I'm sure you get the gist just from the title. Ries argues that by fixating on the idea that shorter is better, copywriters are editing the emotion right out of our work. He compares "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" to the fictionally truncated "Perdue, the tender chicken."
It's hard to disagree when you compare his list of modern shorties like:
- Ally Bank: Straightforward.
- Acura: Advance.
- FedEx: We understand.
- Ford: Drive one.
- Hertz: Journey on.
- Infiniti: Inspired performance.
To his list of longer classics like:
- Las Vegas: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." (7 words)
- M&M's: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands." (8 words)
- The New York Times: "All the news that's fit to print." (7 words)
- Saturn: "A different kind of company. A different kind of car." (10 words)
- Secret deodorant: "Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman." (10 words)
- Smuckers: "With a name like Smuckers, it's got to be good." (10 words)
But I like some of the one he dismisses (American Express: Take charge is rather nice). And some that he likes sound like a mouthful to me (for example, Roto-Rooter: "That's the name and away go troubles down the drain").
Certainly, there are no rules, and Ries gives the only guideline that sticks at the end of his column. He writes that the tagline should be "long enough to reach an emotional connection in the consumer's mind." But I might shorten that to "long enough to connect." (After all, I'm an On Writing Well girl to the core.)