Jun 17, 2022

Your Personal Tagline—Or, The Joys Of Fiction

Sure, you’re perky. But are you … catchy?

By Ed Goldman

Do you have a personal tagline? If not, I got here just in time. You might get popular at any minute. But without a catchy saying to define your essence, you’ll have bubkis (Yiddish for “nothing at all.” Also a smooch from William Frawley’s character on “My Three Sons”). 

Andy Warhol famously (and allegedly) said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I toss in “allegedly” because I keep finding out that a lot of famous remarks I like to quote may not have been said by those I’ve attributed them to—or the remarks may be slightly different from the way they get bandied about.

Driving under the effervescence

For example, and one I’ve mentioned before, Mark Twain didn’t exactly say, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” What he said, in response to a reporter’s written inquiry about the author’s well-being was this, according to mentalfloss.com (a brand-name I wish I’d made up):

“In 1897, an English journalist from the New York Journal contacted Twain to inquire whether the rumors that he was gravely ill or already dead were indeed true. Twain wrote a response… on June 2, 1897.”

“‘I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about,’ he wrote. ‘I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.'”

To get back: Having a personal tagline isn’t all that new, only the terminology. Some people insist they have a personal code, credo or mantra. I have one or two of these, I’m not ashamed to admit. 

The better one is a saying attributed to the one and only Confucius: “He who expects nothing is never disappointed.” This has had surprising staying power in my life—though uttering it in intimate moments or at award ceremonies to anyone but the winners is probably inadvisable. (It might even get me smacked on the cheek, but that’s so March 27th.)

This is equally true for the character played by Sam Elliott in the movie “Roadhouse” who declares, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I’m not sure I’d find this a dashing display of bravado if the guy saying it was my airline pilot just before we took off in a tornado.

The most essential thing for you to understand about taglines is this: All of them are lies.

Please don’t get upset, marketing community. You know as well as I do—and everybody reading this and even those who wouldn’t be caught dead reading this know that:

  • Disneyland is “The happiest place on Earth” unless you’re one of its gay or trans employees;
  • “Red Bull Gives You Wings” but more likely, tachycardia;
  • BMW is “The Ultimate Driving Machine” until you take a test spin in a Maserati;
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken is “Finger-Lickin’ Good” if your fingers don’t ossify due to a bout of tachycardia.

Adidas would have us believe that “Nothing is Impossible,” though some things actually are if you can’t find a pair of its shoes with proper arch support. Similarly, I’m not entirely convinced that Gillette shaving products are “The Best A Man Can Get” if he’s blessed with good health and a good partner who doesn’t care if he shaves.

Here are some taglines for yourself that I think you might want to try out on your friends. If they’re still your friends afterward, this should tell you something, though I really don’t know what:

  1. “You know me: the coroner everyone’s dying to meet!”
  2. “Well, as I like to say, ‘If you insist on jumping out of an airplane, do spend a little extra and buy the brand-name parachute.'”
  3. “You might say I got into the insurance business kind of by accident. I was T-boned by an agent and with the proceeds from my claim ended up buying his firm out of bankruptcy.”
  4. “I’ve always believed in giving back to my community—especially if they’ve caught me red-handed.”
  5. And finally, here’s my own: “The report of my depth is an exaggeration.”
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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).