What If My Ship Comes In and I’m at the Airport?

Avoid cliché’s like the plague.” - Samuel Goldwyn

One of my favorite Washington Post features is a section every Sunday called Life is Short in which readers sum up their life in 100 words or less.

My all-time favorite, James Boeringer (who looked to be about 80 in his picture), said, “I’m getting on, but I still find ways to be useful. This morning I noticed that our salt was in the shaker with the little holes and our pepper was in the one with the big holes. I got two pieces of clean paper and empted the salt onto one and the pepper onto the other. Then I used the papers to funnel the condiments into the appropriate containers. I didn’t mess up the tablecloth.

My wife had been watching and when I was finished, she asked ‘Why didn’t you just exchange the caps?’”

Arrghh. I named a POP! technique in Mr. Boeringer’s honor – it’s called Exchange the Cliché’s.

The premise of POP! is that people are tired of hearing same-old, same-old. Anytime someone says, “TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More,” they inwardly groan. If we point out, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” eyes roll and minds wander.

Please note: it’s not that the above sentiments aren’t true; they’re just not new.

People are so busy these days, they decide in the first minute whether we’re worth listening to. If we state the obvious, they conclude they don’t have to pay attention because we’re not saying anything they haven’t heard before.

That’s why, in the crucial first 60 seconds, we’ve got to introduce something that pleasantly surprises listeners, readers, and viewers. What will literally stop them in their tracks and motivate them to give us their valuable time and attention?

One way to do that is to re-arrange cliché’s instead of repeat them. Instead of trotting out a tired truism, replace an anticipated word with an unexpected variation. This is the essence of humor. Comedians verbally zig when you expect them to zag which produces a mental smile or a chuckle.

A great example of this Exchange the Cliché’ technique is Avon’s brilliant slogan for their campaign to fight breast cancer, “Good things come to those who . . . walk.”

Marilynn Mobley, a member of my master-mind group and Sr. VP of Edelman (the #1 PR agency in the country) gives a keynote on communication called “I Heard You Twice the First Time.”

A local bake shop which specializes in fresh bread posted this sign in its window, “Give Yeast a Chance.”

If I had eBay as a client, I’d recommend an ad campaign featuring happy customers proudly showing their purchases with the slogan, “Go ahead, make my eBay.” If I had the Hummer (the iconoclastic ex-military vehicle) account, I’d suggest an ad with the question, “Do you march to the beat of a different Hummer?”

This technique can also help you craft an intriguing Elevator Speech that captures the favorable interest of everyone you meet and motivates them to say “Tell me more.”

Visit www.SamHornPOP.com for info on my upcoming tele-seminar on May 29 entitled “Create a Tell ‘n Sell Elevator Speech that Opens Doors and Closes Deals.”

  • http://hopeandspray.com Charlie – hope & spray

    Thank you for inspiring what I think is a great new slogan for my spray-painted shirt business:

    All shirt and no spray makes Jack a dull boy.

    Not only do I think it’s cute, it succinctly states the purpose of my shirts: to get people out of plain shirts and into interesting ones. More purposeful than my current slogan, “spray it, don’t say it.”

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