It’s a jungle out there in corporate America. A hot, steamy, ardent, passionate jungle.
You’ve seen the evidence. Whole Foods is hiring “people with a passion for healthy living.” Bose seeks “people with a passion for innovation.” The South Florida Water Management District wants “good people with a passion for water.” Grant Thornton is looking for “people with a passion for the business of accounting.”
There’s plenty of heavy breathing outside the help-wanted ads, too. At last count, there were 960 live trademarks in the USPTO database that incorporated “passion” or “passionate,” from Dark Passion coffee to Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion perfume to Tango Passion, which turns out to be a brand of slot machines.
Some of the marks strain credulity, to say the least. Passion hearing aids—eh? “A Passion for Packaging”? (Packaging?) How about “Experience Our Passion for Flow”—the slogan of a company that makes, uh, flow meters.
And the lawyers—the lawyers! A random sampling of passionate legal slogans includes “Law. Life. Passion” (Nashville), “Passion. Knowledge. Strategy. Action” (Chicago), “A Passion for Justice” (West Palm Beach), and “Compassion for People. Passion for Justice” (Little Rock).
All together now: Get a room!
In all seriousness, when it’s overused like this, “passion” is drained of distinctiveness. The word may have had some shock value back in 1985, when Tom Peters published A Passion for Excellence and spawned a generation of passion-pitching management consultants and self-help gurus—and thousands of books with titles like Creating Passion Teams, Leading with Passion, and Turn Your Passion into Profit. Thanks to Peters, being a breadwinner was no longer sufficient: you had to fall head over heels in love with your job. Again and again.
“Passion” used to signify something special. When it first came into English from Old French in the 12th century, it retained its Latin meaning of “suffering” (as in “the Passion of the Christ”). Four hundred years later it took on a new meaning, “sexual desire,” and in the 17th century became synonymous with “deep, overwhelming emotion”—often caused by love or anger. And now? “Passion” sometimes means “enthusiasm,” sometimes “self-sacrifice,” and sometimes “a word we use to convince ourselves the long hours and tedious work are worth it.”
If you’ve been thinking about using the P-word in your own company brand, I suggest you first take this little quiz. Simply match the passionate slogan with the company—or even just the industry—that created it. Warning: although many of these slogans and brands are national or even global, I don’t expect anyone to ace the test. In fact, it’s so tough that more than two correct answers qualify you as a Passion Pro.
Answers after the jump.
1. Experience Our Passion!
2. Unwavering Passion. Endless Dedication.
3. Passion and Precision.
4. Precision. Passion.
5. Passion & Patience
6. A Passion for Excellence
7. Passion for Excellence
8. A Passion to Perform
9. A Passion for Performance
10. A Passion to Go Beyond
11. A Passion for Quality
12. Sharing Our Passion
13. Your Potential. Our Passion.
14. Your Passion Is Our Obsession
15. Trust. Integrity. Passion.
c. Credit-union services
d. Golf equipment
e. Ice cream distributorships
f. Computer data storage
g. Employment recruiting
h. Computer software and operating systems
i. Salami, cheese, and condiments
j. Sporting goods
k. Retail jewelers
l. Investment brokerage
m. Radiation therapy
o. Public relations
1-e (Wells’ Dairy). 2-c (The Members Group). 3-o (Ketchum). 4-m (ProCure). 5-j (Columbus Salame). 6-d (Callaway). 7-b (Bridgestone). 8-a (Deutsche Bank). 9-f (SanDisk). 10-g (American Express). 11-n (Peak Estate Vineyards). 12-k (Shane). 13-h (Microsoft). 14-j (Mizuno). 15-l (Blue Vase Securities).