Whenever I leave the gym near work, I hurry to my car by cutting across the grass to the right of the exit.

I am not alone.

The evidence? A path worn into the grass.

Every morning I enter my office building I avoid the oddly inefficient switchback entryway and cut across the grass.

There’s also a well-worn path there.

As I was browsing Your Daily Awesome today, I learned the term for these paths: desire paths.

Beautiful, isn’t it.

Not only are the words beautiful, but the concept is as well. How people’s desires are etched into the world.

It’s also an instructive example for marketers and web developers and copywriters, et al.

When you don’t build a product or a web site that satisfies the desires of real people, they’ll go somewhere else.

It also illustrates the importance of testing.

Your Creative Director or UI specialist may have had valid aesthetic or theoretical reasons why they used certain website graphics or developed a particular site navigation scheme, but if you watch how real people use your site (ideally before you launch a new version), you’ll learn pretty quickly where your site isn’t meeting their needs.

Watch people. Listen to them. The desires you see and hear can be the shortest path to success.

Language Log tipped me off to the current state of slogans for the Democrats and Republicans running for president.

And I agreed with the assessment: “a pretty feeble collection.”

I found it interesting that only 2 Democrats (none of the frontrunners) had any slogan, compared with 7 Republicans (all the frontrunners).

I’m curious how much to read into it or not? And wondering whether or not this reflects a conscious “marketing” decision that has party-line divisions?

The GOP is, after all, the party most associated with “traditional values” and political slogans are a tradition, just as taglines are a tradition for corporate branding and marketing.

But in the post-media, post-marketing, user-driven world we are entering, old forms of promotion are losing their luster.

The slogan and tagline are the ultimate sales-speak. At their worst, they are impenetrable or cryptic. They are often broad enough to be almost meaningless and too similar to other tags to offer any real positioning and differentiation.

Sure, when there’s a great match between tag and company, or the line captures something real and desirable and authentic, great things can happen. But more and more it’s really hard to hear them as anything but inauthentic.

So maybe the Democrats are getting real, shunning an outdated marketing technique? Then again, maybe they simply haven’t finished focus-grouping their entries enough yet.

Things I was surprised about:

  • That McCain had the longest slogan with 3 adjectives. Figured he’d be the man of action, not words. Think it’s a sign of desperation.
  • Only one example of alliteration: Mike Huckabee’s “Faith. Family. Freedom.”
  • Only 1 candidate invoked the “Future.” (Mitt Romney)
  • Only 1 candidate invoked “Change.” (Bill Richardson only; probably because no other major Dems had slogans)
  • Only 1 candidate invoked “Family.” (Mike Huckabee)

Things I was not surprised by:

  • The leading concept was Security/Strength, followed by Leadership/Experience.
  • Giuliani’s slogan was the most CEO-like: “Strong Leadership. Proven Results.”
  • Nothing really stood out, lots of similar “noise”

If I had to pick one (not as a great slogan, but as standing out in this list), it would be Kucinich’s “Strength through Peace”. Peace jumps out as a concept, not just because it’s unmentioned elsewhere, but because you know it is a real, tangible thing in 2008. It doesn’t represent only a concept, but something real: the end of the Iraq war. And I think he’s probably smart to frame Peace as leading to Strength (even if he doesn’t stand a chance).