Sunday, March 22, 2015

You Had Me At (Fill In the Blank)

Whoopi Goldberg talked about her reaction whenever she hears the phrase “You had me at ‘hello’.” For those living under a rock, she was referencing the classic Renée Zelwegger line to Tom Cruise in the film Jerry Maguire. I don’t remember exactly what Whoopi said, but I believe it had to do with her wanting to finish the line with something other than ‘hello.’ Or maybe she hated it altogether. In any case…

This got me thinking: What line that begins with “You had me at…” would grab my attention? Thus far, I haven’t come up with a universal word to fill in the blank, one that would stop me in my tracks no matter what the circumstances. I have, however, come up with several that would do it in specific situations.

Certainly in a retail environment “You had me at ‘free’” would do the trick. That doesn’t mean I’d take the free item, but I’d definitely give it a look-see before I went on my way. Many of the other had-me-ats that I came up with are short phrases. Among these are “senior discount,” “includes shipping” and “extra gas points.”

Not surprising given my age, several of my phrases are health-related. Take for instance “low salt,” “covered by Medicare,” “easy to swallow” and lately “gluten free.” (My husband has self-diagnosed that he’s gluten intolerant. Don’t ask.) There are quite a few others in this category, but I’m not going to list all of them. You can probably come up with plenty of your own.

Some popular marketing jargon that could be hot buttons for me, depending on my mood (read: how much wine I’ve had) includes “convenient,” “money back guarantee” and “for a limited time.” In the order in which they’re listed, I’d need an increasing number of glasses of vino to care about those promises. “For a limited time” usually means about as long as it takes me to finish a bottle of chianti. That’s also about how much I’d need to have imbibed to take the bait.

I used to sit up when I heard “quick.” Now that I’m retired, I don’t care a lot about how much time something may take to accomplish. “No mess” and “long lasting,” on the other hand, are still motivational for me. I should mention that the way I define “long lasting” has changed as I've gotten older. It used to mean for at least 20 years. Now I consider 5 years a long time. In contrast, my definition of “no mess” has become more rigorous. If it will take over five minutes to clean up, I’m not interested.

Certain words and phrases are more appealing as I age. Among these are “comfortable” and “easy to use.” Both of these are moving targets, however, meaning that something that is comfortable today might be annoying next week. Likewise, it may be easy to use this week, but frustrating to manage next month. Note to marketers: If this is your go-to pitch, you’d better get me on the hook now. Tomorrow all bets are off.

Then there’s a bunch of slogans that would easily reel me in, but that we don’t often hear. In that group you’ll find “hard to lose,” “impossible to forget,” “24-hour technical support” and “made especially for those with arthritic fingers.” These shouldn’t require an explanation, except that “hard to lose” refers to physical items, not weight.

Some claims that once might have “had me” but no longer cut through my mental clutter are “physician recommended,” “AARP approved,” “one of Oprah’s favorite things” and “as seen on The View.” I no longer trust physicians to endorse anything; they’re in the pockets of big pharma and medical device manufacturers. AARP’s approval is now an advertiser’s bonus. Oprah has moved on (and so have I), and The View post-Joy Behar and Barbara Walters is rarely worth tuning in.

Let’s face it. We get crankier as we get older. I suppose if there were one go-to way to fill in the blank that would have a good chance of getting my attention, it’s probably “You had me at ‘goodbye’.” On that note…

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