by Dana Detrick-Clark
Ahhh…Zingers! Remember those? They weren’t quite Twinkies, not cupcakes either, and also, not delicious in any way? When I was a little girl, and they were made by Dolly Madison (the company, not the former first lady of the U.S.), they were one of the few treats you could get at the day-old bread store where my family got our bread. They put Snoopy on the packaging, which made it irresistible if you were under the age of 10, regardless of taste.
I clearly remember my one and only Zinger experience. I was probably about seven years old, and sampled first a two-pack of Vanilla Zingers, then ate a grapefruit. This made sense in my mind, because both were the same soft shade of yellow.
The vomit, however, was more of a chunky electric pink, and as I type this, the memory is vivid enough that I can still taste it. Nice.
The moral of the story is that Zingers still make me puke. But now Zingers are those hideous little one-liners, tag lines, and USPs that don’t make any sense and keep us all from getting deeper to the heart of why we’re here and what we’re doing for each other.
When it comes to taglines, everybody wants a good one, y’know…”Just do it”, “It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s” (you totally heard the song when you read that). But unless you’re doing national ad campaigns, is a tagline really something that you even need? Is yours telling your customers or clients anything about you other than that you have a lot of time on your hands to try to think for them?
I bought into this I need one logic years ago, and spent months and months trying to come up with one for every facet of my company. I did my research and found no other record label was using one. “Yay!” I thought. “I’ll really be setting myself apart! Why are they so stupid?!” (This won’t be the last time I call major record labels stupid and mean it).
But they aren’t using one because everyone knows what a record label is and what it does. No one goes to a record label site looking for that label to do something for them (unless they’re an artist that wants to get signed, which means they’ve probably already lost. In that case, the USP would be “___ Records. We’ll send you a form letter saying No!”). People are there looking for artists they like, so a site’s job is just to make that action happen as quickly and easily as possible.
People don’t buy music because of the label. People buy music because of the music.
What you do is your calling card. If you do it well enough, you don’t need to pitch ‘em.
As for the other kind of Zinger, if you’ve ever belonged to a coaching program or some kind of “GroupThink” based organization, cult, or polo team, you know what I’m talking about. They’re the little catch phrases that bite you in the ass every time you try to dig deeper into what the organization is doing, and what information you really need. Cliches and quotes that eventually you’ll just tell yourself automatically instead of bothering people with your silly questions. A lot of marketers and snake oil salesmen use this sort of NLP-based marketing to build legions of followers promoting their brands and bringing family and friends into the fold.
I spent far too much of my young adulthood reading Dystopian fiction to let myself get too lost in this sort of behavior, but I’ve done my fair share. Who knew, love is actually not as good as soma, and every now and again, getting (or giving) an “I don’t know the answer to that” actually makes you feel better, because it’s not robotic–it’s human.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Be human. Think about why people are really there, and don’t try to trick them into being there for the reasons you want them to be there (i.e. make it all about you).
So beware the Zingers. Just be you. And don’t follow anything with grapefruit, no matter how much they color coordinate.
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