2010-08-11 / Opinion

Sloppy Slogans

by Alex McRae

A few weeks ago, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stunned the financial community with her theory about how to kick-start the U.S. economy.

Waving her bony fingers at the camera, Pelosi managed to keep a straight — if slightly Botox’d — face as she croaked:

“Let me say that unemployment insurance ... is one of the biggest stimuluses [sic] to our economy. Economists will tell you, this money is spent quickly. It injects demand into the economy, and it’s job creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name.”

So the best way to create jobs is to pay unemployment benefits to people who can’t find one? If that’s the case, we should all quit work today.

At the very least, Pelosi should lead the effort by resigning and joining the “little people” in the unemployment line. Hopefully, she could convince her fellow politicians to do likewise.

Putting the entire U.S. Congress out to pasture would surely improve the national mood, if not the economy.

But to be fair, Pelosi and like-minded economic dimwits don’t deserve all the blame for the sour economy. American businesses bear some of the burden, too.

As times get tougher, companies look for innovative new ways to suck cash from pinched consumer wallets. Some companies use old-fashioned techniques like lowering prices (see Walmart). Others believe they can boost sales with a new marketing campaign, usually accompanied by a new slogan.

Great theory, but some companies don’t seem to realize that a motto is worthless if it doesn’t tell people what’s for sale.

This wasn’t always a problem. Years ago, corporate hucksters got right to the point with slogans like “Ford makes fine cars” or “Fly the friendly skies of United.” Those days are long gone. Customer confusion is on the rise.

For instance, one major international corporation now promotes its products under the banner “So good.”

Sounds sweet, but “So good” is “so generic” it could apply to anything from an ice cream cone to a date with Faith Hill (or her husband, Tim McGraw, depending on your persuasion).

“So good” definitely lacks the zing of the company’s former motto, “Finger lickin’ good,” which billions around the world still associate with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Apparently, KFC doesn’t want you to think about greasy-good finger lickin’ chicken. Or dead chicken at all. Why else would KFC’s Web site say, “We promote education, diversity and animal welfare... “?

KFC promoting animal welfare? That’s like Glock firearms promoting world peace. Spare me the politically correct self-righteousness.

And what do you think of when you hear “Home is calling”?

Probably not the Pillsbury company, which used to tell customers, “Nothing says loving like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”

Of course even when a motto is accurate it can cause customer confusion. Energizer Batteries uses their Energizer Bunny to remind people that their product “keeps going and going and going.”

Since someone with a bladder disorder “keeps going and going and going” too, this one could be confusing. Thank goodness for TV ads starring drum-beating bunnies.

Speaking of TV ads, years ago a pitchman named Mr. Whipple touted the softness of his favorite toilet tissue by saying, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” Everybody got the message.

And now? Charmin says, “Nature calls. Charmin answers.” That could apply to a cell phone. And if Charmin answers, some may wonder, “What was the question?”

Charmin clears up the confusion with a series of print and TV ads showing overweight bears using Charmin tissue in green, leafy forest settings.

I still prefer Mr. Whipple, but at least this new campaign is educational. Thanks to Charmin, we all know what a wild bear does in the woods.

(Send your e-mail comments to: alex@newnan.com) 

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