Any marketing or public relations professional will tell you that one key to developing an effective brand or image is a memorable tag line, which must be repeated as many as 7 or 8 times to stick in peoples' minds. That might cause a business owner to wonder if an investment in a communications budget is wise: "Are these spin doctors effective or are they the hucksters we all suspect?"
But Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt dispel our misgivings in their op ed, "Your Brain Lies to You", which appears in today's issue of The New York Times. Authors of the recently released Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, they describe how easy it is to legitimize misinformation and questionable sources.
"Every time we recall [information], our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed," explain Wang and Aamodt. "As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength." Information -- both true and false -- is restored and remembered, but the context is eventually lost in the haze of time.
Think about some popular tag lines. "It's a good time for the great taste of..." "Have a --- and a smile." "When you absolutely, positively have to have it overnight." "Just say no to..." You can probably recall these phrases with no trouble, but don't remember where or when you originally learned them. And, there's a chance you'll mix up competitors products. You might even use a tag line all the time, but can't recall when it became a part of popular culture. For instance, "Can you hear me now?"
So, how can you make your message stick without getting stuck with a huge marketing bill? Here are a few tips:
Settle on a succinct, memorable tag line that embodies your business philosophy, distinctive characteristics, and product or service. And then, push it over and over.
List the ways you reach your target audience. How can you connect with them at least six times in six months to convey your message? A newsletter? Shopping bag? Article? Presentation? Is that tagline on all of your collateral?
Map out a strategic marketing plan that both supports your overall business plan and incorporates your message in meaningful ways. For example, jump drives are great giveaways for IT consultants, but not for garden centers. How about a small watering can or a trowel.
What? You don't know the products and services those tag lines promote? Send me a message and I'll lend you a hand. If you think you can stump me, post your favorite tag line below in the comments box and I'll respond with my best guess.