Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


I’ve been thinking a lot about Shirley Batchelder.

She isn’t a CEO, but perhaps she should have been.

It’s a little late now, as she’s 94 years old. However, she did something that so many large companies get terribly wrong: She created an ad that summed up her message and was entirely clear.

As WMMV-TV reported, Batchelder had always wanted to run an ad. It was, as they say, on her bucket list. Naturally, it was at the very bottom of her bucket.

She bought a 5-second spot on a local Nashville TV station. She understood you can’t cram too much into a 5-second ad. So her ad simply said: “Love One Another.”

She didn’t want to explain what it meant. I have a feeling, though, that for her it summed up the meaning of life.

Before you imagine that someone has slipped a sentimentality drug into my sauvignon blanc, please let me tell you how this is relevant to your business.

If Shirley Batchelder could sum up the meaning of life in three words, why can’t you do the same for the meaning of your business?

Let’s start with a few famous ones, to thrust your thought processes somewhere along the self-awareness axis.

Apple: Surprise And Delight.

Microsoft (for a long time, at least): Buy Or Else.

Facebook: Here Or Nowhere.

McDonalds (for a long time, at least): Cheap Food Now.

Coca-Cola: Happy, Fizzy, Happy.

Google: Information Without Trying.

Verizon: Hey, Phone Works.

AT&T (for a long time, at least): I Am Alone.

Amazon: Here It Is.

You might think this terribly simplistic. Business has to be more complicated than this, surely. Because look at all the vast brains who work in it.

However, I’ve sat in too many meetings where too many otherwise intelligent people debated single words to be put in so-called manifestos or strategy documents. For hours, days and sometimes weeks.

A simple thought would be turned into a longer sentence. A longer sentence would be turned into an even longer sentence with three subordinate clauses. That even longer sentence would become a paragraph. And all because someone in the room felt that they hadn’t managed to contribute a word.

Then the curiously odorous, drug-addled creatives of the ad agency were asked to create a very short ad reflecting all the nuances in this wordy bilge. (And you wonder why they’re drug-addled? And you wonder why most ads are a waste of money?)

Then along comes Shirley Batchelder and distills life into one simple sentence.

So try this Three-Word Test. What is your company in three simple words? What does it mean? What is it trying to achieve? I do hope it’s not just “Get Money Now.” Well, not beyond the sales department.

Try the Three Word Test with your best and brightest. Actually, try it with anyone in your company.

You might find that it isn’t those with “marketing” or “strategy” in their job titles who understand the meaning of your company best of all.

Published on: Jul 20, 2015
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