Keep Calm and Read On – 10 Reasons why Something so Simple was so Powerful

During World War II, three posters were created on behalf on the British monarchy. One of these three posters never ended up being used in the war effort, and most copies of it were destroyed. However,  this poster would become one of the most widespread and recognised icons of the 21st century. 

These particular posters bore the slogan “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”.  

 60 years after the war, British shop owners Stuart and Mary Manley of Barter Books found a copy amongst a pile of books purchased from an auction, and they hung the quaint phrase in their window. What followed was a ripple effect across London and the world. But the question is, how did such a deceptively simple phrase have such an effect on people, which led it to be adopted (and arguable mangled) by almost anyone and everyone?


  1. It is simple and short, making it easy to remember. At Fyooz, we like efficiency and the beauty of simplicity!
  2. In five words, it carried two messages- to keep calm and to carry on with the day’s work rather than becoming anxious and distracted. Readers hence pay attention to it as they resonate with the wisdom of the suggestion.
  3. The message sounds feasible and easily within the scope of the common person. (it is not that hard to keep calm and carry on is it?!?)
  4. The phrasing is a direct command, rather than optional suggestion. It’s curtness leaves no time for refusal and the surprise caused may well lead to conformance rather than reaction.
  5. ‘Carry On’ has military connotations as it evokes an officer inspecting troops and, approving what they are doing, telling them to ‘carry on’. The authoritarianism and absolute power of military officers gives no option for refusal, giving strength to the statement.
  6. ‘Keep Calm’ and ‘Carry On’ are both commands that say pretty much the same thing. Having both in a sentence serves as a ‘double-tap’ reinforcement, where the second command immediately after the first command gives no time for refusal of the first command. Repeating the first message in a different way helps those who did not get it the first time.
  7. The slightly different but similar second message also causes cognitive loading as the reader compares the two messages to test for alignment or contradiction. When you get people thinking about something, and especially where there is no real counter-argument, then they have no time for creating other objections.
  8. The double command is also sequential. First you keep calm, and then you carry on. When you have taken one step you are in motion. The second step builds momentum while establishing both direction and a pattern that just needs to be continuously repeated.
  9. The assumptive nature of the message plays a big part. ‘Keep Calm’ assumes you are already calm. Assuming calm shows confidence in the other person and when you show approval, you invoke pride, which also leads to a desire to act in the manner for which the approval is given.
  10. It is important to always consider the subtleties of messages, making them unconsciously powerful while keeping them memorably brief.

But if this all seems a little daunting to you, don’t worry! Keep calm and give FyoozStudio a call!

keep calm_v2