Tag: "tagline"

FAIL: PETCO Thinks We’re Idiots? Yes. Yes they do.


Well, PETCO certainly doesn’t win any points for the creativity of their product name, but when it comes to the art of needlessly clarifying proper use of the product I think I’ve just witnessed perfection.

This, folks, is why I don’t hire lawyers to write copy.



weight watchers man.jpg

FACT: 75% of annual weight gain occurs between Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

This was the sign I passed alongside the gym entrance last night. Thanks Washington Sports Club, I needed that extra kick. There’s nothing like the threat of unwanted poundage to really notch up the speed on the old treadmill.  But hey, if you do find yourself resembling more of a pumpkin silhouette than a broomstick this year, fear not.

Weight Watchers is a well-known diet plan based on a points system. Foods are allocated a certain point value. Each person is assigned a daily point allowance based on his or her weight and weight loss goals. Weight Watchers has been around since the 1960’s. However, that’s kind of a miracle considering their most recent ads for Weight Watchers for Men. This week’s brand-of-the-week goes to Weight Watchers Men for bad-brand-of-the-week.

Weight Watchers for Men fails big for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am willing to bet some green that when most people think Weight Watchers they think women. Some may say this is because women are more frequent dieters. Weight Watchers seems to have been unsuccessful in effectively marketing to the male population. Weight Watcher’s “Real Men Don’t Diet” motto is doing nothing to change this. I would bet a triple chocolate brownie that there isn’t a single man out there okay with being told he’s not a real man! Weight Watchers’ general tagline “Stop Dieting, Start Living,” does a good job of positioning themselves as the “un-diet” without being offensive. “Real Men Don’t Diet” is just emasculating to those men enrolled in one of their programs.

Wait. It gets better. Another one of Weight Watcher’s new tags touts, “Eat like a man, not like a rabbit,” one of the least clever things I have ever heard. And speaking of unoriginal, the whole “Eat like a man,” saying is strongly resemblant to diet competitor Nutrisystem’s “Mmm…man food” flavored standpoint.

Although Weight Watchers for Men ads were created to entice big-boned dudes, the campaign managed to degrade the very demographic that they were trying to reach. If the diet company wants to target men they would be better off just using their existing campaign, “Stop Dieting. Start Living,” that resonates with many folks. Or they could just re-brand Weight Watchers for Men using anything but their current jargon. At least that rings true to the “un-diet” positioning without being offensive.

A Branding Firm With No Tagline?

We get lots of great comments and feedback about our brand when people encounter it.  Sometimes it’s a reference to how cool or unique it is, sometimes it’s a comment about the fact that a brand like ours would never get through the approvals process at a company such as theirs.  Occasionally we get questions, too.  The number one most asked question?

What’s your tagline?

We don’t have one.  And for the moment that’s just fine – our name, visuals, positioning, and attitude give us everything we need for now.  If that changes we’ve got the ability to respond without needing to rip into other aspects of our brand.  In fact, we used to have a tagline, but as our business expanded it no longer suited our needs… which is pretty sad, because our tagline truly added value for us by reinforcing are straight-forward approach and explaining what we did at the same time.  The old tagline?

We name stuff.

RIP, old friend.  You served us well.

I played around with some concepts that might help position us aggressively in the branding marketplace but my team informed me that perhaps I was going a little too far out on the edge with my personal favorite.  Which is…

Stokefire: Brands In Heat

I love it.  I’m not sure if I love it in spite of or because of its blatant bad taste.  Probably “because of.”

Maybe not the best slogan for an agency employing one’s mother-in-law, however.  Even a mother-in-law as cool as mine.  Rather than using it as a tagline I think I may just make a ringer-tee with the slogan for family, friends, and clients that aren’t likely to go all litigious on us.  If you are in any of the above three groups (or would be interested in potentially purchasing said slogan tee) let me know of your interest and it’ll be a lot more likely to happen.

In the mean time?  No tagline.

Sometimes Crowdsourcing Sucks.

So I’m sitting at my desk and a tweet comes across telling me that a “Company Slogan needs a name.”  Not sure how to interpret that… So I check it out.

Apparently one of the crowdsourcing companies out there has an automated broadcast that just says “[Fill in the blank] needs a name” and this was just an instance of a client asking for something that wasn’t anticipated.  (They already had the name – they needed a tagline.  Mystery solved.  Except I get a bit more confused when I look into it…

I haven’t used this particular crowdsourcing service, so I’m not sure what questions they ask of their clients.  This particular client offered a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that was communicated thusly:

Our Unique Selling Proposition is “The Absolute Unquestioned Leader in Quality. Lowest Price and Responsiveness”

And therein lies the problem with crowdsourcing as it is performed today.

Business owners and marketers are often the people least qualified to communicate what makes their solution unique.  In most cases USP translates into “whatever we think the clients need to hear to be compelled to buy our stuff.”  Why else would anyone ever describe quality, low price, and service as unique?  Everyone says they offer high quality and low prices with great service.

Google today lists 43 million hits for the combination of three words.  The first link is to a Marketingprofs article titled “Quality, Service, Price: Meaningless Claims That Can Drive Customers Away.”  That’s a pretty clear sign this is the wrong direction to go, right?

So, let’s assume that we have a couple hundred people ready to help this company out.  Each of them spends ten minutes developing concepts.  That’s more than 33 hours of time (already an issue for many that follow and rail against crowdsourcing) applied to a task that has almost no chance of helping the client.  It’s the latter part that gets my blood boiling.

Crowdsourcing suppliers should have some level of responsibility for the projects that they allow on their systems, and legally they do.  I’m pretty sure if someone requested a logo that directly copies the Nike Swoosh they’d be shut down by the sites that offer the service.  Similarly, if someone directly asked for “a completely useless name or logo that had no value whatsoever” the providers would step in and stop the debacle since it demeans the service. So why, when a client asks for something that any responsible or experienced marketer would see was folly, would the provider not step in to set things right?

Making it worse in this case is the client’s closing clarification. “We are looking for a slogan that states this in a strong way and will stand out.”

The reasons why crowdsourcing sucks as it exists today are many, but very few of them have anything to do with the core concept itself.  A great idea poorly executed is still a great idea.

Crowdsourcing providers… Step up.  Take some responsibility for the work being requested on your systems.  This is one issue that you can solve without investing in technology.  One person with a degree in marketing sitting in a chair reviewing projects as they come in… that’s enough to fix this.  So why isn’t anyone doing it?

Do crowdsourcing providers have an obligation not to allow their clients to get ripped off, or are they merely inverse flea-markets where buyers say what they want and everyone else tries to fit the description – even if the want is completely illogical or useless?

Incidentally… Where can I buy a lamp made out of matchsticks?


Actually… it IS just a job.

I know it is time to be thankful and such (and I AM) but I’m getting a little fed up.  You see, I’ve been under a barrage of messaging that just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Seriously.  In the last two weeks I’ve been hit with the “It’s not just a job, it’s _________” line so many times that it makes me wonder why people would even want to get paid for what they do anymore.


The alternatives to it being a job have included:
  • our passion
  • an adventure
  • an attitude
  • a lifestyle
  • excitement
  • an identity


But why are people compelled to say this at all?  Is it effective?

“It’s not just a job, it’s our passion” may sound powerful – and indeed it must be, given that it has recently been used to sell face painting, healthcare, web design, die cutting, stone, airplanes, beauty salons, groceries, photography, parties, childbirth classes, sailing lessons, cycling tours, custom storage, translation, and movers.

In order for something to be a passion it seems that it should not only be what you do for the paycheck, but what you do on your vacations and downtime.  Some of the above list seem good candidates – photography, sailing, biking, and maybe even parties and childbirthing.  But how many of you can picture people so passionate about selling airplanes or groceries that they go on vacations just so they can do MORE of it?

Uh uh.

“It’s not just a job” has become a short-cut to an emotional connection with the intended client.  Rather than build a story that shows how strong an organization (or person) feels about something, they instead just say that they feel strongly and let that stand in for those pesky details.

I have a feeling that these same marketers are the ones that put pictures of families seated around the holiday table with their product prominently featured (“Energy Drinks Bring Your Family Together For The Holidays!)

I’m calling BS.

If it is not readily conceivable how a passion could be built around something (say, mining rock, perhaps) then you are hereby obligated to tell us the fascinating story of how you came by your passionate connection.  If not in person (since we’re likely to fall asleep) then at least in print.  You owe us that much.  If you’re actually passionate about a completely dull topic that ends cocktail party conversation then there’s got to be a good story in there somewhere.  How did you become a convert?  How did dull and boring become the core of your being?  What makes it exciting enough to spend your free time dreaming about it?

That’s a story that will convince people of your sincerity – and one that may well get you clients for life.

As for me, I’m prepping for Thanksgiving, which is often more of a job than a passion, but this year we’re not hosting and don’t have to cook much, so I’ll be leaning towards the passion a bit more than usual.

Have a great holiday all!  Thanks for making 2008 the best year in Stokefire’s short history.


Yes, You’re a PC.


I’ve been floored by Microsoft’s response to the popular Macintosh commercials.  Why?  Because it took ’em more than a year to respond – and they had to use ideas (and hardware) that Apple developed first.

To me, this campaign appears to open up incredible strategic opportunities for… Apple.  The commercial is posted below for all to see…

First, they’re embracing a persona developed by the folks at Apple.  The first shot in their new ads is of the lovable nerd type guy Apple created to represent the PCs.  Sure, this might be a cute way of starting an ad – but it opens them up to a rather powerful Apple response.  How’s this for a closing kicker for an Apple advert? –

Microsoft: Copying Apple’s Ideas… Since 1984

The other big problem?  Well, it turns out that the “I’m a PC” campaign was made at least in part by… wait for it…

…A Macintosh.

Apple couldn’t ask for a better lead-in.

I anxiously await their response.

(Incidentally, Stokefire converted to an all Macintosh environment about a year ago.  Best thing we’ve done for our business in a long time.)

If Taglines Were Easy Then “This. Would. Rock.”

HS&P – a respected U.K. marketing firm filled with great thinkers and strategists has designed a new campaign for N&P – a financial institution also located over yonder.  (Note – I use acronyms because that’s what they use in the article announcing the change.  And if they think that’s okay then… well… Acronyms-away.)

The idea – which I believe is an excellent one – is to convince non-customers that switching banks is easy.  Because, well, it is easy with N&P.  I know of no real details about the promotion, other than it challenges people to make the switch, perhaps with a guarantee or incentive. 

The tagline?

Switch To N&P Today

Okay, so… points for clarity.  But does this actually do anything other than tell potential clients what they want them to do?  When was the last time any corporation commanded you to give them money and you actually listened?  No fair referencing “Just Do It” since they definately command, but don’t actually specify what they’re commanding you to do.

[Ed.: Send Stokefire Money Today. Small Bills Preferred. Lots of them.]

Rather than tell people what to do, wouldn’t it be more effective to show them what they’ll get out of it, or more overtly indicate the ease with which the change will be made? 

Here’s my problem:  The campaign is supposed to suggest ease, but the timeframe indicated (Today) seems to be at odds with the message.  “Today” is a pretty long time, especially if I hear the message in the morning.  So… Great!  I can come in at 9 AM and have a new bank within eight hours!  Good thing I love lightly padded chairs and pens attached to chains.”  In our super-digital world we expect things to happen without real effort and without noticeable passage of time.  Today just doesn’t cut it.

A better approach?  Why not use the tagline to drive home the challenge – and to make the challenge a challenge to both the customer and N&P? 

I’m not an expert when it comes to Briticisms, but it seems something like “Got a minute? Then you’ve got a new bank.”  or perhaps a more realistic/honest approach like “Your New Bank In Thirty Minutes, Or the Pizza is Free.”  (I really should know if Dominos Pizza is across the pond before I suggest that one, of course.  But the tie-ins are stupendous.  What’s easier than ordering pizza?  Well… now changing your bank is!)

The current proposed tagline takes no risks and will not be remembered long.  At least that’s what my own analysis indicates. I’ll be watching with interest to see how the campaign is received by the real world.  And I’ll gladly eat crow if I’m wrong.

I love the strategic work that HS&P does – and their approach to projects is admirable too… But in some cases a great brand idea can be hamstrung by the words used to convey it.  I think this will be one of those cases.  Barring amazing creative work and ground-breaking design this is one of those campaigns that may work internally to focus the effort, but that will be almost invisible to the outside world.

Anyone think differently?

Addendum: Forget about “today” as a timeframe.  This site says it can get everything together – for free – so you can change banks on your own… and it’ll only take ten minutes. 

The Simpsons’ Springfield Gets Branded For A Bazillion Bucks

In last night’s Simpsons episode (Papa Don’t Leech) there was a quick exchange between Lisa Simpson and Mayor Quimby that fans of destination branding (and taglines) can appreciate. 

The setup – At the three minute mark in the show Lisa visits Quimby to sell him cookies (Skinny Mints!) and he attempts to pay from the city vault…

Lisa:  Where’s all the money?
Quimby:  Why it’s right… Uh-oh.  We spent all our money on that new slogan for Springfield. 
[Cut to view out the window where we see a billboard that says “SPRINGFIELD: GOOD”]

Springfield GOOD.jpg

Honestly… it’s at least as good as most of the recent location branding efforts we’ve seen lately.  Say WA anyone?  At least Springfield has an excuse for their cartoonish looking Power Trip.

Kudos to the Simpsons writers for pointing out that the clothes the branding industry is wearing right now aren’t exactly visible.

Some can do a lot worse than this example when it comes to destination branding…  And they have.

Hat tip to Michael for the find.

Can creativity be “crowd-sourced”?

The good folks at Genius Rocket and Tapatap are trying to find out.

I spent an hour fiddling with their tools last night and figured I’d see if a naming pro had a prayer when up against the masses (where the masses seem to have the vote…)

So far my skills (note the lack of “z” on the end of that word) seem to be lacking in the eyes of the horde.  (You can search Tapatap for user name “tateiam” and you’ll find the rest of my quick brainstorm.)  Feel free to pile on the negativity…

I can take it.

Here’s a quickie I did for a campaign by Mervis Diamonds that is going to run in The Onion:


Perhaps this is why we normally take three months to do a job and not 5 minutes?

The Magazine of the National Association of Realtors Gives us a Shout Out

Our site tends to be a pretty regular stop for Realtors looking for a rebrand (if you look at our greatest hits on the right you’ll see our most popular post for real estate types.)  But we haven’t always been entirely positive about our views of the parent brand or fire-and-forget realty types (as seen here and here.  Oh, and here. And here.  And maybe here.)  so it came as a bit of a surprise when they asked us about Web 2.0 and realty for their national magazine.

We were happy to oblige.

Excerpted from the article:

Which Real Estate 2.0 tool should you try
first? Experts agree you need to take a step back and do some work
before you decide. “It’s entirely likely there are real estate
professionals out there making a killing using Web 2.0, but I would bet
that they have a killer brand behind them,” says Tate Linden, principal
Stokefire, a brand-naming consulting firm in Springfield, Va. “Find a way to differentiate yourself.”

Claude Labbe, ABR®, GRI, with the Flaherty Group
in Kensington, Md., consulted with Linden before deciding to position
himself as a real estate professional for people who need things done
quickly. His tagline, “Realty for Your Busy Life,” is on his Web site
and is part of the name of his blog,
YourBusyLife.com.He started the blog in the spring of 2007.

“I knew I wanted something to get people
to talk to me more,” Labbe says. “Real estate is a contact sport; you
have to be with people.”

Amazing how a 45 minute conversation can be boiled down to a paragraph.  John N. Frank did a good job summing up my many stories and asides.

And in case you’re interested – I did indeed let John know that I wasn’t exactly a team player – and he took it very well.  We had a good discussion about the sorts of stuff that passes as realty these days and what the National Association of Realtors could do to make it better.

(For instance – the National Realtor campaign slogan “Now is a great time to buy or sell a home” from last year is looking pretty bad right now…  Perhaps they could have taken a stand that had meaning… and that wouldn’t make all the buyers last year look foolish in light of a widely anticipated collapse in the housing markets.)

Nice article, John.  I look forward to more conversations in the future and perhaps to helping NAR solve some of the more troubling issues we discussed.


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