August 23, 2001
Out of habit, I normally buy gasoline at a Citgo station near my house. If the Citgo station is crowded, I drive down the street to a Marathon station. The last time I pulled up to the Marathon pumps, I noticed something that hadn't caught my eye before. Next to the Marathon sign on the portico is the slogan: "Best in the long run."
Interestingly, after finally noticing the slogan, I realized it didn't do anything to alter my propensity to prefer Citgo over Marathon. Undoubtedly, a marketing team must have labored long hours to come up with the slogan, and the company probably spent considerable sums putting it over every pump in the Marathon chain. But insofar as I am concerned, the effort was a waste of time and money. This particular slogan -or any such mumbo jumbo -is not likely to make me change my buying habits.
Why have I fixated on this slogan for the topic of my column? Because marketing people think slogans are a potent tool for motivating people and getting them to alter their habits and proclivities. Maybe you never noticed it, but even automobile companies think voodoo incantations help determine the direction in which you cast the $20,000 or $30,000 you might