OregonSaves

Clever Phrases Woo the Ear, Stick in the Brain

‘Just Do It’ is the iconic slogan for Nike. Clever phrases are common in marketing, but less so in public affairs where they could help simplify complex issues with words that woo the ear and stick in the brain.

‘Just Do It’ is the iconic slogan for Nike. Clever phrases are common in marketing, but less so in public affairs where they could help simplify complex issues with words that woo the ear and stick in the brain.

Word JazzThe Curse of CashLord of the Flies. Each of these catchy titles evokes a mental picture by wooing the ear.

Through startling juxtaposition, clever alliteration and logical incongruity, these titles have become earworms that reinforce the resonating power of carefully crafted phrasing.

While we live in a visual world where visual communications dominate, clever phrases still have a place in earning valuable mindshare with target audiences. Nike has the swoosh, but is defined by its catchphrase, “Just Do It.” KFC says all you need to know about what it serves with its tagline “finger lickin’ good.” Taco Bell’s invitation to try something different is summed up with “Think outside the bun.” 

Brand marketers definitely appreciate the value of clever phrases, but strangely public affairs professionals have been slower to embrace them. In truth, it is no harder – or easier – to simplify a complex public issue than it is to project an image of a brand personality.

The Willamette Valley Wineries Association is asking the 2019 Oregon legislature to approve a suite of three bills that deal with wine labeling. Like most legislative issues, there are lots of details. But to capture the reputational importance of the legislation, WVWA says, “What’s on the label should match what’s in the bottle.” Simple. Direct. Unarguable.

Clean Water Services has earned awareness for its advanced water purification technologies through its clever Pure Water Brew Challenge that invites brewers to create tasty beers literally from bath water.

Clean Water Services has earned awareness for its advanced water purification technologies through its clever Pure Water Brew Challenge that invites brewers to create tasty beers literally from bath water.

Clean Water Services sponsors the Pure Water Brew Challenge to highlight its water purification technology – and remind people of the value of water re-use. The idea has caught on as water agencies in other states are staging similar bathroom-to-beer fests. 

The Oregon State Treasury wanted a name and tagline that instantly described its new state-sponsored retirement savings program for workers whose employers don’t offer a plan. Treasury’s PR team came up with “OregonSaves” and the tagline “Work hard. Save easy,” which conveys the convenience of saving for retirement through automatic payroll deductions. 

This isn’t glibness for glibness’ sake. Clever phrases do a favor for target audiences by condensing meaning to a memorable few words – an earworm that wiggles deeper into their brains. More important, an ear-worthy description of a measure is the best defense against opponents who will try to smudge up the situation.

Voice talent extraordinaire Ken Nordine, who died last week, created the phrase “Word Jazz” for his 1957 album of beat poetry and then turned it into a defining title for a radio program that lasted for 40 years. The phrase accurately described his legendary voice, which included coaching Linda Blair for “The Exorcist,” the Grateful Dead and David Bowie. Word jazz emerged as more than a title and has become an emblem for a kind of evocative speech. The phrase is too rich to die. 

The Curse of Cash” author Kenneth Rogoff used his provocative title to entice readers to consider why large-denomination bills cause more trouble than benefit. Bills larger than $100, he says, are more likely to be used in drug deals and tax evasion than everyday commerce. Rogoff’s title piggybacks on the common phrase “cash is king.”

Sometimes clever phrases pop into mind, seemingly out of nowhere. More often, they are the product of hard thinking, creative collaboration and trial and error. [Nike’s slogan grew out of a brainstorming session and was a takeoff on the last words of a convicted murderer.] Whatever the route, clever phrases can mean the difference between wowing an audience and making an audience yawn.

A clever phrase isn’t a substitute for a good idea or a worthy cause. However, a clever phrase is an effective tool to plant that good idea or worthy cause into people’s consciousness. The clever phrase can produce a shared understanding and respect for an idea or cause. The clever phrase can serve as a call to action, turning a listener into an advocate. The clever phrase, as the saying goes, can “win the day.”

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Al Roker Animates Levels of Hurricane Devastation

NBC weatherman Al Roker used an animated video to give viewers an eyeful explanation of the escalating force of hurricane winds. If animated videos aren’t in your issues management, crisis preparation and marketing toolkits, they should be – soon.

NBC weatherman Al Roker used an animated video to give viewers an eyeful explanation of the escalating force of hurricane winds. If animated videos aren’t in your issues management, crisis preparation and marketing toolkits, they should be – soon.

All of us have heard a lot about hurricanes in recent days. NBC weatherman Al Roker showed an animated video this week demonstrating the varying impact of winds ranging from a Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane. It was devastating to watch.

Roker’s video was also a devastating example of visual explanations. Instead of a verbal description, the video’s animation (approximately 50 seconds in) let viewers clearly see what damage is caused with winds of escalating force – from blowing palm trees to blowing off the roof of a house. Words convey the meaning, but the video packs a punch.

Animated videos are common in weather reports, most frequently to show the storm track of hurricanes. Even though the tracking videos carry a hurricane’s category, those numbers don’t really tell the story of the potential destruction they can wreak. Roker’s animated video put dimension to the numbers.

While animated videos can’t be plucked off the shelf or created in a wink, they also don’t require a major production. Anyone who can show a story would be able to work with a graphic designer, digital specialist or college intern to create an animated video of that story. For the adventurous, there are even tools such as Flipagram, Adobe Spark and Animoto that let you muck around and generate your own animated videos.

You don’t need to be an artist to create animated videos. For example, Flipagram lets users combine photos, video clips and music.

The OregonSaves animated video uses familiar imagery to explain the state’s new retirement savings plan for workers who don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The animated video was created by  Cappelli Miles , a CFM strategic partner for advertising and digital media.

The OregonSaves animated video uses familiar imagery to explain the state’s new retirement savings plan for workers who don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The animated video was created by Cappelli Miles, a CFM strategic partner for advertising and digital media.

Whether you hire someone or do it yourself, animated videos are perfect content for social media and websites. People like to look at short animated videos that have eye appeal, are informative and offer entertainment value.

Successful animated videos are more than visual whizbang. They are stories told with moving pictures. Roker’s video about the force of winds in different categories of hurricanes worked because it put a visual stamp on the damage wrought by different wind speeds. The best animated videos simplify the complex and bring to mind the familiar in a refreshing new way.

Some stories can take the form of visual explanations, making a complex story seem simple. OregonSaves produced an animated video that walks viewers through the “whys” and “whats” of the new state-sponsored retirement savings plan.

Infographics can be converted to animated videos. Here are some interesting examples.

Emotions can drive animated videos. Think of all the animated cartoons you watched with your kids as they grew up that left you with a tear in the eye, even though the stories were aimed at 10-year-olds.

The bottom line is that animated videos work, attract clicks and stick in people’s minds. If they aren’t in your issues management, crisis preparation or marketing toolkits, then you should go to work to add them.