Beer, Bait, and Ammo

“The sign says beer, bait, and ammo.
Yeah. You ask me, they got it all.”
(“Beer, Bait, and Ammo,” by Kevin Fowler)

It’s 1 a.m. on a slippery-as-snakes county road. You need a Tylenol. The gas gauge is pegged at about 8 o’clock. And your stomach is making noises like a two-cylinder tractor.

And then you see it around the next bend. Glowing in the mist like a diamond in a manure pile. A neon beacon as welcome as any lighthouse ever was to a sailor.

A “beer, bait, and ammo” sign.

Why is this such a comforting sight? Simple. Sure as sunsets, you know what you’ll find inside — and what you won’t.

Marlboro Lights, not Macanudos.
SNICKERS., not crhme br{lie.
Pork rinds, not pork chops.
87-octane, not scented lamp oil.
Catfish bait balls, not tuna sushi.

No surprises. No questions. No wasted time.

This means the stop you’re about to make is worth it. (If you have to use the facilities, it’s really worth it.)

Corporate slogans ought to be like that sign.

Make the stop worth it — for the reader, viewer, or listener. Tell the “media traveler” what’s inside. What business the “store” is in. What they will find on the shelves.

In his book, “Creative Advertising,” Charles L. Whittier says, “A slogan should be a statement of such merit about a product or service that it is worthy of continuous repetition in advertising, is worthwhile for the public to remember, and is phrased in such a way that the public is likely to remember it.”

British ad man Timothy R.V. Foster adds, “The purpose of the strapline (slogan, claim, endline, signature, etc.) is to leave the key brand message in the mind of the target. It is the sign-off that accompanies the logo. It says ‘If you get nothing else from this ad, get this!'”

Problem is, most corporate slogans simply don’t score on the “beer, bait, and ammo” index.

Take this simple test. Give yourself five points for every company or product you can identify from these 10 slogans or tag lines below. All were taken from recent issues of tech magazines.

  • Performance is leading to results.

  • eBusiness Today
  • Central to Your Success
  • Powering E-Marketplaces
  • Integrate, Adapt, and Evolve Your eBusiness
  • For the Next Generation of E-Business.
  • This Way to B2B
  • B2B. As It Was Meant to Be.
  • Architects of an Internet World
  • Empowering the Internet Generation

So how’d you do? Here’s how to evaluate your score:

  • 30 to 50 points: You sell ad space for these magazines.

  • 20 to 30 points: You need a hobby. Urgently.
  • 10 to 20 points: You are extremely lucky, or you cheated and looked in some back issues.
  • 5 to 10 points: You set Mensa records and ought to be on that quiz show with Regis.
  • 0 to 5 points: You are quite normal.

Where I’m from, there’s a saying that’s used to describe a person’s honest, upfront character: “He (or she) puts his (or her) goods in the front window.”

That beer, bait, and ammo sign does it. So should any good slogan or tag line.

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