By Gregg L.
Dear President Obama:
Despite the daily media hand-wringing and furor over your Administration’s ambitious attempt to overhaul the American health care system, one of the most significant obstacles you and your Ivy League All-Star Cabinet face has gone unnoticed: you don’t have a cool name for your plan.
How excited can one possibly get about something called “The Obama Plan” that features something called “The Public Option?” The name doesn’t brim with galvanizing energy; it’s so vague that detractors are simply distorting the meaning of both ‘Public’ (likening it to Stalin-era communism) and ‘Option’ (taking what obviously means ‘a voluntary choice’ and implying that the government will force their will upon the people).
Branding consultants know the crucial importance of a unique and differentiating name for consumer products in all categories. Selling a sweeping political initiative to Congress and ultimately to a 300+ million strong nation should not be treated any differently.
So Mr. President, allow me a little friendly counsel on behalf of the branding community if I may.
The health care reform proposal needs a great nickname.
Not convinced? Take a lesson from the history books. The American political landscape is rife with notable popular names for Congressional Acts, bills, laws and presidential initiatives. Some of these were blessed with killer nicknames that overshadowed their official name, and became part of the American cultural vocabulary and DNA, i.e. Prohibition, Medicare and Social Security.
History shows that while a catchy name won’t necessarily get a bill passed, it nevertheless gives you a pretty good head start (see there’s one! Lyndon Johnson started the Headstart program for low-income families in 1965).
In 1983, the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, actually got smart people, big time scholars and scientists to consider, for a little while at least, the feasibility of a Strategic Defense Initiative. The plan in its first iteration called for the deployment of a curtain of x-ray lasers powered by nuclear explosives launched into space. From submarines.
It became widely known and ridiculed as ‘Star Wars.’ Since it was a fantasy, Star Wars is not really the kind of name you want attached to a multi-billion dollar military program.
George W. Bush had better luck. Just look at No Child Left Behind. Now that’s a name! Even better than a name, that’s a call to action. Its official name was ‘An act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind’ but it’s the last bit people remembered and could relate to. And did they ever. Congress increased its funding to nearly 25 billion dollars.
And he didn’t stop there. W’s administration was brazenly acronym-happy: passing the PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) Act, the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) Act, and in perhaps the greatest illustration of just how far you can go if you have a catchy nickname/acronym, passing the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. The Patriot Act stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.
I have no doubt you have talented people on your staff that are more than capable of coming up with a great name for your health care reform bill. But, Mr. President, may we submit the following options for your consideration?
The “Health Matters Act.” It’s crisp and sounds powerful, as in “health matters, damn it!” and “Let’s deal with our health matters, people”.
Or what about: “Healthy America Act.” This implies that Americans have health coverage – not only that, they’re healthy. If Americans are healthy, then America as a whole will be healthy — a healthy workforce breeds a healthy economy.
If those don’t work, we’re working on a few that would work as acronyms now.