Slogans Should Say What They Mean

Slogans Should Say What They Mean

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has adopted a slogan that I believe will not serve them well. I’m referring to the “Defund the Police” catchphrase. Whenever it is brought up in some social media forum, it’s not uncommon for a proponent to feel obligated to explain to the group that it doesn’t really mean what it sounds like (eliminating the police). If a slogan requires an explanation, not only is it ineffective, it may even risk alienating those who would otherwise support the group’s goals if only they understood it correctly.

This is not the first slogan that fails the effectiveness test. The company advertising landscape is littered with them. Just for fun I scoured the internet (more specifically boredpanda.com, phrase.co, and copywritercollective.com) to find examples of other slogans that are not only unclear but in many cases likely to be wrongly interpreted.

Here’s one from new Balance shoes: “Always in beta.” The term “beta” is probably not widely understood by the public since it is used primarily by company employees involved in product development (it refers to the final testing phase before releasing a product to full production). But its effect on those who do understand it is worse. To them it probably sounds like the company is selling shoes that haven’t even been fully tested yet.

There’s a Dos Equis beer ad showing the famous guy with the beard walking through what appears to be the African veldt with a couple of tribesmen. The caption reads “APPROACH WOMEN LIKE you do WILD ANIMALS…” It’s completely unclear to me what the point is. It’s also hard to understand why Dos Equis marketing executives think they should be targeting men who believe this is the way to treat women.

I found a picture of a Sunglass Shack store awning displaying the tagline “Sitting on Faces Since 2001.” It’s certainly clever but doesn’t really say anything about what (if anything) is special about their brand. It’s also a double entendre with the second meaning very decidedly sexual. I can’t imagine somebody coming up with that intentionally. 

 “Travel should take you places.” This comes from Hilton Hotels. Besides stating the obvious, it doesn’t explain why you’d necessarily want to involve Hilton in that activity.

But back to “Defund the Police.” Since there is no hierarchical structure to BLM, I’m not sure how this slogan came to be, let alone took root. At this point it’s probably unlikely to morph into anything else. The risk to those supporting BLM is that such a slogan could scare moderate Americans into voting for the proponent of another slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I don’t think that’s a consequence BLM supporters would wish for.

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