Paying by the word is like a haircut at Shop-Rite


When I was little I got $5 haircuts at the grocery store.


My mom used to take me. Toodling along we would go to a decrepit mini-strip mall housed on the inside of the big shopping plaza.


The inside of the haircut place was painted aqua blue. Really cheap.


The hairdressers used to put you into the hairwash chair and crane your neck way back.


You’d stare up at the ceiling where they had falling-down taped pictures of the Bahamas or whatever.


The lady would ask my mom, “How short?”


And my mom would say, “Cut a few inches. I want to get my money’s worth.”


I didn’t know any better than that the haircut was, shall we say, “wash-n-wear.” (Stop shuddering.)


Other times I would get perms. It was the ‘80s. “The curlier the better.” (I have burned all those pictures.)


Obviously the value of a haircut has little to do with how much you cut it. Instead it’s about the quality of the styling as aligned with your particular face.


Just like you can pay $8.99 a pound for fresh grilled organic vegetables brushed with olive oil and sea salt and they’re worth every penny. Even though technically, yes, you can actually buy regular vegetables at said Shop-Rite for about half the price or less and "grill them all by yourself at home."


It’s a similar thing with corporate communications. Let’s talk about taglines because they pertain to the brand and set the stage for everything else.


When you consider that a tagline can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, it’s easy to see that a client would want the line to be lengthy. As if ROI could be measured in cost per word.


Of course this is not the right way to measure value. But the perception is hard to fight.


Actually what you want is a one-word tagline like "Happiness" or "Joy" or "Refresh." Something that captures the essence of the brand perfectly, yet abstractly, so that it can be applied across a range of products and services.

We make the same mistake with all manner of corporate communications, turning writers into the equivalent of "Mechanical Turks." (Refer to "AOL Hell" for more on this.)


On a bigger level we have for what seems like forever paid people for their work by units of time. Why do we do that today, if we are interested in results? Knowledge workers aren’t working in a factory – we should be paying for the worth of output.


It’s a big change moving from “cost-per-unit” thinking to “compensation for value.” But imagine how much better we would produce as individuals, companies, and as a country if we thought more strategically about what we pay for things. Rather than so very mechanically.


Once again like so many other changes that need to happen, the reason why we don't go this route is fear. Because if it's all about producing and you can't produce, or you can't compete with the other guy to get a chance to do that, you're outta luck unless there's one heck of a safety net beneath you.

What if we confronted this issue directly instead of persisting with a way of thinking that doesn't fit with (post)modern times?

Thinking about it, no answers - only more questions as to how a future system would really work. But it seems like a pretty pressing question considering that so many young people are coming out of school without the promise of a job.

With that heavy thought in mind...enjoy the rest of the evening everyone, and good luck!



Photo source here