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Tom Albrighton

Excellent, very thoughtful post and a great survey of this phenomenon.

You asked why it happens. One simple reason is fashion. Copywriters and CDs hang out, they look at each other's work, they want to be on trend. Conventions appear, take hold and are reinforced by exposure.

A while ago, I wrote about 'that's why':

http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog/2011/05/16/copywriting-for-empathy/

Over one year on, that trend is still going strong. Once you're aware of it, you'll sometimes notice two or three TV ads in a single break using the device.

Although it's a bit of a grunty, prosaic attitude, I think there's something to be said for not writing things that can't be said out loud. Not in the context of a Cannes acceptance speech or a client meeting, but to the audience you're actually addressing.

Would a Bupa rep ever use 'help you find healthy' in their spiel? I suggest not. This sort of writing is very anchored to the page or the ad script. It can't really live outside the 'branding' ecosystem.

By contrast, one can easily imagine a line like 'I'm lovin' it' being jokingly deployed by McDonald's staff, or indeed their customers. That can only strengthen the appeal of the brand. All the strongest lines have the ability to slot into normal discourse, or are drawn from it (Ronseal etc).

Some might argue that's a recipe for very concrete, unpoetic, colloquial lines. But I don't find the sort of line you're discussing particularly poetic - as you say, it's actually just a fairly standard line, given a particular linguistic twist. All these lines are 'different' in the same way.

Nick Asbury

Hi Tom

That's a good point about fashion.

I'm sure it's true that the brands mentioned haven't arrived at the same adjective-to-noun formulation completely independently - it's a figure of speech that has become trendy in brand circles, so it generates its own momentum and will probably carry on for a while, before being replaced by something else.

What interests me is whether these fads simply arise out of nowhere, or whether in some way they reflect the time that creates them...

On the 'say it out loud' point, I think you're certainly right if the aim is for a line to enter into popular discourse, as always used to be the case with ad slogans. However, with the contemporary 'brand line' it feels like this isn't part of the ambition any more - rather than entering the conversation, they want to sound elevated and remote. 'Believe in better' and 'Impossible is nothing' feel like chapter headings in a new-age motivational book, or alternative commandments for a religious cult. Almost like they're designed to define a tribe - you'll understand this if you're 'one of us'.

Not saying that's a good thing, obviously.

Tom Albrighton

@Nick

If you're selling brand seminars to creatives, it's probably a good thing. But if you're selling digital TV subscriptions to average households during a recession…

Johnny Cullen

Couldn't agree more. But how can we save the day? In true British fashion, we should start encouraging other brands to take the mickey.
So come on Mr Harry Ramsden and colleagues, how about a "Believe in Batter"* campaign?
Perhaps the good folks at All-Bran could try "Unpassable is Nothing"*.
And you diamond geezers at the Serious Fraud Office (yes, I know you're busy), what's wrong with "Helping You Find Wealthy"?*

*Important Legal Notice: That'll be £20K for each concept please. Fees to the usual address.

Nick Asbury

Johnny - good points well made. Please be aware of my policy of taking a 50% cut for all slogans suggested on this blog.

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