Alpha

When you’ve got a runny nose, you probably think of Kleenex. When I say “cola,” most people would come back with Coke. And crayons? No doubt, you’d think Crayola.

But what would you think about when I mention the letter “A?” Apple? My children are growing and both sing the alphabet song, have loads of ABC books, and my oldest, Catcher, is learning to read. So, we spend hours associating words with letters. A for apple, B for boy, C for cat. I could run through all 26 letters and probably match any focus group word for word. From D for dog to Z for zebra, certain words “own” certain letters.

Now, if you ask the same “letter questions” in a different way, I bet you’d get quite different answers. For instance, C is for cat, but what is the “C-word?” Hmmmm? A little different answer I must say. We’ve come to associate plenty of letters with negative or sexual words as well. The “N-word,” the “B-word,” the “F-word,” or the Showtime series “The L-Word.” Try it out. Ask a few people.

On the other hand, there are a few letters that don’t have a clearly defined home. How about “H?” To me, H is for horse. But what is the more sinister “H-word?” And J is for jet, however the “J-word” remains undefined.

One of my pet peeves in the letter world is based on this universal knowledge. I can’t stand it when people replace curse words with letters. As in: “What an A-hole!” or “I really F’d-up my car last night.” Come on, people, you’re using the letters in the same spirit and everyone above the age of six knows what you mean, so why not just let it fly?

All of these associations rely upon universal knowledge. And in the advertising world, it’s everyone’s goal to plug their product and or service into the “assumed” set. DeBeers “owns” diamonds and Taser “owns” stun guns. What products are on your list? When you say jeans, do you think of Levi’s? Back in the day, that would be everyone’s answer.

Here in ‘Sconsin, when I say waterpark, don’t you think Wisconsin Dells? As creative director of their ad agency of record, I’m hoping so. And if you don’t think Wisconsin Dells, I’d be totally P-O’d.