There’s this thing in writing called the Rule of Three.
The Rule isn’t so much a rule as the idea that, when making a list, it’s best to make it a list of three. You could use two or four, but three items is almost always more memorable, effective, and satisfying.
When it comes to sloganeering, though, a revised Rule of Three has emerged and the result is now overused, trite, and annoying. And as in all things overused and annoying, the blame can be place squarely on the shoulders of Brett Favre.
Our younger readers may not remember, but Brett was an NFL quarterback of some renown once upon a time. He won a Super Bowl when I was in 7th Grade. Then, he spent the rest of his career trying — and failing — not to gack away his team’s success by throwing ill-advised interceptions.
Now, you may know him as the spokesman for Wrangler Jeans, and their ad men came up with a slogan that fits squarely into the Rule of Three: Real. Comfortable. Jeans.
IT’S SO CLEVER! Because, like, Wranglers are real. They are comfortable. And they are jeans. BUT it also works because “real” can be a substitute for “really”, which means “real” can be an adverb modifying “comfortable”, which is an adjective modifying “jeans”, which is a noun.
This would have been harmless enough. But the slogan, like so many of Brett Favre’s lasers into triple-coverage, was ripped off by another team.
In this case, it was Team Quaker State. Their take on the slogan became Real. Durable. Oil.
So we’ve established a new Rule of Three. ADVERBY ADJECTIVE. + ADJECTIVE. + NOUN. = SLOGAN. Let’s call it the Wrangler Rule.
But why in the world am I talking about the Wrangler Rule on a blog called Indiana Explained, which is ostensibly about Indiana politics? Because, somehow, the same creative geniuses who are hawking boot fits and 10W-30 are also sloganeering Indiana Congressional races.
Take State Senator Brent Waltz, who is running for Congress in Indiana’s 9th District. Waltz, the son of nuclear power mogul C. Montgomery Burns, filmed an ad a month ago that featured an awkward turn (which we turned into a gif just for you) as well as a new campaign slogan:
Proven. Conservative. Republican.
There it is! The Wrangler Rule. At least give him credit for using “Proven” instead of “Real”. There aren’t that many adjectives that adverby enough, but Senator Waltz found one.
Waltz, who is three-stepping his way to a 4th-place finish in the Primary, is hoping for this hail mary slogan make take him all the way to Washington.
To his credit, we haven’t seen him use “Real. Conservative. Leadership.” since this image first surfaced several weeks ago. Then again, I don’t live in the 3rd, so it could still be out there.
Look, coming up with a campaign slogan is hard. There are literally hundreds of candidates in this state alone, and there are only so many adjectives (and adverby adjectives) to use. But if you are planning a campaign, and your tagline fits the formula stated above, let’s go back to the drawing board and start over.