Latte-levy was a phrase that popped up everywhere last Friday and will continue to be written about for weeks if not months to come. It is the name given to a proposed 25p tax on disposable paper cups. I love it! The phrase that is, not the proposed tax. I have been unable to find out who coined the phrase latte-levy but if someone can let me know I will definitely credit him or her.
Latte-levy makes a ‘sticky’ message
Latte-levy is a beautiful illustration of two of the key elements used to create ‘sticky messages’. (I have written about this many times previously, for example in this piece about the phrase muddle-headed mugwump‘.)
Why do I love this phrase? Firstly, latte-levy alliterates. Anyone trained by me knows that I am often searching for alliterative phrases to make a business idea more quotable. Alongside ‘polluter pays’ and ‘precautionary principle’ to name but two – latte-levy will enter the public zeitgeist as the shorthand for an argument about using tax to change behaviour and culture around our current use of these plastic-lined, difficult-to-recycle, disposable cups.
Secondly, it is a clever name. I often say to clients – can’t you give that idea, solution, app or gadget a sexy or catchy name. There is nearly always push back.
I know there are sometimes good reasons for this but it constantly frustrates me. Why throw away the PR potential of something?
I have had fun imagining what might have gone on behind the scenes in some eco-agency or MPs closed-door committee meeting from which this phrase emerged.
Imagined conversation between PR experts and policy experts
‘We need to persuade the government to tax the consumer for using paper cups and persuade the consumer this is reasonable. Then we can use the money to pay for more recycling and at the same time encourage people to use their own reusable mugs.’
‘Okay, what are we calling this idea?’
‘It doesn’t really have a name, it’s just a proposed 25p tax on plastic-lined paper cups used by retail coffee outlets.’
‘It would be good if it had a catchy name. You’ll get more coverage and people will remember it.’
‘Hmm, there are no catchy names for taxes’
‘Well, actually there are. Remember the poll tax – oh and stealth taxes, Robin Hood taxes, tampon tax….’
‘Oh well we don’t want anything like that, it’s all very negative. Someone called it a latte-levy but we can’t use that because it sounds like it only applies to one type of coffee!’
‘Actually, latte-levy is great. We should use that.’
‘But it’s not accurate.’
‘Does it matter?’
‘Yes, it matters. We are a serious policy organisation/committee and we need to demonstrate we understand the issues and not mislead the public.’
‘Well, I think the public will understand that it doesn’t just apply to paper cups used for latte. Shorthand phrases are all around us. ‘Energy efficiency’ could be very misleading if you took it to mean people’s own energy levels. ‘Nodding donkey’ bears absolutely no relation to a beast of burden and how many ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ are actually dunked?’
‘Yeah – and tampon tax is about all sanitary products right, not just tampons.’
‘Well, how about we call it the paper cup tax’.
‘No let’s be brave: go with latte-levy…’
One week later …
And dear reader the outcome was …
‘Look Latte-levy makes the headline!
And again. And again. And again. Who’d have thought it!’
The principle is; use a great phrase to spike people’s interest, then attribute a clear meaning to that phrase as the second step.
The Media Coach regularly runs message building sessions for its clients. If you would like help working out what you want to say about a product or an issue do give us a call +44 (0)20 7099 2212. (Clients tell us we work out cheaper than a PR company.)
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