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Straplines, Brexit, Trump and the business lessons of 2017

by | Dec 27, 2017 | Business

Take Back Control

2017 is a year which will be remembered most for how straplines played out in political realities – In the UK the #brexit Government worked to take back control, and in the US President Trump worked to make America great again.

In reality, when we look back to the start of 2017, we may know more now, but not that much has changed. The UK is still in the EU, for now at least, and America still has “the Donald”, for now at least. The British Economy has grown a bit, Inflation is up a bit, Wages aren’t. In many ways, it was ever thus.

One thing that stood out for me is the power of the soundbite – ’Taking back control’, ‘Making America Great Again’ – for creating a way of galvanising a group of your supporters, even locking them into a falsehood. For example, the ‘return’ to blue passports sold as proof of ‘taking back control’. The catchphrase provides a hook for people to rally behind.

There’s something about these catchphrases. They empower support, partly by nostalgia for a different past, partly by implying something that everyone wants. That desire may be National “Great-ness”, or the power of self-determination. Yet they are also vague, flexible, and open to interpretation. They can create a sense of belonging that blinds rational thought about what the reality is (and that I find disturbing). All these features allow them to work across broad constituencies and flex to varied contexts in the short term. That’s good for winning votes, it’s not good for businesses that want to build long-term value.

The lesson for each of us is whether we can describe what we do for our clients in a similar empowering phrase that resonates with our audience. That gives them a sense of belonging, of choosing the right thing, and of pride in the result. We must do it with integrity and honour, from the truth of wanting a better outcome for our clients, now and for the long term.

We all know some of these, and some work better than others ‘Every Little Helps’, ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’, ‘The Wonderful, Everyday’

What are your favourite business straplines?

Can you describe your business in three or four compelling words?


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Written by: William Buist - all rights reserved.