In the beginning, there was blog. Then came vlog (video blog). Then Amazon came along with--and even trademarked--Plog (personalized web log). Now Dan Fost at SFGate.com alerts us to "flog," a mashup of "forum" and "blog" developed by Emeryville, California-based communications company Lithium.
Fost helpfully points out that according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, flog means "'to beat with or as if with a rod or whip.' Other definitions include 'to criticize harshly,' 'to sell (as stolen goods) illegally, 'to promote aggressively' and 'to move along with difficulty.'"
Today being Independence Day, we ran "flog" up the flogpole. Nobody saluted.
You'll be relieved to know that Lithium is in neither the flagellation nor the mood-altering business, but rather has "a passion for providing customer community solutions that drive sales and lower customer care cost."
So my terrific pal Jon Carroll, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and gimlet-eyed observer of the cultural landscape, wrote this very flattering column today about my little rant on corporate "passion."
And then he took the ball and ran with it all the way through the goalposts and down to the grassy meadow targeted for mixed-use development:
I suppose there's always a tendency to use marketing as a cosmetic device to mask what's really going on. That's why oil companies keep talking about how much they love little birdies and big elk; if there's a word as overused as "passion," it would probably be "care." "We Care" as a corporate slogan means, as everyone who has been paying attention already knows, "We Don't Care."
It's like housing developments being named for the features that had to be destroyed in order to build the development. "Rushing Brook" or "Shady Meadow" or even "The Oaks." We don't have any actual oaks, so let's put them in the name instead.
Company leaders feel themselves at such remove from their workers that they have to hire outside consultants (whose per-hour rate exceeds that of the employees by a factor of four) to interview said employees to winkle out information that could probably be obtained in simple conversations. People who work together every day are required to fill out forms to tell each other what it is like to work together every day.
Where there is no human contact, there can be no passion. So let's put it in the slogan instead.
At L'Oreal Canada, "we share a passion for well-being, beauty, and conquering new markets." (But not for parallel syntax.)
Carpet maker Milliken & Company has a "corporate passion for trees and forests" that led to an Arbor Day tree-planting program.
When The Body Shop launched a line of products using passionfruit, it posted signs in corporate headquarters encouraging workers to "Work with Passion" and "Laugh with Passion." (According to my source, Stephanie Vollmer of Wicked Prose--no web site, alas--there was even a sign in the bathroom that said "Pee with Passion.")
And everyone--absolutely everyone--is seeking "people with a passion for [fill in the blank]" to occupy the cubicle down the hall.
How did we get so darned amorous about what used to be called the rat race?
Blame Tom Peters. In 1985 he published A Passion for Excellence, and since then he's tirelessly trod the globe, trying to keep the office fires burning. If he had a slogan, it would doubtless be "My Passion Is Passion."
Personally, although some people I know derive occasional satisfaction from their work, I know no one who approaches the daily grind with passion, unless it's in the original Latin sense of "suffering." (Whence "The Passion of the Christ.")
Still, "passion" has struck a chord--a monotonous, meaningless, tuneless chord, but a sort of noise nonetheless. I'll grant you this: As a linguistic marker, "passion" is certainly juicier than "ambition" or "willingness to endure long hours and continual abuse in exchange for a paycheck."
And so the passionate chorus continues, swelling and throbbing and mounting in a crescendo of...