Last Chance for Early Pigeon Pricing!

This headline came from a sister organization of one of our clients.  When I saw it my attention was immediately drawn.  Oh, not because I wanted to get the advertised special pricing but because an organization deliberately chose to call their members pigeons!

A week or so ago while visiting a car show I noticed a particular car which made me laugh aloud ~ a Chevrolet Nova. For those not old enough (or into cars enough) to know the story, Chevy manufactured the Nova from 1962 – 1979. It was a good car and allowed Chevrolet to compete in the muscle car market during that period.  But the Nova did not catch on in Mexico. It was quite the puzzle for Chevrolet, after all, their competitor cars, similar in design, sold well.  But not the Nova. Chevrolet had unwittingly announced to all of Mexico that their car would not work properly.  No va in Spanish means no go.

Much to his frustration, my child has heard for years, “words have meaning” and as Chevrolet learned at a very heavy cost, those meanings vary from culture to culture.

Another humourous example comes to mind of a time when working with a Japanese organization to create a joint-nation mini-Olympics.  I sent a memo to my Japanese counterpart asking him to secure three referees for the volleyball tournament.  The next day he came to my office in his dress uniform (he was in the Japanese Military Self-Defense Force) and very formally asked me why I was requesting he lock up the volleyball referees.

Like all companies, nonprofits struggle with finding catchy headlines and snappy wording for their advertising. For nonprofits, too, however, the need for care is vitally important. I do not know the local meaning of “pigeon” but I know that where I grew up – and many places I have lived since, a pigeon is an easy mark, someone easily taken advantage of. Calling your potential conference attendees foolish does not seem a great way to get them to attend.

These types of mistakes are easily made, unfortunately.  However, society today is highly mobile.  It is likely that someone you work with is from another region of the country or world who could look over your wording selection.  Often a simple way to check if your headline is well advised is simply to google the words.  According to dictionary.com, pigeon “slang… a person who is easily fooled or cheated; dupe.”

A quick, easy way to check your headlines and improve their impact is to employ one of several headline analyzers.

There are at least dozens of others, and we do not recommend any in particular.  In fact, it is best to try several.  This way, you can find just the right headline for your campaign.

Like any other business, the words you select will impact your results.  Chevrolet learned that the hard way.  I do not know if the sister organization had any repercussions.