Be Careful of Catchy Slogans

For some reason, I like to examine statements for their potential mixed messages. Corporate slogans or platitudes are examples which often get my attention. Two of my favorites are “the customer is always right” and “our associates are our most important asset.” They both sound positive and affirming, but unfortunately they are a bit deceptive in actuality.

For example, if you have an overseas customer “service” call center which is simply awful, and you hear an endless number of complaints from customers about it, you better do something. Otherwise you risk sending the message that the customer (perhaps thousands of them) is not so right after all.

Regarding associates as our best asset, how does this play out when the company dumps some of their best assets in order to contract with an outside group – and the quality and results of the outsourced work are unquestionably lousier.

Examples such as these bring a question to my mind. “Under what circumstances” is the customer always right or are the associates are most important asset? Is it all the time or conditional? From what I have seen, for these particular slogans (and no doubt others) to be truthful, there frequently needs to be a small addition to them. And it usually has to do with money. The more accurate statement by some organizations would be “our associates are our most important asset – unless we can get the work done cheaper by someone else.” Or, “the customer is always right, as long as we keep making money on them, or don’t have to spend extra money to satisfy them.”

Rest assured there are a number of great companies who put their money where their mouths are and do live up to their lofty aspirational statements. And interestingly enough, they continue to survive the tough economic periods and prosper over time.

So, be very careful when you put forth an idealist statement of values or intent. It will cost you something to live it. And you will have to prove your case with your consistent actions.

PS: I would love to hear some of the slogans you hear, which causes you to question their authenticity.


  1. It is a sad story to consider the authenticity of a slogan. However, I question the slogan more often than not. Matching the motto to actions becomes a chicken or the egg question. Obviously, companies want to improve their performance so sending a message with the hope of achieving it is not always bad. But should the actions of the company take place with the slogan referring to past performance?

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