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Rebranding The Government Shutdown

As any PR or branding professional knows, words matter. And in politics, as in marketing, a product or event can be better positioned with a more precise or more upbeat label.  (Does anyone even remember what TARP stands for? Me neither, but it was better than “government bailout.”) At worst, it sugarcoats a distasteful or controversial idea or event.

Case in point: the recent government shutdown. Fox has already tried to minimize it by calling it a “slimdown,” which gave late-night comics more fodder to poke fun at both sides. But the war of words persists. Redstateblog insists – I hope with tongue in cheek – that all we need is a better name, preferably a term that involves the word “super,” since Americans are already super-crazy for that particular superlative. The blog suggests “supersequestration.”  It might work if making everyone glaze over in confusion is the goal, but I think we can do better.

In that spirit, here are our nominations for rebranding the shutdown. (Note that none has been poll-tested.)

Recess. This gets points for being innocuous. It may also be appropriate, given that members of Congress are behaving like schoolchildren, but since it already refers to periods when Congress is not in session, it’s superfluous. Maybe even super-superfluous. In rebranding, originality counts!

Intermission.  The word has a kind of dignity, and admittedly, much of what’s happening is great theater, but it’s a little bland and may be too upscale. A sports term might be more populist. Halftime? Seventh-inning stretch? The whole things is one big game, after all.

Breather or break.  This one could work well for government website messaging, as if they just needed a little “space” from a suffocating relationship. “We’re taking a break,” as a user update might help forge emotional connections with single voters.

Siesta.  Now we’re getting somewhere! This word adds a super-festive connotation to the also-likable “holiday.” Plus, it’s multicultural, which is very important. “Supersiesta” might be a winner.

Slimfast.  Granted, this one might have copyright issues, but it would poll-test well!  Alternatively, we could go with “Diet” or just “Government Fast” to try to tap into pop culture trends, but the former might be confused with the Japanese legislature. Actually, no one knows anything about the Japanese legislature, but both words signify deprivation. That’s a downer.

Power down. I like the appropriation of tech language here, but it could be perceived negatively to the Washington egos who think they’re still in power.

Superslimdown. Now, this one would delight the GOP, as it marries two conservative buzzwords. Plus, it has great alliteration.

Staycation. This one gets points for not going overboard. First, it suggests austerity, which is appropriate, yet somehow has a peppy, “can-do” connotation and implies a temporary state of affairs.

I’ve just scratched the surface here. Give us your best ideas for a shutdown rebrand and we’ll update the post!

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