Some marketers and business owners are strangely fixated on slogans. Also known as straplines, endlines, taglines and meaningless waffle, slogans are the words that go with your company logo.
But most of them are – frankly – crap. What’s more, many companies do perfectly well without one. In fact, the worst ones can do more harm than good.
Charles L. Whittier, in his book Creative Advertising, says a slogan should be “a statement of such merit about a product or service that it is worthy of continuous repetition in advertising, is worthwhile for the public to remember, and is phrased in such a way that the public is likely to remember it.”
Timothy R. Foster, in The Art and Science of the Advertising Slogan, added: “The purpose of the strapline (slogan, claim, endline, signature, etc.) is to leave the key brand message in the mind of the target. It is the sign-off that accompanies the logo. It says ‘If you get nothing else from this ad, get this!'”
So, the first thing I’d like to tell you is this: you don’t need a slogan. A strapline is not necessary to sell your product or service. A great product, knowledge of your ideal customers, and targeted relevant marketing will sell your product or service.
There are loads of agencies out there who will charge you an absolute fortune to come up with one – and who knows, you may get lucky and they’ll come up with a brilliant one. More than likely, though, it’ll be meaningless waffle that won’t help you or your brand.
25 things your slogan should be
Having said that, great slogans hit the spot and people remember them for years. “Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it”, anyone?
Great slogan. No idea what possessed them to change it to the inane ‘Let’s go!’
So if you really want a slogan, make sure you create a good one. There’s no reason why you can’t come up with one yourself, either. Timothy Foster’s Art and Science of the Advertising Slogan lists these 25 attributes your slogan should have.
- It should be memorable
- It should recall the brand name
- It should include a key benefit
- It should differentiate the brand
- It should impart positive feelings for the brand
- It should reflect the brand’s personality
- It should be strategic
- It should be campaignable
- It should be competitive
- It should be original
- It should be simple
- It should be neat
- It should be believable
- It should help in ordering the brand
- It should not be bland, generic or hackneyed
- It should not prompt a sarcastic or negative response
- It should not be pretentious
- It should not be negative
- It should not be corporate waffle
- It should not make you say “so what?”
- It should not make you say “oh yeah?”
- It should not be meaningless
- It should not be complicated or clumsy
- You should like it
- It should be TRUE
Most importantly, your slogan should be…
Don’t copy other brands, especially competitors. Your slogan needs to be unique to you, so it doesn’t make sense for anyone else. For example, it seems that most lager brands need to be seen as refreshing. If you can put a new spin on a tired message, it will set your brand apart – like Heineken.
Bud Ice is “Extreme refreshment”, Budweiser is “Refreshingly different” and Hamm’s is “Hamm’s the beer refreshing”.
But Heineken… Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach. That’s memorable, and it sets them apart from other beers.
Then, of course, you have the really original:
- New York State: I heart New York (and millions of t-shirts and hats are sold every year with this little slogan)
- My mate, Marmite
- Thomson Holidays: If Thomson don’t do it, don’t do it. But if they do, do.
2. Different – it should encapsulate your USP
Avis did a brilliant job of this. They weren’t the most popular car rental company; Hertz was. So Avis used their second-rate status to their advantage in all their advertising.
They said, simply, “We’re number 2, so we try harder.”
Even better, Avis adopted their motto as the way they ran their company. They did try harder. They overhauled every aspect of their business, making sure they did a brilliant job for their customers. Because of this, they increased their market share from 11% to 34%. They set a new standard for car rental agencies and it’s still their tagline today.
This is in stark contrast to the empty boasts of some companies. It’s dangerous to make claims you can’t back up – especially if your image is a bit iffy.
Peugeot’s slogan was “the drive of your life”, but their cars are very ordinary. It’s not like you’re buying a Lamborghini or an Aston Martin DB5, for goodness’ sake. It’s a boring family car.
And British Rail invited outright ridicule and anger with their “We’re getting there” slogan – when clearly a lot of people weren’t getting anywhere on trains that were late or cancelled.
Mars’s “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” was often turned into “A Mars a day helps your teeth rot away”, which I suspect wasn’t what the advertisers had in mind… and was more likely.
3. Include a key benefit
Sell the sizzle, not the sausage. In other words, sell the benefits, not the product. We could use Avis again as a good example here. But there are lots of others:
- Polaroid: The fun develops instantly
- Swan Light: Won’t make a pom tiddly (I love this. It reminds me of Winnie the Pooh. I should explain that Swan Light is an Australian low-alcohol beer…)
- BMW: The ultimate driving machine (because they’re not just selling a car, they’re selling the feeling of driving a powerful car)
- BT: It’s good to talk
FedEx has had a few good slogans over the years, but my favourite is: “Our most important package is yours.”
Compare those good ones to these bad ones:
- Equity & Law. Need we say more. (Erm, yes actually. So what?)
- We’re Exxon. (So what?)
- MFI: Take a look at us now. (Why?)
There are no benefits in these three; in fact, they could be applied to any other business anywhere, and mean equally as little.
And here’s three things your slogan shouldn’t be…
1. Corporate waffle
United Research wins this category with “Accelerating strategic change”. Coming a close second is Ames Rubber with “Excellence through total quality”.
Please remember that your customers are people. And the people who work for you are people. And I don’t believe anybody with half a brain really likes this type of absolute corporate bollocks.
Every company that’s still trading does something that somebody finds useful, so there’s really no excuse for slogans like these.
If you’re selling a sofa, don’t pretend it’s going to change your customer’s life. It isn’t. And trying to sound ironic and self-deprecating usually backfires too.
- We’re Exxon, we do it right (do what right? Oil spills?)
- When Better Automobiles are Built, Buick Will Build Them (presumably because Buick can’t be arsed to build better automobiles now)
- Churchill. Surprisingly passionate about insurance (ah, the knowingly self-deprecating chuckle should accompany this slogan)
- Olivetti. Our force is your energy (this is just crap)
- Vodafone: Make the most of now (meaningless as well as pretentious)
3. Prompting a sarcastic or negative response
Make sure you get lots of people to read your slogan before you make your decision. And definitely show it to the smart-arse who mocks or makes a joke out of everything. If there’s a negative response to be had, someone will find it – make sure you find it before you send it out there to be ridiculed…
- Delta Airlines. We get you there. (Well I should hope so. Is the alternative crashing?)
- Mobil. We want you to live. (As opposed to ‘we want you to die’?)
- Dixons. The last place you want to go. (I’m sure they think they were being clever, but really it just sums up Dixons for a lot of people, I suspect.)
- The car in front is a Toyota. (Unless it’s a Peugeot. Or a Mazda. Or a motorbike. Or a… well, you get the idea.)
Honesty is the best policy
Probably the best piece of advice I can give you about writing a slogan is that it should be true. Don’t make wild claims or tell outright lies, because you’ll be found out. It will erode your customers’ trust and you’ll struggle to win it back.
Besides, if you’ve got a great product or service and a good reputation, why would you need to be anything but honest? In fact, why would you need to worry about a slogan at all?
If you’re still dead set on having a slogan though, make sure you take all this advice into account. Talk to your customers, see what they say about you. You might find that your slogan pops out of something they’ve said.
And if you’re still struggling, you can always give me a call. Getting right to the heart of why people love products, then translating that into great marketing, is what I do. Get in touch and we’ll see what I can do for you.
By Vicky Fraser
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