Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten best taglines of 2008

Here are the ten best lines seen by brandsinger. Amazing how mere letters lined up in a certain way can set your synapses ablaze.

10 Yes we can
Hats off to the skinny guy’s triumphant slogan – oh, and now we’ll see!

9 We fix home-made haircuts
Barbershop window, Rockport, Massachusetts – perfect barber for Clint Eastwood.

8 Drive safely – and leave the killing to us
Robinson Pest Control, Hartford CT – You know these guys are very generous with the chemicals.

7 Hello Future
Awesomely optimistic and compact cry of long-running Lincoln Financial campaign.

6 Enjoy someone else’s drama for a change
Longwharf Theater in New Haven – How did they find out about my family?

5 Je me souviens
Quebec license plate slogan – Not sure what it means but it touches mon coeur.

4 Live Free or Die
Give it up for New Hampshire!

3 You. Happy.
Me, surprised by Asian-sounding line from Best Buy.

2 Ensemble tout devient possible
French presidential campaigner Nicolas Sarkozy’s winning slogan. Check out this powerhouse speaker at

1 World Weary
My own bitter twist on Morgan Stanley’s discredited claim to be "World Wise."

And so long 2008! – Year of thrilling expressions and exciting experiments.
Happy New Year to you – our free, optimistic, outspoken brandsinger community.
Be true to your personal brand – in 2009 and always.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Republican brand headed for Oldsmobile-ville

After the Presidential election I advised Republicans to restore their shredded brand by looking to Lincoln. Not to Reagan or to stale media pundits, but to Lincoln, the source of Republican strength and appeal. My warning was: Obama is already stealing your Lincoln... and he is!

This from Bill Kristol in today's New York Times:
"Obama will be the first president to take the oath of office using the Lincoln Bible, held by President Lincoln at his first inauguration, since ... Lincoln.
... It’s an homage to Lincoln, not a claim to be like him. Obama intends to look back to Lincoln for guidance and to look up to him as a model. Lincoln, our greatest president and statesman, had a deep understanding of American exceptionalism. He thought long and hard about the relationship of American founding principles to political practice, and in his actions exemplified the prudent and skillful pursuit of a principled end. He was also a great war president. Obama could do a lot worse than study Lincoln and learn from him."

Heading for brand oblivion
This – in words more eloquent than mine – is Brandsinger's characterization of Lincoln. My point on November 11 was that Obama – by arrogating Lincoln's values to his own cause – can kick the props out from under Republicans. If Republicans concede Lincoln's legacy to Obama, they leave little of their brand but a ramshackle hut divided against itself, an empty, irrelevant shell ready to be discarded along with the Olds and (soon) the Buick.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Is winter a brand?

Spring is about emerging and fall is preparation – both dynamic brands. Winter, on the other hand, just is. Winter isn’t from anywhere or going anywhere. Winter is the here and now – our most existential season.

Winter’s brand traits are dignity and depth. There is majesty in winter that a frivolous spring day cannot match. Fall is too darn busy to pay attention. If the seasons were a royal court, winter would be king. (Fall would be chancellor of the exchequer.)

Winter has arbitrary power. If winter wants to close the airport and keep you waiting, well, there’s nothing you can do about it. On a whim winter will shut down your school. Snow day! – exhilarating words to a child – all thanks to a whim of winter. You don’t plan for a snow day. It just happens. You wake up, and the snow day is.

Winter reminds you to live in the present by breathing cold air down your neck.

Winter has presence. With benign intervention, winter surprises you with diamond-like sparkles in the light of a street-lamp. Winter’s chill reminds you to snuggle up with someone you love.

Winter’s counterpoint is summer – the Miller Light to winter’s Bud. You plan for summer. You have things you want to do in summer. You long for summer. You remember summer.

But winter just is. It is the season of being – not becoming. Winter settles into our streets and our bones and takes its own sweet time to make its meaning clear.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Does your nation sparkle?

Mr. Ohm Kyong-so – vice president of tourism – explains that the current branding campaign was designed to change his nation’s image from “characterless, featureless and unknown” to “a sparkling and attractive tourism destination.”

Did you guess Korea? The tourism bureau has a slogan – “Korea, Sparkling” – a logo, a web-stite and promotional ads. Try this one at:

Developing a nation’s brand is a tall order. You have to celebrate both unique attributes (native dancers in ethnic costumes) and universal attractions (ladies in underwear writhing around a pole). You have to seem hot and sophisticated like Hong-Kong but quaint enough for tourists with cameras and an interest in rice-growing.

It would be easy to deride Korea’s campaign – and fun, too. (Brandsinger is not too principled to launch cheap shots at fellow practitioners.) But we like “Korea, Sparkling.” There is innocence in the phrase. It is exotic to my American ear. Simple. Zen-like in its enigmatic essence. “Sparkling” calls up feelings, sounds and sights. It’s a Coke on the tongue… a night sky over Montana – or Mok'po.

The problem is that, while marketing Korea vigorously should raise tourist dollars, “Korea, Sparkling” cannot transform the nation’s image from “featureless” to “attractive.” It does not supply a strong feature or character. It ties Korea to a quality that cannot be owned and that travelers will not remember.

Are there other ways to brand a nation? You can have one of your citizens father the President of the U.S. (Kenya) or use thousands of human beings to create grandiose artwork (Chinese Olympic pageantry). You can have, on every corner, a shop that sells dope (The Netherlands).

You can even go negative – ethnic violence, develop an atom bomb – for an image of defiance and cynicism.

In this context, “sparkling” is pretty nice.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Killing car brands

It takes generations to create a strong car brand – the young guys who start to notice the sound of a certain engine, the curve of shiny metal over the wheels, the mystery of the name – then the wave of people who inherit cars from their moms and dads, fix them up, spark them to life on a cold morning with the turn of a brass key – and then the next wave that comes along with the sound of that car's radio mixing in their minds with the slurp of milk shakes and the wail of a nauseous sibling.

It takes generations to create a strong car brand – and then but a brief banking panic and economic collapse to kill it off. "GM will probably simplify its line of brands." Sure. Makes sense. The bloated Detroit bureaucracy can't support the design, marketing and distribution of every arthritic car in the portfolio. Brand consultants have been telling GM execs this for years. "The data say you've got too many brands. Time to focus. Kill off a few."

But you know, car brands aren't like clothes brands or cereals. When a car brand gets killed off there is an empty lane in our neuro-pathways, a dead zone in our communal consciousness. Is it sheer sentiment?

With a nod to the cruel but salutary justice of the marketplace, I have no respect for the reactionary old unions and brain-dead auto leadership. Let them sink under the weight of self-imposed irrelevance. Yet... yet... there was magic and romance in the cars they made, the metal monsters that used to prowl our streets with names like Pontiac Star Chief and Chevy Nomad and Rocket 88.

Hate to see more of them go the way of the Olds. It took generations to build those brands – those dreams on wheels. But it's probably time to cut em loose. "Camry" has as much romantic appeal as a jar of pickles. But the damn thing is made in America, priced right and runs good.