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Block that scary metaphor: The fiscal what?

Eve Troeh Nov 9, 2012

Block that scary metaphor: The fiscal what?

Eve Troeh Nov 9, 2012

Pretend you’re a branding expert in a brainstorm.



Fiscal Cliff.

What does that say? How does that feel?

“It feels Armageddon-ish, if that’s a word,” says David Srere, CEO and co-president of the branding firm Siegel+Gale. It feels even more that way if you think about what goes along with a cliff, words like “falling” or “over the edge.”

“The words communicate the gravity of the situation,” Srere says, “and they’re, I believe, intended to instill fear of an economic freefall.”

But most economists say that’s not what we’re facing. Tax hikes won’t bankrupt households, and budget cuts and government layoffs won’t all come at once. It’s more a fiscal slope, or perhaps a slow fade. Or even a hill. But a cliff? I ask Debbie Millman at Sterling Brands what she thinks about the term.

“I mean, we’re not Wile E. Coyote here,” Millman says. “This is a real situation, but we don’t need to fall. We can fix it before we fall off that cliff.”

She prefers the term “fiscal fix.” But all the gurus I talked to agreed that “fiscal cliff” has serious appeal, including brand designer Brian Collins.

“Those two words together, it’s an instant story,” he says. It has tension, and its…well it’s a cliffhanger. Collins compares it to the term “acid rain.” That image was so powerful, even politicians who hated it couldn’t fight it.

“The most potent story, the one that gets people’s blood running through their veins, is the story that will win,” he says.

While “fiscal cliff” may not be accurate, Collins says it is a successful brand — but for the Fed. It keeps citizens’ and politicians’ attention on budget issues, which is not always an easy things to do.

We asked you for your suggestions on better terms for the fiscal cliff. Here are some of your responses:

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