We recently hosted a reception to introduce our friend “American Strong Woman, Mama Lou” to our near and dears. She had just returned to Austin from a European tour and was about to leave for the western United States, in preparation for her September 10th appearance on the Today Show. Her motto is “Phonebooks. Your heart. Neither stands a chance”. We looked at photos and clippings of Mama Lou crushing apples with her biceps, doing one-arm pull-ups, performing acts of aerial daredevilry and of course; ripping phone books in half. Standard strong woman stuff.
It was an unusually mild summer evening and a group had gathered in the screened cabana of the compound at twilight. Among the guests were many of the women we count as collaborators and friends, including: an acupuncturist, two authors, a metal artist, an accordion playing yoga instructor, an interior designer, a private intelligence analyst, and Leslie Pool, a city council candidate who we support.
Leslie conducted a poll, asking what we thought of her slogan:
“A Pool For The Neighborhood“. The response was generally negative; the consensus being that it was cute, but not powerful. One person went so far as to say “It sucks.”
She replied that her consultants were professional and thought that it was good. Of course, they had been paid to create the slogan, ergo they were favorably disposed to it.
We felt that it was less of a word play and more of a meaningless promise. The problem was a lack of definitive position.
In moments like this we invoke one of our favorite credos:
“Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.” A thief and a pathological liar, Mr. Kasper Gutman, uttered this line to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
Plain speaking is the foundation for clear understanding in our idea of the world. Making information accessible, memorable and applicable to need is imperative to affecting a desired choice. No beating around the bush. No meandering. No maybe. Just spell out the answer.
If any one or anything desires to be a solution, they must be the definitive solution for the problem. Not “A” solution, “The” solution.
In the light of the next day we found the answer to our candidate’s concern. In the first part of the slogan, using “A” instead of “The” was not correctly positioning her as the only choice of reason.
In the second part, using “the” instead of “our” was isolating the choice from the community it serves. "THE Pool for OUR neighborhoods!"
We called the candidate to find out what she thought of our solution.
She answered with, “I like it!”