The Word Works

Reading Matter


In some times, "love" works. In others "love" doesn't work.

Published By: John on 02/25/13

When I read this essay, I remember the 1985 campaign for Kirin Beer. It featured Sylvester Stallone with the headline “Love, Courage and Can Beer.” To me it was memorable. Now I wonder if it was a dud.

Time doesn’t stand still. The times are always changing.
Companies, businesses, the consumers we target, the creators who make ads: all are swept up in the flow. All have to deal with changing values and zones of concern. The rhetoric with which we touch consumers’ hearts is always unsettled.
Advertising is always changing. It has to. There are periods in which certain words seem right but also periods in which they don’t. Let’s get specific. Up until the early 1990s, big, splendid words were out. They wouldn’t move anyone.
In advertising, the ulterior motive is obvious. The bigger and more splendid the words, the more they stink of lying. Those who hear them are put off. Overused, they induce loathing.
Ads that people hate are pointless. To use a company’s money in this negative way is a rotten thing for any professional to do.
There are some words that never work: “best,” “ultimate,” “reliable.” If people believed what they say, there would be no need for copywriters. The only thing worse is the kind of language that politicians use in debates. Use them in advertising and people will think you’re an idiot. Make no mistake about it. They will never trust you.
Back in the 1980s, we couldn’t use big words like “love” and “courage.”  But now the times have changed. “Could be love. Love” for Suntory Cocktail Bar canned cocktails broke the spell. When I saw that headline I said to myself, now we can use “love” again.
But we have to be careful. The “love” in this headline is not what love used to be. The combination of “Could be love” and “Love” is new.
Now that it is possible to use “love” again, we can also use words at the same level. So, for example, I wrote “Sometimes love. Sometimes courage. We carry invisible things.” That headline was for a corporate image campaign for the railroad company JR Kyushu.
Now at least some big words once again touch those who hear them.
“Love” and “courage.” How much longer can we use them?

In Nakahata’s examples the use of “love” hesitates. The Japanese suggests concern that “love” is a possibility, but not a burning, imperative passion. Very different this is from “Love, Courage and Canned Beer” with Stallone in full blown Rocky and Rambo mode.


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