A penny for your thoughts
On better living through chemistry, the long trail of Coca-Cola slogans, and the case for reviving the tradition of the family crest and motto
Pull an ordinary American off the street, and there's an excellent chance that individual could easily name a dozen or more slogans for consumer products and services. Some endure long past their last official use, like the long-retired "Better living through chemistry" or "You deserve a break today". Some are specific ("15 minutes could save you 15% or more"), and others deliver pure atmospherics ("We bring good things to life").
■ What is intriguing about slogans -- other than the "reverse priming" that takes place when they invite consumers to spend more -- is that we have recognized their commercial use for generations, but haven't meaningfully adopted them in personal and family life.
■ With the help of genealogy websites and heraldry groups, families can often enough dig up a coat of arms. And a coat of arms often includes a phrase declaring a family motto. But how often do families in the contemporary world really consider those mottoes to be guiding principles?
■ Perhaps, though, the family motto is a practice worth reviving. Consciously or not, parents and grandparents indoctrinate their offspring with aphorisms and one-liners, but it takes more than a one-liner to really give a person durable guidance by which to live. Somewhere between the obscure Latin on a coat of arms ("Moderata durant", if you're a cousin to the Presidents Bush) and the 12 points of the Scout Law probably lies a sweet spot for offering the kind of instruction that might not only give a family guidance, but also distinguish its members in a way that really creates a form of identity.
■ Specific circumstances change with the passage of time and the evolution of technology, but human nature is more or less what it always was and always will be. The same things tend to motivate us that motivated people millennia ago, and the same things that frightened them tend to frighten us now. The Book of Ecclesiastes is probably 2,500 years old, but even it notes that "Nothing is new under the sun!"
■ The (mostly) unchanging condition of human nature means that families can smooth the way for their successors when they concentrate wisdom accumulated through lived experience and pass along those lessons in memorable form. Corporate marketing departments invest vast resources in communicating their slogans. It seems like a missed opportunity if families don't do the same.