Admit it. There’s at least one song you can recall in which you spent years singing the wrong lyrics. A BBC News survey found the world’s most misquoted lyrics come from the 1983 Eurythmics hit Sweet Dreams are Made of This. In fact, nearly a third of the 1,350 people polled believed that lead singer Annie Lennox sings: “Sweet dreams are made of cheese, Who am I to disagree?”
One that didn’t make the list but is commonly laughed at was made famous by one of my favorite artists. Elton John’s hit Tiny Dancer is often misquoted as “Hold Me Closer Tony Danza.” That’s despite the fact that lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote the words nearly seven years before Danza made his debut in the 70’s sitcom Taxi.
Misunderstood song lyrics are cute, and can bring a few minutes of laughter to any party. But misunderstanding advertising can cost you not only a positive bottom line, and perhaps even your job. Take former JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson for example.
“He tried to use advertising to change a behavior that had been ingrained for years,” said Ellis Verdi, a former board member of the National Retail Federation. “You can’t reeducate consumers that way. Consumers control their perception of value, not retailers. They need to feel like they are getting a deal, and they’re not just going to take the store’s word for it. Consumers just aren’t that loyal.”
Johnson approved ads during his tenure that were pretty and promised a brighter and fresher JC Penney. However, as Verdi said in an interview with Marketing Daily, “pretty is not enough to move traffic.”
Perhaps now is a perfect time to learn from Johnson’s mistakes. Is your marketing trying to make a brand promise that you can’t fulfill? Or maybe your marketing is trying to change a behavior engrained in consumers that will take more than a pretty ad to fix.
If the message to your marketing isn’t clear you might as well just put up a billboard of Tony Danza and call it a day. Or perhaps a sign pointing to a bathroom on the right, in reference to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s misquoted lyrics Bad Moon on the Rise. Clarity in your marketing message is the difference between success and failure. Remember sweet dreams AREN’T made of cheese!