Slogans can make or break your campaign.

Question 1 on the Maine ballot is a complex one that affects people’s lives in a profound way. It’s also polarizing, with each side providing compelling emotional stories to support their beliefs.

Believe me when I tell you that the success of No on 1, securing 73% of the votes, was based largely on their slogan. Protect Maine Children addresses their beliefs in a clear, emotional, and unifying way. No one can argue that we all want to protect our children.

What the Yes on 1 campaign failed to convey was that Mainers have already been protecting children for 200 years, voluntarily, and with civil liberties intact. Maine kids are healthy, hardy, outdoorsy… and had Yes on 1 won, also free.

And since we can learn a lot more from our failures than from successes, here are ways the Yes on 1 campaign failed and the marketing lessons we can learn from that. Consider these points when coming up with slogans for your companies and organizations.

  1. Clarity. Yes on 1 had two slogans. Reject Big Pharma and Restore Medical Freedom muddied the waters with one too many messages. One strong message is better than several diluted ones.
  2. Emotion. The words “Big Pharma” and “Medical Freedom” are cold and distant concepts. Protect Maine Children exuded a warmth that comes from the heart, never mind that the way they propose to do so is by mandating medical procedures on a rigid schedule. Get to the heart of your mission and bring it home.
  3. Unity. The words “Big Pharma” and “Medical” are polarizing and divisive. Some people consider the medical world to be their savior, while others have been hurt by their procedures. Yes on 1 needed a slogan that would unify Mainers. A statement that says, “We Mainers do things this way.”

So what would the process of brainstorming a slogan be like? Let’s begin by filling in the blank, “Mainers ___.”

Mainers protect their children. Great one, already taken.

Mainers defend freedom. Good one, and on the 200th anniversary of the birth of this state, a great one to uphold. How can we make it warmer and bring it home?

Mainers defend the freedom of Maine families.

Shorter and punchier version. Defend Maine families.

Now think about your company’s or organization’s slogan. Can it be better?

On the way to school this morning

My kid pointed out a pickup truck in front of us with a wooden plank as its rear bumper.

I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t notice. I was doing some face yoga.”

As we drove I pondered, “Wood is usually held in place with nails and screws. How is this plank attached to a piece of metal?”

Traffic slowed down at the school and I got to look at this thing up close. Four big bolts! Well, Jesus take the wheel, Mainers are so ingenious!

Then we got to the drop off loop and we saw a girl in a denim miniskirt. It’s 23 degrees out! I shook my head and did some more face yoga.

Over holiday break I drove from our quaint little coastal town in Maine to New York City.

statue of liberty at night

I was so nervous in Boston that I let so many cars go by before I pulled into a merge. It made me doubt whether I had the confidence to drive in a big city.

It’s not that I had never driven in city traffic before. On the contrary, I first learned how to drive in Manila, the world’s most densely populated city and notorious for the worst traffic on Earth. I was taught how to be a defensive driver, able to weave in and out of congested traffic with the badasses.

When I moved to Stockton, California, I aced my driver’s license exam and learned how to follow the rules of the road. Speed limits, what a concept! Courtesy to other drivers, yes, please! Stopping at stop signs even when there was no one watching, my mind was blown! I became adept at both highway and neighborhood driving. I attained a balance of assertiveness and respect behind the wheel. I drove in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between.

Then I moved to Maine. I learned what winter driving was all about. I learned to be alert for wildlife. I learned to love the long and lonely country drives. All I needed was an awesome playlist and snacks for the road.

After the initial shock of Boston, I took a deep breath and eased myself into city driving through the rest of Massachusetts and Connecticut. By the time I drove into the parking garage directly across from my hotel in Times Square, I was back! You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

It made me think about muscle memory and what other dormant skills I have that I would like to reawaken. Here’s a partial list: playing the piano, sight-reading sheet music, performing onstage, learning foreign languages, swimming, riding a bike, yoga…

The secret is to ease into it. Do a little bit more each day.

So here I am, taking a small step by blogging. Welcome me home!