Can you sum up your company, product or service in a few short words that either:

  1. Competitively defines what you do or who you are?
  2. Takes ownership of category truism your competitors have overlooked/ignored?
  3. Delivers your benefit in a short memorable way?

These are positioning lines some people refer to as “slogans”. I loath the word ‘slogan’ because to me it implies something, while perhaps clever, empty.

My mentor, the late Gary Prouk, once said that if you read Volkswagon print ads, every sentence could be a headline. Headlines and positioning lines are not easy to write. At least, not easy to write well.

Are you positioned properly and memorably?

Everything you need. Nothing you don’t. (Current client in energy industry)

Helping pets live longer lives. (Ralston’s positioning for over a decade)

Nice people who lend money. (Launch of the Associates into Canada)

Nobody beats Midas. Nobody.* (Midas, USA)

Think Pink (Fiberglass Pink insulation)

These are a few I have written and have often lamented that my writing did not include residuals.

As you can imagine, being paid by the word is not a good business model when writing advertising. Usually, the shorter the better. And if you think writing something short is easy, there are several quotes stating otherwise. “I would have written a shorter letter but I did not have time” is attributed to Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, logician, physicist and theologian. Mark Twain had a similar line as did many others. There is a rather lengthy article on short writing and you can find it here.

There are places for long sentences. These are sentences that usually take you on a journey, describing and carrying you through unfamiliar terrain, with a character you have only just met but will soon be engrossed with, no doubt from an encounter or engagement happening through an event transpiring right there in your lengthy sentence, yet before the sentence has ended you have a clear picture of where your character is, what is happening to him or her and why you should care enough to read on to the next sentence.

It is not uncommon for these to be one sentence paragraphs; a lengthy block of type with who knows how many commas, semi colons or colons but only one period.

In advertising, we are usually discouraged from writing such sentences. (With exceptions, David Ogilvy being the master of those exceptions.) Limited space isn’t the issue. Limited imagination is. So those of us good at what we do in adverting became masters of short sentences. The best of these were what the layman call ‘slogans’ although, as I said, I detest the word.

So in a few short words, try to sum up where you work. If you hate your job, your positioning lines may reflect that and be an inspiration to call a head hunter. I struggled to sum up my company. The name “LowerWorks” may have a lovely double entendre but who cares if we work? A colleague, JJ Murray, has a good one, “The last writer you will ever hire”. Where I ended up isn’t ‘clever’ but it does sum up what we do and why someone should hire us. “Creative marketing proven to work.” And a skeptical response ‘Prove it” is a lovely door opener to impressive case studies.

So much for a few short words. This bloody article is 618 words. Now, at ten cents a word, you can understand why you are confronted with so much blather here on the internet. Many site owners lament about a shortage of content. And at ten cents a word they are scratching their heads wondering why so much of what they push is not worth reading.  

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