Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birth of a tagline

Yeah, we consultants make up taglines... Client needs a new one... gotta fit the strategy... express the personality... want something like "Just do it" or "Where's the beef?"... I looove creating taglines... It's my bread and butter, my rice and beans. And I've had my share of hits. Like my line for Brasstown Beef: "Real beef, raised right." Oh yeah, raised right.

But look, great taglines also emerge from the frenzy of the moment. Remember when guards dragged an obnoxious student out of a John Kerry meeting...? The student yelled out, "Don't tase me, bro... Don't tase me!" In a flash T-shirts were emblazoned with that plea. It captures both a victim's agony and the sheer gall of a guy who gratuitously asks for trouble.

Okay, on to the frenzy of this moment: Stanford kicks USC's butt yesterday -- running up the score to 55 against the glamorous Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll, shown at left. Check out the amusing account of Carroll's anger here:

As for the new tagline:
Angry and humiliated, Pete Carroll greeted winning Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh with an outraged, "What's your deal? What's your deal?" which Harbaugh eloquently replied, "What your deal?" ...prompting waggish SF Chronicle commentator Ray Ratto to proclaim next year's marketing slogan: "Stanford football: What's your deal?"

Heck, I'm good at this stuff, but hats off to one fine tagline. "What's your deal?"-- I love writing it: "What's your deal?" You talking to me? -- Yeah, what's your deal? I've got insights to share... What's your deal?


Saturday, November 7, 2009

McGraw-Hill’s Lesson in Irony

I was excited to see in a recent BusinessWeek that McGraw-Hill backs a plan for “bringing financial literacy to those who need it most.” Now that’s what I’m talking about! Teach benighted bankers a thing or two about credit. Financial literacy for those who brought us the chaos of 2008. A shout out to McGraw-Hill!

You see a lot of companies wasting charitable dollars on tedious, never-ending cancer research or putting laptops in the hands of dirt-poor Africans, and you think, “Dang, where are our priorities? Who's teaching bankers how to read a balance sheet?”

So McGraw-Hill is doing it, re-training those ignorant fellows at AIG who lost billions by insuring someone else’s company’s bonds. And taking those rating agency guys – the ones who gave A-pluses to bonds backed by piles of dead leaves – and teaching them the ABCs of folding money. Talk about people in need of “training in financial literacy.”

But wait a sec. I started reading the fine print of the BusinessWeek advertising supplement and…. hold on! Harold McGraw III – CEO of McGraw-Hill – is aiming his lectures at – get this – ordinary Americans! That’s right. He says that, “Every American’s ability to provide for our families…and contribute to the broader economy is dependent on our ability to understand how money works.” Our ability to understand?

McGraw says that of all the lessons from the current economic crisis, “none is more important” than this: “That financial literary is critical to our economic well being” and that “we are not making the grade.” That’s a key lesson?

He concludes by declaring that if we emphasize our children’s financial literacy as much as reading and writing, "we will go a long way toward helping them realize their dreams, enjoy higher standards of living and achieve a secure financial future.”

Now I was confused. I would have thought that a more secure financial future might start with teaching the staff of the SEC what P-O-N-Z-I spells. Next, we might re-train the staff of – hey, isn’t Standard & Poor’s one of The McGraw-Hill Companies? Didn't S&P experts give triple-A ratings to bonds backed only by the full faith and credit of Uncle Leo’s dog-fighting bookie? Train them, not us.

I concur that it’s a good idea to teach financial literacy "to those who need it most.” But advice to M-H: Keep the curriculum. Put AIG and S&P fannies in the seats. Then give your money to One Lap-Top Per Child.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Best book on brand naming

Best book on brand naming is still Alex Frankel's Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words Into Big Business (2005). Recounts the creative and procedural provenance of Blackberry, Accenture and other storied names. Ruminates on the value and power of brands. Packed with insight into the malleability and impact of words.

Would Blackberry have been as successful if the device had been marketed under its original, working name "PocketLink"? Think it over. And see a list of alternative names once considered by the creators of Blackberry in Wordcraft. You'll laugh, you'll cry.

By the way, ever suspect that names aren't that influential? Here is the last word on that debate: