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As someone who listens to a lot of Central Pa. public radio, I often hear one of its sponsors, Capital BlueCross, urging me to Live Fearless.
Besides the obvious issue with grammar (it s Live Fearless-ly, ad folks, you need an adverb, not an adjective there), I m perplexed.
Is Blue Cross telling me, Go ahead, risk it? We ve got you covered (mostly)?
Perhaps they mean I can take up bungee jumping and not worry about a million-dollar orthopedic catastrophe. But I m wondering by Live fearless, do they mean I can go anywhere I want in Harrisburg at 2 a.m. and they ll provide an armed escort? They ve got my back if I decide to flip the bird to the guy who cut me off, even if he s in a monster truck that has a Confederate flag and a rifle in his gun rack? That would be fearless.
OK, I know, I know, don t take this stuff too literally. Live fearless simply appears to be an example of what the brainwashers in the advertising biz call a brand.
My first exposure to the concept of a brand was during my career in Anchorage, Alaska. The local visitors bureau went through a big, elaborate process to come up with a brand for the city. We in the media were told a brand is not just a short, snappy phrase that makes you think nice thoughts about their clients. We were told a brand is the promise of an experience.
What those advertising geniuses came up with was Anchorage: Big. Wild. Life. It produced much yukking about whether that referred to the city s many moose, or to rednecks whooping it up at bars until 3 in the morning. Personally, in winter, I thought the city s brand was Dark, Snowy. Cold. And now that both my kids are going to be living back there, I think of it as Really. Far. Away.
Anyway, Capital BlueCross s Live Fearless (sic) got me to thinking what brand would describe some of Pa. s pols?
Take Pat Toomey. The brand for the arch-conservative skeptic of government action could be Let Freedom Ring, illustrated with the Liberty Bell, or a copy of Ayn Rand s Atlas Shrugged. A truer version, however, might be Billionaires Rule! with a logo of the Koch Brothers.
Bob Casey Jr. s brand, echoing the famous fictional baseball figure, might be Casey: At Bat For You. More realistically, though, it would be something like Like Father, Like Son.
Tom Corbett is already using the slogan or brand, Promises Kept. But with a puttering economy, a big tax hike on gasoline, no pension reform, and no liquor privatization, a better fit might be Competence It s Overrated. Or, At Least He Tries Hard. Of course, the Dems have already branded him One-Term Tom.
Among those Democrats, Mr. Moneybags Tom Wolf s million brought us ads portraying him as a regular guy, nice to his workers. In other words, his brand might be Rich but Frugal or Rich but Nice. Republicans, however, would probably like him to be known as Rendell s Money Man.
Allyson Schwartz wants us to know she ll Get It Done. That, however, leaves open the question of what the it is, and whether voters want it to be done with taxpayer money. At least in some quarters, her brand might be Because It s Time (with the unspoken addendum, For A Woman Governor. ) Republicans, no doubt, will try to brand her as Kermit Gosnell s Best Friend, or Abortions R Us.
State Treasurer Rob McCord, alum of Harvard and the Wharton School, is a non-stop quote-spewing machine. His brand might be Big. Smart. Mouth. Or, if we re talking the promise of an experience, it might be You Won t Be Bored!
Finally, in the Democratic field for guv, there s Katie McGinty. She pitches jobs, schools, opportunities. Zzzzz. Katie, get yourself a BRAND, woman! Otherwise, the Repubs are going to brand you Al Gore s pal.
At the local level, we have Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse. In getting elected, you could say his brand was Not Linda Thompson. Now that he s in office, he s hitting a theme that sounds like Better Days Ahead. Some critics didn t give him any kind of honeymoon, though, and basically branded him, Same Old Same Old. Personally, for the time being, I d go with Too Early To Tell.
Readers, now it s your turn: What brand would you create for your favorite (or not-favorite) public figures in Pa.? Fire away in the comments below.
Matt Zencey is Deputy Opinion Editor of PennLive and The Patriot-News. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MattZencey.
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