The Peace Corps Slogan Lives On


[I found this following comment on a blog run by Adil Syed who lives in Pakistan. The blog item was written by Sharon Housley who manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.comsoftware for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage a wireless text messaging software company.]

“Let’s take a look at slogans and how just a few words can say volumes. A slogan is a memorable phrase used in conjunction with a political, commercial, or religious advertisement. Slogans are used to convey a deeper meaning. Slogans can be used to elicit emotions, or the slogan might paint a visual image that implies something more.

“When considering a slogan or a tagline, keep in mind your objectives. What image do you wish to portray? Slogans should be short, but not to the point of being pithy. Slogans should conjure positive images and distinguish the value your company or product provides.

“The best way to analyze slogans is to look at a few.

“Slogan: “The toughest job you will ever love” (Peace Corps)

“Message behind slogan: This is much more than just a job; it takes heart to be in the Peace Corps; join the Peace Corps and you will be a better person. This job is not about money it is about helping people.”

Sharon goes to say [about the Peace Corps and other slogans] “Effective slogans leave impressions in the minds of people who see or hear the slogans. Often slogans will have hidden meanings, or be a play on words. The goal of the slogan creator should be to create a memorable tagline that conveys a key benefit or differentiates the brand. Slogans will often help position the product or service in the marketplace. Slogans with just a few words can indicate superior value, excellence, or inspiration.

A business identity and image conveyed through a short statement will affect the way that consumers, competitors and others in the industry perceive your business. Slogans will distinguish your company in a unique way. Words are powerful, and if used properly, they can be an important sales tool.”

Back around 1981 there was, as I mentioned in another blog,  an RPCV reunion in Washington, D.C., at Howard University and I remember an RPCV woman standing up at some point and telling everyone that it was her husband who had come up with the slogan “The toughest job you will ever love,” and I thought ‘wow’ that’s pretty impressive.

It wasn’t true I was to find out. I went search for who had come up with the slogan and it turned out that when Carolyn Payton took over the agency [being appointed, and then fired, by Sam Brown, but that’s another story…] she enlisted the help of a New York Ad Agency and they came up with several slogans and the senior staff picked ‘toughest job’. At the moment the name of the agency slips my mind, but I’m sure someone out there might recalls it and add a comment to this blog.

Now, every new Peace Corps director wants a new slogan [the latest, I think, is “Life is calling. How far will you go?’] back in the mid-nineties when Carol Bellamy took over the Peace Corps, focus groups of outsiders recalled at once, “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” The slogan from the early ’80s has summed up the experience.

But then again, there a quite a few RPCVs who remember when they were still in middle school those public service announcements on their television sets that showed the glass half full and asked the famous question how ‘you’ saw the world.

I’ve always believed that Peace Corps recruiting should start in the middle school [and often it does when an RPCV teacher comes into class and shows slides from their Peace Corps years. That’s when kids decide to join.]

Sometimes it is a book that turned a person towards the Peace Corps. More than one college student has joined the agency after reading Peter Hessler’s (China 1996-98) River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. Others join because its a family tradition. Something that is passed on from mother to daughter, father to son, from brothers and sister, uncles and aunts. I’m not sure a slogan is the the turning point that makes anyone join the Peace Corps. But then again, how many of us joined the Peace Corps after we heard these words, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what you country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”


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