This bit of correspondence is from an old Harper’s. Today, it became relevant, yet again. Enjoy. -KH
From emails exchanged last year between David Armstrong, a former English teacher, and employees of The Coca-Cola Company.
To The Coca-Cola Company,
The slogan for Dasani mineral water contains an egregious error. The tag line is “Treat yourself well. Everyday.” The word “everyday” is an adjective that is used to describe things that are routine or ordinary. “Everyday concerns” or “everyday life” would be two examples.
Your slogan should read: “Treat yourself well. Every day.” In this case “every” is an adjective modifying the noun “day.” This is a popular construction which is also used in such phrases as “every week,” “every time,” “every breath I take,” etc.
I would also argue that the phrase “Every day” by itself is somewhat unsubstantial as a full sentence. I will defer, however, to your superior knowledge of the language of mass communication. I do believe, though, that it would behoove the Dasani division of The Coca-Cola Company to make an attempt to appeal to the grammatically sophisticated beverage consumer by modifying your advertising to correct the aforementioned error.
Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Armstrong. We appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns regarding our new slogan for DASANI, “Treat yourself well. Everyday.”
Advertising slogans aren’t always constrained by the traditional conventions of formal writing; compromises are quite often made to develop a more effective message. When forming the new slogan for DASANI, we considered both “Everyday” and “Every day.” After subjecting both versions to testing, we decided to use the more impactful adjective form, rather than the adjective-noun phrase. Since “Everyday” is not an actual sentence and isn’t part of a complete paragraph, we do not feel it is necessarily confined by the same literary bounds as formal writing.
We value feedback from our consumers. Your comments have been shared with the appropriate management here at the corporate headquarters and will certainly be taken into consideration as we move forward with our future plans.
Industry and Consumer Affairs
The Coca-Cola Company
Thank you for your prompt and informative response to my email message. I do appreciate your taking the time. I must confess, however, that I am not completely satisfied with your answer. I fail to see how the adjective “everyday,” which has a completely different meaning than the phrase “every day,” is more “impactful.” (By the way, “impactful” is not listed as a word in any dictionary that I am aware of. Was this neologism spawned by the person who hatched your Dasani slogan?) You say you chose the “adjective form,” as if you were choosing between two versions of the same thing–but the similarity is purely superficial.
Your slogan may as well read “Treat yourself well. Ordinary,” or “Treat yourself well. Commonplace,” because that is what it means, given the error. You say that you have subjected both versions to testing. I assume that means that you conducted focus groups, and that none of the invitees caught the error, or that the few who did were drowned out by the majority that found the totally irrelevant adjective “everyday” to be “impactful.” Are we then to assume that poor grammar and abuse of the English language make for more effective marketing? If this is the case I have a couple of suggestions for future slogans you may wish to consider:
“Coke. Its the real thing.”
“All ways Coca-Cola.”
“Coke add’s life.”
Would you use such slogans? I wouldn’t think so, and yet you defend your error on the grounds that “Advertising slogans aren’t always constrained by the traditional conventions of formal writing.” Surely there must be limits to this unpoetic license.
In closing, I am surprised that a firm such as The Coca-Cola Company does not want to extend its high-quality standards to include the language used to promote its products, and I anxiously await a decision from your superiors regarding my request.
Thank you for your reply. We truly appreciate your feedback regarding our slogan for DASANI, and I will share it with the appropriate management. As for the word “impactful,” this is simply the noun form of “impact” with the suffix “-ful” added to the end in order for it to be used as an adjective. Words with suffixes are typically not in the dictionary.
The Coca-Cola Company
It has been a few days since our email exchange and I have yet to hear from your executives. You had promised to share my concerns with them, and I would have thought that the issues I raise were sufficiently urgent to warrant immediate attention on the part of your superiors. I would appreciate an update on the status of my request.
Your fine and reputable firm needs to act swiftly to repair this grievous attack on the English language, one which I have now seen plastered on the sides of buses, on billboards, and in numerous other public locations. Have you considered the effect of your nonsensical “Treat yourself well. Everyday” campaign on the nation’s schoolchildren? How do you expect them to fare in their English courses when subjected to a barrage of advertising with no respect for the rules of the language? And what of those who are learning English as a second language? Should they be told that standards apply only in the classroom and not to Corporate America?
In these days of increased scrutiny of corporate behavior, you would do well to ensure that your “messaging” has a positive impact on society. I submit that you are conducting a campaign that is offensive to those of us who care about the language and harmful to those who are attempting to master it.
In closing, although I appreciate the creativity of your comment that “Words with suffixes are typically not in the dictionary,” I believe that if you research this further you will find that many words with suffixes are in fact in the dictionary, and that words that are not words are not.