What’s the Deal With Automobile-Brand Tag Lines?

What’s the Deal With Automobile-Brand Tag Lines?

I’m posing my lead-in question in Seifeldspeak because I’m as flummoxed, vexed, bewitched, bothered and bewildered as he was in his stand-ups. And, as in his stand-up openings , I’ll try to answer my own question to the best of my shriveling abilities.

Mind you, about half the tag lines I run across in general knit my brow in bemusement or arch it in amusement. But before I take a stab at explaining the reasons leading to some conclusions (I’ve saved that for this blog’s conclusion), I’m cataloging car-brand tagline violations exclusively. Why? Because the car-brand category has recorded the thickest rap sheet. Here goes:

Mercedes. The best or nothing. In short, if you can’t afford a Mercedes, don’t bother driving. Unless, hmm, they mean if you can’t afford a Lamborgini, don’t drive anything–and that includes a Mercedes. Who knows?

It’s not a car, it’s a Volkswagon. Maybe if they had said “It’s not just a car….” As it stands, this tag line doesn’t rule out the possibility that it may be a Roman chariot. Or perhaps even a brussels sprout.

Unleash a Jaguar: The metaphor would work if we could find any human who walks his pet jaguar for an daily poo poo and pee pee.

Cadillac. The Penalty of Leadership. Poor, poor Cadillac. Hope it’s not a 15-yarder for illegal grounding. Being grounded is not a good look for a Caddy.

Hyundai, It’s your journey. Own It. Frankly, this is an abject tautology. Anything that yours, you , well, already own. Don’t you? It would be much better if you owned–instead of the journey–the car itself. Wouldn’t it?

Alfa Romeo: Beauty is not enough. Depends. For instance, if I got a date with, say, Penelope Cruz…well…

The car in front is a Toyota: Always wanted to know what brand that slowpoke beater was–the one causing that half-mile backup.

Audi. Never follow. Same defect as that Toyota above. Another damn slow beater, but this one will cost you more.

Saturn. Like always. Like never before. Like, whaaat?

Mercury. Live life in your own lane. Forgive me, but isn’t that encouragement to become a criminal. Or maybe Mercury is just suggesting you’re allowed to drive full time on the side road. Also against the law.

Plymouth. The pride is back. Drive an American. Apparently Plymouth wasn’t very proud of the cars they had been recently manufacturing. Message to those of you who bought them: “Too bad, suckers”.

Plymouth: Isn’t this the kind of car America wants? Here’s a slogan just begging for the answer “NO”.

Wouldn’t you really rather a Buick? Really? Again? An immutable rule of slogan–devising should be: Never, never, never ask a question that pleads with a few hundred-thousand smart-alecks to intone–in simultaneous chorus—NOOOOO!

Chevy: Find new roads. Okay already, Chevy, we already know about America’s crummy highway infrastructure. And that your suspension may not be able to handle any of the bumps, potholes, crumbling surfaces, etc.

Saab. Find your own road, Saab. apparently not quite satiated in pinching most of Chevy’s “Road” slogan ( snugly above) scanned Stephen Potter and decided to one-up Chevy. Subtext: “Hell with you, GM, we don’t have to hunt for (and maybe trespass on) no stinkin’ new roads; we can find ones we already own.

Chevy. The more you know, the better it looks. Cavalier. We’ll be there. Looks like the corporate decision makers couldn’t make up their minds between two proposed slogans. So they called it a dead heat, decided to buy both, called the two a single sloan, called it a day and wobbled off to that day’s thirteenth Meeting.

And now for the car consumer who buys into the idea that an inanimate machine deserves to be winched up to the emotional altitude occupied by ones own spouse, children, parents, grand parents, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. …..,there are these :

Love It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru: And here I thought it was mostly robot technology. How foolish of me.

Volvo: For the love of the car. With commercials underscored by a recording of the song “Love Swede Love.” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Honda. It must be love. On the other hand, that dizzy spiraling feeling that’s making you swoon might just be carbon monoxide poisoning..

Chrysler: Drive=Love. Drivel=Chrysler.

Chevy. The heartbeat of America. Motoring Love means no triple bypasses.

Okay, that’s enough Love for one blog

Ford. Built for the road ahead, But if you prefer, costly options: Reverse gear. Turn signaling.

Ford. Go further. If someone had appointed Ford CEO’s fourth grade English teacher, Miss Pringle, on the slogan-approval committee, I have a sneaking suspicion that the line would have been corrected to “Go farther.”

Mercedes. Engineered to move the human spirit. Apparently Mercedes models come pre-haunted by eerily active specters. Yet, This slogan must have increased sales among Ghost Busters. Nobody else had a ghost of a chance getting the drift of it.

If it’s not trail rated, it’s not a Jeep. Was there ever a more patently disingenuous act of verbal slight-of-hand? Just confect your own artificial category with its own artificial name, and then it’s just a matter of snapping the fingers of that hand to proclaim that nobody else measures up to your artificial benchmark, Anybody who failed to see through this ruse, doesn’t deserve the Badjack Medal of International Perspicacity.

And then there are three Freudian approaches to selling cars.

Everyone dreams of owning an Audi: I don’t know about you guys, but my dreams involve Penelope Cruz, Beyonce and Kiera Knightly, no Audi in sight. As for you women out there, I’m betting that Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper and Colin Furth crowd out Audi from your sleepytime dance-cards.

2.Honda, The power of dreams. What ad agency blue-skied this miasma of psychotherapy-gone-berserk, Freud, Freud & Freud? Clearly a Freudian slip away from reality.

3. That’s not your imagination. That’s the Plymouth. Comfort for any hallucinating schizophrenics.

Alfa Romeo: Beauty is not enough. Depends. For instance, if I were dating, say, Beyonce this time..well….

It’s different in a Saturn: I guess test-drives include boinking in the back seat.

(Two Subaru slogans might as well have been welded into one. )

Think. Feel. Drive. + When you get it. You get it, Frankly, I didn’t get either —-separate or together.

Mitsubishi. Wake up and drive. With each test drive, one sniff of cocaine supplied. Customers already Woke need not apply.

Fiat. Hand-built by robots. Hey, Fiat, either you’ve tried to be ironic and failed, or the translation from the Italian failed. If irony was intended, it didn’t work. What’s more it crept beyond contradiction and into stark collision.

Mitsubishi. Drive at earth. Hey, Mitsubishi, either your test drives take place in a soy-bean field or the translation from the Japanese failed.

Mazda. Zoom Zoom Zoom. With Mazda’s encouragement, some buyers probably wound up among their state’s top-ten speeding-ticket recipients. And some of them have to face the gloom gloom gloom of their driver’s license’s doom doom doom. Rumor has that Mazda is working on a model with even more horsepower. Motto: Vroom Vroom Vroom. Driving with this much power and this much urging from Mazda, buyers might just end up in an early tomb tomb tomb.

Phew! I think that’s enough for now.

And now, in conclusion, my take on why slogans wind up–or should I say wind down?–in bottomless sinkholes of vapidity.

We all know the epigram “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”. Let me submit that a slogan is all too often a catch phrase ratified by a committee.

I’ve been to a slogan-presentation or two myself; so take my word for it that this happens all to often. A spellbinding ad agency creative director spins out his pitch with vocal glissandos calculated to hypnotize a corporate committee made of starry-eyed Babbits in possession of about a much cultivation as a set of plastic forks. Typically, one exec is reading the room, checking out the body language of the higher-branch primates . (This is the only skill he’s managed to evolve over his years moored in middle management But it’s good enough to warrant a seat at the conference room table). Other tree dwellers there are too embarrassed to admit they don’t come close to extruding any meaning from the CD-prescribed slogan So they decide to just like it. Yet others are so transfixed by the swaggering march of the CD’s oratory, they unconditionally surrender to the irresistible force of the rationale he’s advanced. (ne or two–though themselves silently deeming the slogan’s meaning blurry and elusive– figure that the generally anesthetized public–believing as they do in all other sorts of poppycock– will somehow accept the idea that the slogan must make sense. Besides, it’s near lunchtime and most in the coterie are eager to get their clutches on those lunchtime cocktail glasses awash with all manner of Martini. Oh, and let us not forget the leader of the pack, the CEO. It’s not unusual for him (usually a him) to figure that the slogan–though perhaps a bit vague—is, above all, high sounding. So, he reckons it’s Good Enough. After all, he hasn’t much more to go on. Bottom line, one primate, the CEO, confidently, enthusiastically, unanimously okays the slogan.

If you think that decisions can’t be reached so brainlessly in Committeeland, consider this. A car-brand committee once brainstormed a model named after two avowed enemies of each other–indeed two populations history tells us slaughtered each other with regularity and elation– The Jeep Cherokee Pioneer.

And thus an inorganic camel was born.


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