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The Difference Between Clever and Clear

Years ago, my parents' introduced a new product to their pizza and hotdog menu: chicken sandwiches. Their guy suggested encouraging customers to try the new sandwich by handing out coupons.

His big idea was to call the coupons “chicken chits.”

Besides the clever pun, he thought the name would also play off Lyndon Johnson's then-current statement, “I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.”

My 12-year-old self thought it was a great idea.

My dad said, “No.”

Years later, the restaurants launched another new product. We mixed our frozen orange juice dessert (called an O-Joy) with soft-serve vanilla ice cream. It tasted exactly like a creamsicle.

It was incredibly delicious.

The marketing guy played off old horror movie sequels and called it “Son of O-Joy.”

It didn't sell.

The Difference Between Clever and Clear

By then, I was old enough to work behind the counter. What I noticed was that people wanted to order the new treat. They just didn't want to say the name.

Instead, they'd call me over and say:

“Lemme have one of those O-Joys with the vanilla ice cream.” Or,

“I want to try that new orange vanilla thing.”

When they tasted the new dessert, they loved it. They just didn't love the name. The truth was people were embarrassed to say it.

We changed the name to Sno-Joy, and they sold like crazy.

The Difference Between Clever and Clear

That's when I first learned the difference between clever and clear.

Clever is intriguing.

Clear is instructive.

Clever is engaging.

Clear is compelling.

Clever encourages people to .

Clear encourages people to buy.

You don't want to be clever when you're offering directions.

You don't want to be clever when you're sharing a recipe.

And you also don't want to be clever when you're giving instructions.

You want to be clear.

It's the same when you're . Your clients and customers need to know what they're buying.


Because, as President Johnson said all those years ago, they know the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.

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