability depends on what you mean by “memorable.” If you mean a tagline is memorable only when you can recite the tagline upon mention of the brand name with which it’s associated, I think this level of memorability, while certainly desirable, isn’t all that important.

But there are three other levels of memorability that enter into the calculation.

On the next level down, a tagline could be considered memorable if you recognize it and can connect it to the appropriate brand, but you just aren’t able to recite the tagline verbatim, unprompted. Though perhaps of less value than a tagline that can be recited on demand, in this case the tagline engaged and registered with the person sufficiently to make some difference. The tagline meant something to the person or they wouldn’t recognize it later. And it was associated in the person’s mind with the brand, so that whatever meaning the tagline has for that person has been associated with the right brand, rather than with some competitor or with no brand in particular.

Then next level of memorability is the one I’ve just alluded to. The tagline is recognizable, it “looks familiar”, but can’t be attributed to the brand whose tagline it is. In this case, is the tagline doing any useful work for the brand? I can only think of one general scenario in which the tagline would have value for the brand. If the tagline resonated with a person but he mistakenly attributed that tagline to a competing brand, and then, at some future point, it was pointed out to that person, or in some other way he came to realize, that the tagline was not connected to the brand he thought, but to a different brand, the mere fact that he gave the tagline this much thought and attention, and wound up making the adjustment in his mind, so that the tagline that resonated with him was now associated with the appropriate brand, would be of value to the brand. (Whew. Did you track that? I’m not sure I did.)

The last level of memorability operates unconsciously. In other words, the person’s brain has registered the tagline and perhaps associated it with the appropriate brand, but the person isn’t consciously aware of the tagline or of its association with the brand. To the extent that a tagline’s work is done on this level, where emotional associations, memories and bonds take place in a person’s mind but they may never become consciously aware of them, the tagline is still of value. The person might be positively inclined toward a brand, in part because the tagline resonates with him, even if only subconsciously.

The entire discipline of neuromarketing is founded on the assumption that this level of subconscious emotional work is where many/most/all purchase decisions are made. And that the only way to detect this kind of decision making activity is by way of various brain imaging technologies.

While I’m highly skeptical of the claims neuromarketing advocates make regarding their current ability to “read” a person’s subconscious thinking and feeling based on fMRI and other brain scan technology, I do agree with their contention that much or most consuming decision-making takes place at this level, and that much of what we are doing consciously boils down to articulating, justifying, rationalizing these decisions, if only to ourselves.

So, does unconscious memorability count as memorability, at least as far as taglines go? I think it does, because if you retain a tagline, but only subconsciously, and that tagline has some effect, if it enters into the decision-making process, or even affects the impression you have about that brand, again, only subconsciously, the tagline is still doing its work. And this is work that it couldn’t do if it weren’t remembered on some level.

I have entertained, from time to time, an argument that even if a tagline isn’t memorable in any of the above senses, it can still do its work, as long as the tagline functions evocatively at the moment that it is perceived. In other words, if you see an ad for some product and the tagline engages you, you like it, it affects you at that moment—making you smile, raising a question in your mind or something similar—but the tagline doesn’t stick with you, even on a subconscious level, it still can be an effective tagline. Because, even though you don’t recall the tagline at all, your brain retains a positive association with the brand, or retains the question that the tagline evoked, as a result of that moment of engagement and reaction, even if the cause of that reaction—the tagline—is in no way retained by the brain.

I don’t know enough about how the brain and memory function to know if there is any difference between this presumed state of not remembering, and the kind of unconscious remembering I’ve described above. If the brain retains some association about a brand caused by a tagline that no longer exists in your memory, does that association itself comprise a memory?

Regardless of the answer to that question, I would argue that conscious memory of a tagline is not required in order for a tagline to be memorable—to have an impact, to make a difference, to be part of the complex emotional process that results in a purchase decision. But a tagline that is consciously remembered may be of more value, may work harder for the brand, than one that isn’t consciously remembered.

If I’m right, then the answer to the question that sits atop this post is, “Yes.”

I’d be curious to know what the Heath brothers would have to say about all this. They wrote a whole book about “stickiness”, call Made To Stick. Just how sticky does a tagline need to be to be sticky? Surely stickiness admits of degrees. Is there a direct, proportional relationship between degree of stickiness and the power or value of an idea, an ad, a tagline?

These and other questions . . .

Oct 13

Hey Geico, La Quinta, take a lesson from Cadillac.

There’s a new Cadillac commercial that consists of  several slow motion shots of doors being blown off of cars on the street as another car goes flying by. We also see well-appointed individuals reacting to these doors no longer on their cars. The announcer introduces us to the new XCS with twin turbo blah blah.

That’s it. Simple, fun to watch, and fun to figure out what’s going on here.

Unlike Geico and LaQuinta, who feel it’s necessary to explain the punchline to the joke in their commercials, in addition to seeing the joke, Cadillac  shows some respect by letting people connect the dots of this visual joke, rather than having to say it out loud at the end of the commercial, just in case you’re stupid and don’t get the reference. It’s a nicely constructed commercial that reveals over time what’s going on, making it unnecessary to bludgeon the viewer over the head with the joke.

While I’m no fan of the Cadillac brand, I tip my hat to them for respecting their audience.