Tales, Truths & Tirades – 1 December 2016


From Margaret Thatcher’s “Labour Isn’t Working” to Hillary Clinton’s “Fighting For Us”, the three-word political slogan has a rich history. Clever catchwords can grab attention and get a candidate that ultimate gold medal of publicity: The Prime Time Sound Bite.
The hashtag generation and their tweets have brought a new dimension to the short and captivating catchphrase. The slogan is trimmed to a three-syllable motto. There are even “Slogan Generator” apps on the internet. The moment large crowds start chanting your slogan, you know that you have arrived. #FeesMustFall (No explanation needed). #LockHerUp (Poor Hillary). #StopTheBoats (Australia). #FeelTheBern (Uncle Bernie Sanders). #YesWeCan (Barack Obama). #DrainTheSwamp (Donald Trump).
Short and catchy slogans are not just a modern phenomenon. Long before Twitter and hashtags American businessman, Ross Perot, ran as an independent presidential candidate. His catchy campaign slogan in 1992, “Ross For Boss”, did not help him win, but it certainly helped him “steal” enough votes from George Bush Snr for Bill Clinton to become president.
And let’s not forget Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “I Like Ike” campaign buttons in the 1950s. Ike was decades ahead of his time.
Not everyone wants to be original or likes the short slogan. The Donald managed to beat Hillary with Ronald Reagan’s old catchphrase from four decades ago, “Make America Great Again.”
Abraham Lincoln used the phrase “Don’t Change Horses In Midstream” during the 1864 election. Four years earlier, when he was first elected, Honest Abe chose the slogan “Vote Yourself A Farm”, which referred to the Republican Party promise of supporting a law granting free homesteads to settlers of western lands. (Sounds like Our Man Julius!)
A little-known ad agency in the UK, “Yellow M”, came up with probably one of the most memorable single-word slogans of modern times. Tony Blair was Prime Minister and the Scottish Conservatives wanted to object to his policies. The poster designed for their parliamentary elections in 1999 will haunt Mr Blair for the rest of his days. It was not only striking, it was prophetic. Just one word. “BLIAR.”