Bad Slogans

Author Dan Kennedy recounts a survey reported on USA TODAY’s website measuring the impact of current advertising slogans. Dan reports that only Wal-Mart’s “Always Low Prices” was recognized by 64% of the consumers tested. The shocking findings: Of the slogans and advertising tag lines tested for 22 of the biggest U.S. advertisers,

  • only 6 were recognized by more than 10% of the consumers surveyed.
  • 16 of the 22 advertisers had slogans no one knew – after over 100-million dollars a year were spent advertising them.
  • 3 scored 0% recognition.

The 3 with zero recognition were:

1. We’re With You
2. That Was Easy
3. The Stuff Of Life 

Other low scorers included:

4. “The Good Life. Great Price.” – 2%
5. “We Bring good things To Life” – 3%
6. “Your potential. Our passion.” – 1%

The 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948

By contrast, more than 400 nominated slogans and jingles since 1948 were sent to 100 advertising, marketing, and branding professionals on both the client and agency side, and participants were asked to rank their top 10 taglines and top 3 jingles based on the following branding criteria:

  • Longevity: Have they endured the test of time?
  • Equity: Have they become synonymous with a company or product?
  • Portability & Memorability: Have they exercised an influence on our culture, media, and language?
  • Originality: Have they broken new ground in the advertising industry?

The top 100 are listed here. Here are the top 10:

Got milk? (1993)
California Milk Processor Board
Don’t leave home without it. (1975)
American Express
Just do it. (1988)
Where’s the beef? (1984)
You’re in good hands with Allstate. (1956)
Allstate Insurance
Think different. (1998)
Apple Computer
We try harder. (1962)
Tastes great, less filling. (1974)
Miller Lite
Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. (1954)
M&M Candies
Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (1956)


Ad Slogan or In-Depth Marketing Idea?

Matt Williams in Campaign has his own slogan to describe a good slogan:

Encapsulating everything that a brand stands for in a ‘snappy line’ is no easy task.

Matt points out that slogans that in one short sentence sum up a brand’s positioning, integrate all of its different marketing channels and give consumers a memorable message to take away with them are rare indeed. But then again, is a good slogan really necessary? He poses the question:
With the number of new marketing sectors for brands to capitalize on, it seems that the need for a simple slogan has been replaced by the need for an in-depth marketing idea.
So what’s more important – a good slogan or in-depth marketing idea? It’s best to incorporate both. Obviously, a good slogan that encapsulates the brand identity is an invaluable commodity; otherwise, why would Travelers have paid a fortune to buy back it’s umbrella logo from Citigroup? Mark Roalfe, chairman of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R points out that “in today’s fast-paced world, where most people only seem to communicate in 140 characters or less, the need to sum up a brand’s ideal in one snappy line is even more enticing.”

A good slogan should reflect an in-depth marketing idea in a way that creates a consistent brand experience.

What Makes a Great Slogan?

According to Matt, some approaches have historically been more effective than others:

Declarative. The majority of the best slogans are declarative because consumers trust confidence, as when BMW declares that it makes “the world’s best driving machine.”

Obvious Differentiator: The choice at Burger King means that you can “have it your way”.
Connect the Consumer with the Brand: L’Oreal’s”Because you’re worth it” clearly speaks from the consumer’s perspective. As Trevor Beattie, partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay puts it, “If you can sum up your emotions about a brand in half-a-dozen words or less, then you’ve cracked it.”
A Contagious Attitude: Ben Kay, head of planning, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R says: “The best slogans take simple products and brand truths and give them an attitude that people can adapt and take on as their own.
Brand Integration: Kay warns that a catchy tagline isn’t enough:

But the days of coming up with neat little taglines to sign off a TV ad are gone. Now the interesting thing is taking a thought and developing it throughout a brand, and then the great slogan is usually born out of that.

The problem comes when you apply a generic slogan, as that means the line becomes less of an idea and doesn’t give the consumers any thought to grab hold of and take with them.

A Point of View:  Matt quotes Tom Morton, executive planning director, TBWA\Media Arts:

Many of today’s best endlines are more like mottos or attitude statements that take a stand. ‘Lead a Muller life’ is a company motto, a point of view about yoghurt as a food for a full and healthy life.

Denote a Superior User Experience

What do all these attributes of a good slogan have in general? They denote a superior user experience.

Of course it’s difficult to distill all the value propositions of multiple channels and user touch points into a single overarching statement. But that’s what successful brand experiences are made of. Successful brands offer a consistent brand experience across all customer touch points. Not only does this create a strong brand impression for the consumer, but it also unites the organization in a common purpose that builds a better brand experience for the consumer. As Morton puts it:

Ideally the lines are deep enough that they can influence the shape of brand activity even when the endline doesn’t appear. That’s even more important when many of the growth channels of marketing – content, events, mobile – don’t even carry endlines. So a good slogan can really work for brand owners to hold it all together.

For instance, a financial services company may seek to stand apart in a crowded field of competitors offering similar products. One strategy would be to differentiate itself on the value of the  service experience it provides its customers. The overarching proposition should encompass the ease of doing business. When it comes to the various channels and customer touch points, the message can be honed to reflect the specific value attributes that deliver on the brand promise of ease of doing business. Such a consumer-oriented attitude will be reflected in all service functions: sales, enrollment, claims, service inquiries, annual notices and ongoing reviews.

The core value proposition needs to permeate all functions in the organization. And that brand promise needs to be captured in a memorable line that stands for a motto, resolution or promise that the organization has been formed to deliver on.