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Powerlines: Words That Sell Brands, Grip Fans, and Sometimes Change History Hardcover – Jul 1 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomberg Press (July 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576603040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576603048
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #836,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Why do we remember slogans for Diet Coke from the mid 1980s, but not what we had for breakfast yesterday? In this exploration of the phrases, lines and expressions so well-written and compelling that we can't forget them-no matter how hard we'd like to-marketing veteran Cone (Steal These Ideas!) presents "the Powerline Perspective," that all enterprises "rise or fall on powerful lines, mottos, and sayings." After a brief look at the definition and history of the powerline, Cone mines memorable phrases in politics, movies, television and advertising for the hows and whys of their success. Heavy on lists, with analysis for most individual entries, Cone's book is best read in pieces. That said, the practical advice he offers-between cogent consideration of everything from "M&Ms melt in your mouth" and "There's no place like home" to a collection of his 10 favorite poems (with just "a little commentary")-is helpful and straightforward, and often entertaining (if blustery). Marketers, advertisers or campaign managers looking for inspiration could hardly find a better resource.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"An important primer. Steve Cone shows how picking the right words often makes the difference between success and failure."
—Larry King
Host of Larry King Live

"Marketing guru Steve Cone rediscovers the lost art of great slogans, mottos, and taglines. The lesson? Be all that you can be. Shots can still be heard 'round the world. Things go better with inspired taglines. And that's the way it is."
—L. Gordon Crovitz
Former publisher, The Wall Street Journal


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Format: Hardcover
Like anyone that has a marketing or advertising component to their job, finding the right way to break through the clutter and make your message memorable is one of the toughest goals to achieve. I picked up Powerlines by Steve Cone with the hope that it might offer some formula or tips on how to create great powerlines for use in my marketing/advertising copy.

To be clear, Cone defines Powerlines as 'a compelling story about an event, person, place, product, or a part of human nature that has lasting impact. Sometimes these lines are just a few words, sometimes several sentences, and once in a great while, must one word.' This definition in itself is not very powerline-ish but it is a definition ' just one that I couldn't remember off the top of my head and had to go look up just now. He also says powerlines must 'ring true' and they should not overreach.

The author does give some great tips on creating your own powerline, albeit closer to the end of the book. They are:

' Convey a genuine truth or depict an experience'real or imaginary.
' Build them to last and should rarely, if ever, be changed.
' Convey a benefit, show how they will improve our lives, recommend an action or offer some other satisfaction.
' Are made more memorable if they can be set to music or made to rhyme.
' Should be made to move on the screen on television or online.
' Should be a prominent touch point with the consumer, i.e., large and pervasive throughout the campaign.

There's no doubt Cone knows his stuff and I would love to have him over for dinner to discuss advertising and marketing. In the case of Powerlines, I'm not certain Cone set out to actually create a step-by-step plan to come up with great powerlines.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one fascinating book.

`Powerlines' says author Steve Cone are `words well chosen with the power to awe, inspire, motivate, alienate, subjugate, even alter something as significant as the course of history'. `They can even change the buying habits of consumers', he adds, indicating that this a book about marketing and the selling power, not of words in general, but specifically of `words well chosen'-- so apt and apposite that they deliver an impact more powerful than mere slogans and taglines.

`Well, let's have some examples?' I hear you say. The author clearly has his favourites, richly and illustratively sprinkled throughout the text: `A Diamond is Forever'... `Come to Marlboro Country' and so forth.

I have my own favourites, as does everyone. Martin Luther King's `I have a dream' is one. JFK's `Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country' is another. `Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears...' and `their finest hour' are obviously from the prolific pen of Churchill who must be up there with Shakespeare as the finest powerliner in history.

As for the famous DeBeers ads, I think they slightly missed the boat. They could have used `Diamonds are Forever' which, possibly because it expresses the same thought in the plural, is curiously more compelling. It certainly delivered impressive audiences and impressive amounts of box office cash to the collective James Bond enterprise.

Which goes to show the power of a powerline over a mere tagline? `Yes, America Can' attributed to George Bush (just which one isn't specified) falls under the author's general category of `putting America to sleep.' `What a snore,' he says. Slogan it may be, but it is not a powerline like Obama's `Yes we can.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Want to be a more effective marketer? Read this book... May 1 2008
By Sing Chan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Powerlines is both a quick study on how to create more effective slogans and taglines - the heart of any successful marketing campaign - and a thoughtful primer on how the right words can deliver the brand promise to today's consumers. The book is filled with real life examples of how well-chosen words can turn an ordinary product into an extradordinary brand. Powerlines is a marketing professional's canon on how words sell brands, but fans of politics and social history will also find this an entertaining read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I'm really not convinced Sept. 12 2008
By Andrew S. Rogers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The second half of "Powerlines" is a decent marketing primer on taglines -- how to recognize good ones and how to create them yourself. It's useful information for advertisers and marketers to know. But Steve Cone is trying to make the tagline into something much more: a "powerline" that achieves the great things described in his subtitle. I don't think his analysis and his examples support his claims.

Cone writes "Most companies that have been marketing leaders over long periods of time employed taglines that built their brand promise into a powerful motivator for consumers to react to and purchase their product" (p. 198).

But have they? In the many examples the author gives of powerful branding taglines, he never proves the tagline was an essential element in making the sale. As the number-crunchers say, he doesn't isolate the variable. Is the "ultimate driving machine" tagline really "a major contributor to BMW's success" (p. 188)? Or is it a crystallization of a host of things -- engineering, luxury, reputation -- that have made BMW a powerful brand? After all, Toyota is the world's leader in car sales and number two in the United States, but do they have a decades-old "powerline" driving their sales? It may be a chicken-or-egg question, but that's just my point.

Perhaps the clearest example of the author's failure to link "powerline" with sales is his mention, several times, of Ed McMahon's "Heeeere's Johnny!" call at the start of Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show." Yes, it was memorable and distinctive, but was it "influential"? Only if Cone is suggesting people tuned into the program, not for the guests or the music or the comedy or Johnny himself, but to hear Ed's invocation.

I guess what my hesitation comes down to is whether "being memorable" is enough. Certainly it's nice. But as a marketer, I'm not being paid to create memories. I'm being paid to drive sales.

I said above that the second half of this book is a good marketing primer. The first half is mostly the author's discussion of memorable "powerlines" from politics and the media. Unfortunately, his explanation or analysis of these were surprisingly often flawed. (Some of these examples may be nitpicky -- but enough nits gathered in one place suggest a serious health issue.)

For example, Cone starts (pp. 8-11) by telling the stories behind some famous nursery rhymes. But much of what he tells as straightforward fact is actually theory and can't be proven. Others, like "Three Blind Mice" being about Queen Mary I or "Ring Around the Rosy" being about the plague, are urban myths debunked on well-known reference sites like snopes-dot-com. In the section on political slogans, he cites "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" as a Hoover campaign slogan in 1928 (p. 57). In fact, as political-writer and word-maven William Safire notes in his essential Safire's New Political Dictionary, the phrase (usually given as "two cars in every garage" or "a car in every back yard") was most closely associated with Democrat Al Smith, who used it as an attack on the incumbent GOP.

Finally, a trifecta in his discussion of Theodore Roosevelt (pp. 49-50), who did not order the navy to paint its ships white (USN battleship hulls were white well before the Spanish-American War, as contemporary photographs show); he did not coin the "powerline" "White Water Navy" (the "popular way to describe naval power" is *blue*-water navy); and he did not coin the phrase "The Square Deal" "during his second term" to describe a program including "the establishment of the National Park System" (again Safire, who shows TR first used the phrase in 1901 -- that is, in his first term -- and that "the Square Deal" always referred to trust-busting and other regulation of Big Business, not to things like the park system).

In a way, all this reinforces the question I asked above: is it enough to be memorable? As Cone writes about some great movie taglines, "These lines have struck a chord with our social conscience and live on and on -- the true test of any powerline" (p. 104).

But is that marketing?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
WORDS WELL CHOSEN May 24 2009
By Phillip Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one fascinating book.

`Powerlines' says author Steve Cone are `words well chosen with the power to awe, inspire, motivate, alienate, subjugate, even alter something as significant as the course of history'. `They can even change the buying habits of consumers', he adds, indicating that this a book about marketing and the selling power, not of words in general, but specifically of `words well chosen'-- so apt and apposite that they deliver an impact more powerful than mere slogans and taglines.

`Well, let's have some examples?' I hear you say. The author clearly has his favourites, richly and illustratively sprinkled throughout the text: `A Diamond is Forever'... `Come to Marlboro Country' and so forth.

I have my own favourites, as does everyone. Martin Luther King's `I have a dream' is one. JFK's `Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country' is another. `Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears...' and `their finest hour' are obviously from the prolific pen of Churchill who must be up there with Shakespeare as the finest powerliner in history.

As for the famous DeBeers ads, I think they slightly missed the boat. They could have used `Diamonds are Forever' which, possibly because it expresses the same thought in the plural, is curiously more compelling. It certainly delivered impressive audiences and impressive amounts of box office cash to the collective James Bond enterprise.

Which goes to show the power of a powerline over a mere tagline? `Yes, America Can' attributed to George Bush (just which one isn't specified) falls under the author's general category of `putting America to sleep.' `What a snore,' he says. Slogan it may be, but it is not a powerline like Obama's `Yes we can.' There is something about the pronoun `we' (juxtaposed with `yes') which is involving, memorable and succinct. If you're in advertising or journalism, you'll know the pronoun `you' is even better. Of course, the book's 2008 publication date is a little late for the amiable author to have mined the seam of powerlines emanating from the Obama camp.

While trawling through history for powerline-delivering politicians, poets, military strategists and latterly, marketing men, Cone cites amusingly bad power lines as well as good ones. Examples: the RBS `make it happen' tagline means, as the author says, `absolutely nothing.' Honda's `The Power of Dreams' also gets short shrift. `Maybe their latest models put you in a dreamlike state?' sneers the author. `Not a good thing if you are taking a curve at forty-five miles per hour.'

Succinctness, relevance and meaning are surely components of a great power line, although coming up with one is no easy task. Rule Number One in my book would be, cut out the verbiage and the pretentiousness.

`Less is more,' says Steve Cone. `Great lines are poetry in motion. Every word counts and the whole line must mean something special--so special it has to be remembered.' I could also add that great powerlines must stand out from the information overload which burdens everyday life and I agree with the author observation that 'sadly, the art of creating powerlines is largely forgotten in today's advertising world'.

Another pungent quote from this entertaining Bloomberg publishing house book is that so far, twentieth century marketers haven't created much in the way of lines that make us think, smile or are easy to remember. Perhaps this century needs a good tagline.

The good news is that there is still plenty of time! There certainly is and this book shows all the Steve Cone words are well chosen.

ISBN: 978-157660-304-8
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The ultimate marketing primer! April 30 2008
By Evelyn Keyes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With Powerlines Steve Cone rounds the circle, completing this revolutionary book on why companies, cultures, political candidates and countries live and die by using brilliant and not so brilliant slogans and taglines! Cone identifies campaigns and marketing messages throughout history and ultimately provides you with an all time indispensable book that should be on the desk of every advertising and marketing professional in the universe. Cone is the forefront of marketing wisdom!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Playing around Powerlines Oct. 26 2008
By Tod S. Christianson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a study of the nature of marketing that emphasizes those "Powerlines" or taglines that manage to enthrall the consumer and even become part of the popular culture. This analysis is from the point of view of author Steve Cone's perspective as a marketing executive.

As a reader with no background in marketing, I found this book to be a thorough and accessible survey. It begins with the history of Powerlines that traces back to the use of nursery rhymes and folk tales. In this sense the Powerlines of history have become unconsciously entrenched in our language. This is essentially etymology, but it is always fascinating and it useful to engage in this study from a marketing approach. The author then continues to analyze Powerlines that were coined as a result of politics.

As technology progressed the nature of Powerlines evolved to take advantage of new types of media. Jingles evolved along with radio. I was particularly interested in the success and nature of an early radio jingle for the Pepsi product. I actually searched The Internet for an audio version of this and I haven't been able to find it yet. There is something about these jingles that does capture the spirit and nature of its time, and I find myself yearning to experience it first hand.

There is some fascinating history that goes along with the marketing of some products. For example, I was not aware that "M&Ms" were based on an earlier British product developed for soldiers in the field called "Smarties". I am a Canadian and I grew up eating "Smarties", there were no "M&Ms". By the way, Smarties had their own very effective jingle...."When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last...".

Along the way the author points out the characteristics and strategies for creating effective advertising with Powerlines. He also critiques many existing advertising schemes in various media. I am sure that marketing professionals would find this analysis interesting. Some of this analysis was a little repetitive, there were several times in the text were the author was critical of the overuse of the idea of "life" in advertising strategies.

The author also spends quite a bit of time on negative critiques, to be fair, there were positive ones but I came away with a feeling of emphasis on the negative rather than the positive. An idea that might of mitigated this would be to have done a hypothetical cases study in which the author could have shown how to approach the problem and devise some meaningful Powerlines.

Overall, however, this book is an informative and enjoyable read. The author has an easy and engaging writing style and the book is well paced and extensively supplemented with illustrations.


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