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.