The Business Of Businessing


Hello, there! How are we businessing today?

Are we businessing alone?

Are we businessing at home?

I could go on, but I’ll stop fake Seussing.

I ask because the new tagline for Intuit QuickBooks, “Business Differently” has formed an earworm in my head.

That means it’s good, right?

It’s a streamlined way to say what they’re selling without being boring.

Still, the verbing of nouns and the nouning of adjectives and adverbs never ceases to kill me.  Like, nouns are so dumb and adverbs are so, like, 1982?

I’m still not over the phrase I overheard a dude say the other day, which was “We are efforting on that.”

Work. How about work?  Work is a good, solid noun, a noun on which to build an empire.



It’s a muscle word.

But in the Mesozoic era of the tech business, it all started with a slogan based on that 19th century top hat of action verbs:  “Think.”

We have Thomas J. Watson Sr. to thank for that.  At a sales meeting for the National Cash Register company in Dayton, Ohio, in 1911, as the story goes on the IBM website, “Thomas J. Watson Sr, was frustrated with his colleagues….He strode forward in hopes of motivating the group to generate a few solid ideas for a campaign to boost sales….”

“The trouble with every one of us is that we don’t think enough,” he said. “We don’t get paid for working with our feet — we get paid for working with our heads,” Mr. Scoldy told his crew.

A sourpuss if I’ve ever seen one, Watson then wrote THINK in block letters on a blackboard.

When Watson became the head of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1914 --  a recently merged company that was the precursor to IBM -- he brought his simple, five-letter mantra with him.

And as the slogan for that world-changing computing business, Think was everywhere in the go-go business culture of the 1950s. It was so well known that even Mad magazine parodied it in the 1960s with the more counter-cultural “THIMK.”

Whereas “Think Small” was the line Doyle Dane Bernbach came up with in 1959 to introduce the vastly different German Volkswagen Beetle to an American audience used to yacht-sized, Detroit-made cars.

Head-spinningly simple and brilliant, “Think Small” conveyed everything it had to say in two small words.

It reversed all that was associated with the status of owning bigger-better-newer vehicles: This one was ugly, relatively cheap, and practical.  The design never changed.

The print ads showed a tiny bug placed within the white space of a two-page spread.

With its intelligence, humor, and honesty, “Think Small” revolutionized the ad industry, and the country built on Thinking Big.

It was so arresting in every way, that on “Mad Men” it made Don Draper angry and jealous.

This brings us to Apple, Steve Jobs, and “Think Different.”

Those two words probably referred more to IBM’s THINK (Apple and IBM were massive competitors at the time) than ”Think Small.”

But each played a part in arriving at “Think Different” in 1997.

At that point, Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple after having been replaced by PepsiCo President John Sculley, who’d been hired as a normalizing corporate force.

Sculley also replaced Chiat/Day, Apple’s award-winning ad agency, with Pepsi’s award-winning agency, BBDO.

It was a time of turmoil in Cupertino, and Chiat/Day was asked to take part in a pitch. The company was at a crossroads, with no new product to sell. So Chiat came up the with “Here’s to the Crazy Ones,” an Emmy-Award-winning spot as a placeholder, to put Apple back on the map and in pop culture. Instead of selling new merch, it sold the idea of genius—as embodied by the graphically inspired, giant scale portraits of Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Lucille Ball, among others.  What was unsaid was that Jobs too was a genius.

The creatives at Chiat, under Lee Clow, also came up with “Think Different,” purposefully rejecting the more grammatical “Think Differently.”

Jobs insisted that he wanted “different” to be used as a noun, as in “think beauty.”  

And Apple’s subsequent products, like the iPhone, did indeed live up to the “Genius” hype of “People who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

It would make anyone want to business differently.

2 comments about "The Business Of Businessing".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, February 23, 2024 at 9:07 a.m.

    Nice one Barbara. When I lived in California, driving up to San Francisco for my stint at Chiat, the radio station I was listening to went to "Chopper Five" for the traffic forcast. Over the throbbing of the rotors (I always suspected that this was a recording and there was no actual  "Chopper Five," let alone Chopper one, two, three, or four,) the traffic guy announced... "There's an extra heavy vehicular loading situation on the Bay Bridge." Meaning, I assume, there's a lot of traffic.... As I love to say on AdScam... "Cease this faggotry at once." Cheers/George 

  2. Barbara Lippert from, February 23, 2024 at 9:19 a.m.

    Thanks, George. I always watch out for vehicular loading situations. 

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