Changing Minds by Changing Words

  Finding the right words – crafting an exact persuasive image – is like using your pen as a surgeon’s scalpel. Of course, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to craft a strong slogan, but those delicate shifts in word choice can certainly affect how people’s brains process the message.

I’ve purposely avoided political topics in this blog, which may explain my silence over the past week or so. (“If you can’t say anything nice…”) But here are a few interesting shifts in propaganda on hot topics worth noting.

GLOBAL WARMING: Is it getting cold again? The latest Farmer’s Almanac claims that we may have a long, cold winter this season. They cite lots of natural indicators, like early fog and more nuts on the trees than usual.  Globally, there are many scientific sources (from actual meteorologists) who fear that global warming may simply be popularized bad science. My three lousy science classes in college do not really qualify me to form an opinion on this matter – I’m just focused on the words.

So, when it’s February in northeast Ohio, where’s Al Gore when you need him?

Well, it’s tough to host a Global Warming rally in the snow. So the advocates carefully shifted the conversation to “Climate Change.” Smart move, as the climate is always changing. That’s what climates do. How can one argue against that?

The well-crafted shift from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” helps keep their momentum.

WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE: Here’s a hot one… the abortion issue. How a bloody means of birth control has been linked to women’s status in our society and their economic well-being is beyond me. But the movement may be taking a more direct approach to their propaganda.

“A Woman’s Right to Choose” as a slogan may be losing effectiveness. To counter that, in comes “A Woman’s Right to Privacy.” From Choice to Privacy. A brilliant shellgame of words that completely changes the argument. After all, who dare take a stand that a woman shouldn’t have “privacy,” when what they really want to say is that they shouldn’t kill their unborn child. It changes the argument completely.

The scary thing is about such propaganda on both topics is that the public may hardly even notice the change in words at all, only that their opinions on the topic may be changing. The power of a strong word choice can be mesmerizing. 

If shifts in words can create shifts in public opinion when it comes to hot topics like these, imagine what a powerful slogan or tagline can do for you when it comes to your business.

You don’t necessarily have to change the argument to win. But the right words can help change minds and grow your base like never before.


Slogan Sandwich: Messages Have Layers

 Yesterday, as I drove past a deli in my neighborhood, I saw a banner advertising a brand of lunchmeat.

The sign read: “Take Back Lunch” with the company logo below.

Maybe my mind is wired differently than most, but I immediately thought that if you have to “take back” your lunch, then you must’ve lost your lunch for some reason.

Hmmm…

Associating “losing your lunch” with a line of deli meats may not have been the marketing team’s direct intention. Nonetheless, it follows the train of thought of some consumers.

I’m sure this company wanted to encourage people to pack their lunch, to make time for themselves while enjoying a great sandwich using their meats and cheeses. But so many other slogans could accomplish this goal without a hint of… well, vomiting.

On the bright side, it did get my attention… and it certainly helped tattoo the brand on my brain. It’s probably just not the initial impression they were looking for.

Moral of the story: Don’t be so married to a slogan that you block out other interpretations of your message. Invite opinions, test it out, and be open to the feedback. It helps build a stronger message… and that’s what it’s all about.


How Slick is Google’s name “Chrome”?

  Some small businesses claim it’s getting harder to find a short, interesting short word that really sums up a new product they’re launching. One that grabs attention and has an appropriate meaning. One that “fits.” I disagree, so let’s have a look.

Google recently launched the beta of Chrome, a new type of Web browser. Folks who use it seem to love it. But I’m more interested in its name.

A recent piece in “Name Wire” discussed this topic. The author seemed to doubt its value, saying its too much of an “insider” name (the word “chrome” means something to them when it comes to industry jargon). You can see for yourself at  http://www.namedevelopment.com/blog/archives/2008/09/google_chrome_o.html 

Let me clarify… I’m no chip-head. I’m not a computer geek or expert when it comes to code or programming or such. I can navigate my way around a Help page pretty well, but that doesn’t count here. So I feel pretty comfortable in looking at Google’s naming as Mrs. John Q. Public would. And I really like it.

For most PC users, Google’s Chrome is an add-on feature to help “make the Internet run faster.” When I think of the word “chrome,” I think of Pimp My Ride. I think of Father’s Day antique car shows where one is blinded by the workmanship of chome enthusiasts. I think of chrome as a shiny automotive aftermarket add-on for hot cars to make them look even more spectacular. Just as racing stripes make a car look faster, chrome makes it look more expensive. And way cool.

So to me, Chrome on my computer will bring the perception of “cool,” speed and quality in an add-on customized, pimp-my-ride kinda way… then the name more than works.

Let’s hope the browser works half as well!