I recently saw this standalone ad:

and I thought a "win-win" was something that's a "win" for two different people/groups who might otherwise be opposing each other, or at the very least, two different wins (especially one right after another) for the same person.
What am I missing here?
Do I misunderstand "win-win?"
Is there a distinction I'm missing between "less expensive" and "saving money" in this context?
Is it something else?

  • You are not missing anything; you understand the idiom perfectly. Either the advertising copywriter did not understand the idiom win-win, or ... well, I can't think of the second alternative. Perhaps the copywriter is just a numbskull, or an executive at "SolarCity" (intercaps are so 2004) insisted on the copy because he thought it was "clever." Sep 10, 2016 at 3:35
  • @P.E.Dant Come on over to Stack Overflow, the largest Stack Exchange site, and you'll see that CamelCase is alive and well...
    – WBT
    Sep 10, 2016 at 4:02
  • 1
    My scorn for the practice exempts its use in function and argument names, where it advances intelligibility. Elsewhere, it is a stain upon the escutcheon of marketing. Sep 10, 2016 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


I think your understanding is correct. I also think this ad is not particularly clear. I also thought that this ad referred to a single "win", as in, obviously less expensive equals saving money. So it would seem like they are using "win-win" incorrectly. But it might not refer to the same win. On their site, I saw this: enter image description here

We could give the ad the benefit of the doubt as an instance of headlinese. Then judging from the first panel, I have a feeling that the ad is meant to imply that their services are less expensive compared to their competitors' services and you save on your monthly bills, for example. I think that would certainly be a win-win.

If we don't give them the benefit of the doubt, then it really seems like an incorrect usage of "win-win" and an attempt to grab the reader's attention.

  • But this does not satisfy the condition implied in the idiom. The two wins must be somehow apposite to each other. Where is the apposition between paying less and saving money? Both benefits accrue to the customer! Sep 10, 2016 at 3:39
  • I think because you save money in two different ways, it counts as a win-win. I suppose I'm taking win-win to mean that all (the two) options are beneficial, and in this case they are. The option of choosing this company is beneficial and the option of going solar is beneficial.
    – Em.
    Sep 10, 2016 at 4:06
  • Win-win does not mean "both options are beneficial." That describes just two wins. There is no apposition of interests there: both accrue to the customer! Example of a real win-win: a clownfish and anemone living in near symbiosis. Sep 10, 2016 at 4:50
  • It doesn't have to be. win-win: designating or of a situation, course of action, etc. having multiple possible outcomes, any of which may be interpreted as successful or positive. This does not preclude a single person from having a win-win. Is that what you're getting at? I think OP made that more or less clear.
    – Em.
    Sep 10, 2016 at 4:58
  • A win-win in the real sense of the idiom can only apply to a single person when the context includes competing interests, both of which are satisified to some degree. It appears that the point of the idiom escaped not just the copywriter. It also escaped the clown who wrote that entry in "yourdictionary.com." As Wikipedia has it: ...a win–win strategy is a conflict resolution process that aims to accommodate all disputants. (My emphasis.) In a zero sum game, my gain is your loss. In a win-win, this expectation is up-ended: both sides win. Sep 10, 2016 at 5:19

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