Ask me what is the highest compliment, flattery and honor which can be bestowed upon a business-marketing catchphrase and I’ll tell you hands-down: it’s having that phrase become an entrenched, engrained part of the national mind-set, culture, language and lexicon! It’s how a select-few leave the others in the dust, achieve immortality and become the stuff that legends are made of!
In 1980s America, this honor was bestowed upon two utterances mouthed by two very unlikely sources: two little old ladies! The short phrases that they uttered became instant hits…people EVERYWHERE were saying them! They became endearing and beloved cultural icons! And the companies which sponsored the ads hit the apex and pinnacle of businesses everywhere…the MARKETING JACKPOT!
“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”
Who could forget “Mrs Fletcher,” portrayed by 70 year-old Edith Fore uttering these words? Though the situation was serious (an old lady lying helplessly on the ground) the “skit” was looked on as a rip-roaring comedy, with everyday people throughout the country mimicking and going into hysterics over the line! It was featured in songs, television shows and movies alike. As you’ll see in the video below, the ad was sponsored by LifeCall, a medical alert company which responded to seniors in distress with just the push of a button…and it is a company whose sales took off as a result of poor Mrs. Fletcher’s misfortune:
“Where’s the Beef?!”
No one, I repeat NO ONE at Wendy’s could have foreseen the marketing bonanza which the company would receive when they hired 81 year-old retired manicurist Clara Peller to say these three words! As she orders a burger from an un-named competitor, unfortunately a tiny meat-patty hidden in a massive bun, the now-legendary words came out, propelling her and Wendy’s to marketing immortality! The phrase became a national sensation, spoken anytime something was less than expected. Comedy shows and comedians alike lampooned the sketch. The words were featured in movies. T-shirts all over the country were emblazoned with the words! Business at Wendy’s went through the roof! It is debateable whether television advertising has seen such a well-known catchphrase, before, during or since:
As we in the world of business strive for name and brand recognition, we can look in awe and admiration to two companies, two little old ladies and two catchphrases which have ascended and surpassed all measures of marketing success and have become deeply-rooted and entrenched icons of our language, lexicon, thinking and culture!