My recent dining experience at the Olive Garden drove home an observation that may not be popular among “foodies” – that the Olive Garden brand experience is extraordinary. Having grown up in New York where I have dined at some of the most amazing Italian restaurants, I understand that this is not quite the same experience. Still, the Olive Garden has taken American casual dining to a new level.

The Evolution of a Branded Dining Experience

When you eat at Olive Garden, you are immersed in an imaginary time and place – an idealized version of 1050s Italy. Italian American music from the 50s creates an immediate sense of familiar nostalgia, as if you were returning to childhood roots in and Italian American neighborhood.

Olive Garden president David Pickens, 53, says that the restaurant promises “an idealized Italian family meal, whether you’re Italian or not.”

General Mills launched the chain in 1982 as an affordable Italian restaurant with few surprises. While it grew to hundreds of locations by the 1990’s, the menu had grown stale and sales were in decline. John Caron, Olive Garden’s head of marketing says that it lost its culinary and cultural soul.

The company did extensive research and found that the key consumer insight was that people missed the emotional comfort and connectivity that comes with family. Chief operating officer Drew Madsen, former head of marketing notes that:

People come to a restaurant for both physical and emotional nourishment. The physical is the food; and the emotional is how you feel when you leave.

In pursuit of a mythical Italian family experience, the company adopted the tagline, “When you’re here, you’re family,” designing new locations  to suggest Italian farmhouses with a large family-style table, modeled on one in a Florentine trattoria.

A partnership was formed with the Culinary Institute of Tuscany (CIT), and eleven times a year, the company sends 14 top employees, many of whom have never set foot in Italy, to spend a week in an 11th-century village in Tuscany to learn from Sergio and Daniela Zingarelli, a husband and wife who operate a restaurant, winery, and inn. Since 1999, some 850 employees have attended CIT, and 80% of them are still with the company. Today, many items on the dinner menu carry a CIT logo, designating that they were inspired by a staffer’s experience in Italy.  These experiences and menu items provide a rare authenticity for a chain restaurant  Fast Company provides a good example – risotto:

In a pilot program at a small number of restaurants, diners were initially tepid. As attitudes changed, the test kitchens took on the preparation challenge; risotto requires 20 minutes to cook, longer than customers are willing to wait. Chefs eventually found a more expensive variety of rice that could be cooked most of the way through in advance, finished off just before serving, and still retain the desired taste and texture. Risotto is now part of a CIT-inspired entrée designed to entice more adventurous diners who might not have considered Olive Garden: Chianti-braised short ribs (minus the bone — a concession to American tastes) and portobello mushroom risotto.

Promotion That Isn’t Just Hype

Dale Buss‘s article on Brand ChannelOlive Garden Puts Tuscany at Center of Brand Experience reveals some of the thought that goes into perfecting the $3-billion Olive Garden chain’s brand experience. Of a recent promotion, Dale shows that it far exceeds a sweepstakes promotion on the brand’s Facebook page. It focuses on creating a virtual vacation experience at its restaurants:

With everything Olive Garden is doing — from its new TV ads to a restaurant-remodeling campaign — they want you to whisk you to Tuscany.

The new commercials highlight the fact that Olive Garden sends dozens of its chefs to its culinary institute in Tuscany for training with those who create the genuine Italian cuisine that the brand attempts to duplicate in its US restaurants. The chain also recently announced that it is remodeling 400 of its more than 730 locations over the next two years in an effort to reinforce its Tuscan heritage with consumers. The new look, called Via Tuscany, draws its inspiration from a Tuscan farmhouse, Olive Garden says, and features not only a brick arch and newly planted cypress trees, but also – you guessed it – Tuscan stone.

An Innovative Business Model

Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Longhorn, is the country’s largest full-service restaurant operation, the 29th-largest employer in the United States, and a pioneer of “casual dining,” which constitutes 39% of all sit-down restaurant meals.

The company operates 1,770 restaurants, and generated $6.7 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year. It serves enough meals (more than 400 million) per year to feed the entire U.S. population, with seconds for California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

Although Olive Garden’s 57 consecutive quarter growth streak ended last fall, Darden is faring better than most of its competition in this economy, exceeding analysts’ earnings forecasts. By May, 2012, its stock had tripled from its last November low. And Darden plans to add as many as 55 restaurants in 2o13.

A Visionary CEO

Clarence OtisCEO Clarence Otis, a 53-year-old janitor’s son from Watts, Los Angeles, works in a troubled sector of the economy and has faced criticisms for the kinds of labor issues that plague it. Still, his vision for Olive Garden has been visionary. He told FastCompany that, despite the focus on the sensory side of the dining experience, his leadership of Olive Garden relies on a carefully thought out and executed strategy:

On the continuum of intuitive restaurants versus systematized, analytic restaurants, we’re very analytic. The direction of our business is based on understanding customers.”

Growing up, Otis would escape the racial strife and isolation of Watts through reading. By ninth grade, he had finished nearly every novel and biography there. He earned a scholarship to Williams College, went to law school at Stanford, and at 31, became a vice president at First Boston. In 1995, a headhunter recommended him to Darden, just spun off from General Mills, where he moved up, from treasurer to chief financial officer, and then president of its Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill chain. In 2004, he became one of the few African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500. He plotted a new course for major growth, and began making changes.

Formula For Suceess In A Challenging Environment

 Today, the average American has 16% fewer sit-down restaurant meals per year,than 15 years ago, according to analyst Harry Balzer of market-research firm NPD Group, while the number of casual-dining restaurants has grown at roughly twice the rate of population.

Knowing this, Otis integrated complimentary strategies for success that is at heart a market share drive. The elements include:

  • Leading-edge technology with efficient purchasing practices out of the Wal-Mart playbook.
  • Decentralized brand-management honed over the 15 years that the company was owned by General Mills.
  • Sharing of information between brands.

Consumer Focus: Over the past year, Darden’s 22-member customer-insight team invited 16 million customers across its six chains to answer guest-satisfaction questionnaires, which Darden says predicts shifts in traffic at individual locations.

Synergies: Competitive pressures make it vital for the company’s 180,000 employees and three major brands to to work collaboratively. The three brands operate as “test labs”, sharing best practice ideas and personnel, while still maintaining distinctive identities. At the headquarters in Orlando, 1,400 executives and restaurant support staff who formerly worked in 12 buildings spread out over 2 miles are coming together with  test kitchens that will operate side by side.

Quality: Introducing predictability to a volatile business is a major undertaking. Fast Company points out that Darden is actually running 1,770 just-in-time manufacturing plants, creating in minutes “a wide range of products selected, consumed, and judged by customers who show up unannounced, ” something that requires innovation, creativity, and strict quality standards, with anyone using an outdated item fired on the spot.

Technological Innovation: According to an industry analyst cited by Fast Company:

In every area where technology can be applied, Darden has a considerable lead on other businesses. Darden was computerizing its guest surveys in the 1990s, when other restaurants were relying on comment boxes.

In the 1970s, Darden had worked with Burger King to build the first restaurant point-of-sale system, which tracked sales in real time, eliminating the need for managers to call in the previous day’s results. Today, this has developed into a program called “Guest Forecasting.” Guest Forecasting successfully projects the appropriate staffing and food preparation required each day, including how many orders of each menu item to expect, and how much sauce to make in the morning.

The result: Over the past two years, Darden has reduced unplanned hours by more than 40% and trimmed excess food costs by 10%. The goal isn’t “zero waste” because the restaurant doesn’t want to run out of anything on the menu, but no more than 9% waste.

A recently introduced program called “Meal Pacing” displays the optimal work flow for each party on eight screens in the kitchen and monitors each station’s progress, with color-coded warnings when one falls behind. It ensures that the staff meets Darden’s one-minute rule: Food should arrive at the table within one minute of being ready.

The result: The program takes much of the guesswork out of juggling  simultaneous orders, allowing the restaurant to turn tables faster at peak times, increasing revenue and driving guest-satisfaction scores up.

“Not everybody’s a gourmet, but everybody can tell time” ~ Bill Darden

The next technological frontier is to address wait times. While the restaurants don’t accept reservations, it’s not ideal for business to allow guests to wait an hour or more. One pilot program is using handheld devices to speed things up, enabling waiters submit orders and payments at the table, eliminating lag time.

Another project shares wait times across restaurants to allow hostesses to direct customers to nearby Darden establishments that aren’t as busy. Ultimately, customers could be given online access to that information.

Related Articles:


Most Hated Advertising Slogan:

smuckers slogan

Best Selling Jam!

jamSmucker now owns the No. 1 brands in coffee, jams and jellies, peanut butter, and cooking oil.

According to Fortune, the secret of Smucker’s success is keeping it in the family.  Contributing editor Marc Gunther fills in the blanks: here’s a synopsis of Marc’s article:

Since Ohio farmer James Monroe Smucker began selling apple butter from the back of a horse-drawn wagon in In 1897, the company has had five chief executives, all named Smucker.

Sales have skyrocketed from $632 million in fiscal year 2000 to $4.6 billion in 2010, as the company acquired iconic brands Jif, Crisco, and Folger’s and profits grew from $36 million to $494 million. Shareholders have received a total return of 309% over the past 10 years, compared with -15% for the S&P 500.

Their secret ingredient? Al Yeagley, a vice president who has been with Smucker for 36 years says:

“The real secret is the family. They treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s the old golden rule.

In fact, Smucker ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For in 2004.

Brand Integrity

According to Richard Smucker:

We’re really all about managing and marketing brands.

Smucker’s family-friendly values are its brand, its philosophy and its practice. Smucker won’t buy TV commercials on shows with violent or prurient content. It sponsors the birthday greetings for centenarians on NBC’s Today show. And, moreover, Smucker spends more than industry rivals on advertising and promotion. Its slogans are as iconic as its brands:

  • “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good”
  • “The best part of wakin’ up is Folger’s in your cup”

Ascending the Brand Pyramid

Smucker wasn’t always as brand-centric. It originally focused on buying jam and jelly companies in Brazil, Britain, and Australia and producing fruit for products like Dannon yogurt and Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts.

The company undertook a sweeping strategy review in the mid-1990s, involving top executives, middle managers and factory workers, and shifted its focus to brands. Smucker understood that “real money in supermarkets is made in the middle of the store, where processed foods and well-known brands reign supreme.” Richard Smucker summarizes Smucker’s brand-focused strategy:

To own and market No. 1 brands, sold in the center of the store, in North America

This drove the company to numerous acquisitions including:

  • Jif
  • Crisco
  • International Multifoods (including Pillsbury and Hungry Jack)
  • Folger’s

Businesses that were inconsistent with the company’s core were sold, including its ingredient businesses, overseas operations, and weaker brands. For instance, on the theory that Smucker can have an impact on what Americans eat for breakfast and lunch (PB&J), but not at dinner, it kept Hungry Jack pancakes and syrups , but sold off dried potatoes. Coffee has become the company’s biggest segment.

And now you know why with a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.






Conveying The Unique Value Proposition

Brands convey the identity of a company or organization and create a visual/brand personality. The logos pictured above are among the most recognized brand symbols in the world today. Still, over time, as times and people change,  brands need to be updated. Here are the stories of how the logos were updated over time.


brand appleThe Rainbow Apple: Apple is one of the most successful biggest consumer electronics brand, best known for products like Macintosh, iPod and iphone. When Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne set up Apple in 1976 to sell their hand-built computer Apple I, HP declined to carry the line.  Success takes time, and when it didn’t prove easy, Wayne liquidated his share in the company for $800.

Success came with the launch of Apple II in 1977, a product that owed much of its success to colored graphics. Apple established its USP (Unique Selling Proposition) from the with great and simple design. But the first logo, designed by Jobs and Wayne, was a complicated picture of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree bearing the lengthy and heady inscription: “Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.”  Steve Jobs then hired Rob Janoff to simplify the logo, and the ‘Rainbow Apple’ personified the UVP so well that it remained in use until 1998.

One of the rumors about the origin of the Rainbow Apple logo was that it was a tribute to Newton that also reflected Apple’s colored graphics. Another explanation is that the bitten apple pays homage to the Mathematician Alan Turing, regarded as the father of computers, who committed suicide by eating an apple he had laced with cyanide, while the rainbow colors of the logo were a reference to the rainbow flag, reflecting Turing’s homosexuality.

Janoff has said that he  designed the logo to “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato,” and was reflecting the “byte/bite” pun, as Apple’s slogan at the time was: “Byte into an Apple.”)

Monochromatic Apple: When Apple launched the new iMac in 1998, they changed their logo to a monochromatic apple logo, reflecting changing times and the simplicity of the iMac. Today the logo has been updated from a flat 2-dimensional symbol to a 3-dimensional gradient chrome silver design, which appears to bring the sense of technological evolution to the fore.


brand mercedesThe Mercedes-Benz was formed by the merger of two car companies – DMG (Daimler-Motored-Gesellschaft, founded by Gottlieb Daimler) and Benz & Cie, founded by Karl Benz after the World War I.

In 1902, the logo for Mercedes was simply the company’s name. However, it adopted the iconic 3-pointed star in 1909. The origin of the star was taken from a postcard by Diamler, where he had scribbled a 3 pointed star to represent ‘making vehicles in land water and sky’. With the merger of the two companies in 1926, a new symbol for Mercedes-Benz merged the logos of both companies into one,  combining the Mercedes 3-pointed star with the Benz laurel wreath. Over the years, the symbol has been improved vastly in design and simplicity, and, like Apple’s, is now a 3-dimensional monochromatic metallic silver. It reflects the tasteful luxury of a top tier car that stands on its own merit without need for embellishment.


brand fordHenry Ford founded two companies before settling on Ford, and neither venture went well. He founded his third company in 1902, called Ford & Malcomson, Ltd. When he was unable to pay the bills for parts in his third company, some investors agreed to put money in the company. It was renamed as Ford Motor Co., and the name was reflected in the first logo of 1903. The 1909 logo, which has a similar font as today’s logo, was borrowed from Childe Harold Wills, who had made this font for his business card.

In 1912, the Ford logo was given a makeover and the famous blue oval was introduced in the logo. The company experimented with different shapes, including the ellipse, circle, and even a diamond like-shape in 1957, and the 1976 logo, very similar to their current logo, was the last major change in the symbol.

In recent years, American car companies have experienced a rebirth after becoming rather old fashioned and stodgy in comparison to Japanese imports. The logo seems to reflect this transition. In 2003, the company released its new  “Centennial Blue Oval”. The current design is also shares  common design elements with the current Apple and Mercedes logos: it is simple, bold, 3-dimensional and monochromatic, with a metallic sheen.


brand bmwThe famous white and blue symbol of BMW stems from the company’s origins as airplane engine manufacturers. Many aircraft were painted in regional colors and those of the Bavarian Luftwaffe were the Bayern white and blue. It is said that the pilot’s view through the propeller was one of white and blue

Through the years the image become stylized into solid quarters of blue and white. Since the end of the 1970s BMW has worked to create a standardized international image in terms of statement and presentation so that whenever people encounter the company’s symbols they can easily recognize it. Like the other logos shown above, the BMW logo has recently taken on a 3-dimensional metallic sheen.


Each of the above company and logos reflects a unique, recognizable identity, but share some remarkably common attributes – their histories and their ability to evolve with consumers. They all represent advanced technologies and somehow stand for more than themselves: Apple and Ford are identified with American innovation, as Mercedes and BMW are with exacting German standards. All have made transitions, reinventing themselves to fit the needs and desires of the consumer, and, in doing so, stand out as 3-dimensional brands in a flat field. When all of this can be captured in a single image, something remarkable is happening, marketing at its most effective best.


“I don’t know why people call me a curmudgeon. I’m not a curmudgeon. I don’t even like the word curmudgeon. It’s just another annoying word to add to the long list of things I just don’t like.”


Alright. Andy didn’t say that exactly. At least not the last 4 sentences of it. But it certainly seems to fit. In fact, if I asked you to guess the name of the speaker, you’d be likely to have named “Andy Rooney,” wouldn’t you? The point, again in words Andy might have used, is:

Ever notice how seldom the word “curmudgeon” is used these days? That’s because there are few who can fill its shoes. It’s a word that conveys a certain kind of genuineness, honesty and  integrity. I’d be proud to be thought of as a curmudgeon, which is precisely why I’m not. Because a real curmudgeon just wouldn’t give a damn.

The lovable old curmudgeon brand was Andy’s, and he owned it.

Marketing Mitt

Bill Lee, president of the Customer Reference Forum, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset (HBR Press, June 2012) has written an interesting article for Harvard Business Review’s blog on The Marketing of a President.

Partisanship Aside…

Bill,  a Republican who has worked in a presidential campaign as well as the George H.W. Bush Administration, offers critiques to his own party, although he holds that much of this can also be applied equally to the Democratic Party as well.

As an independent myself, I greatly appreciate Bill’s willingness to step outside the political box and offer an objective perspective. To balance his criticisms of the Republican marketing tactics, I will inject some criticisms of the Democratic tactics.

In short: Bill observes that if neither candidate really connects with voters or truly inspire them,  that’s a problem for the party brand. Taking a step back, he also points out that the way that we traditionally market businesses is broken. Applying this to politics,  Bill asks two core questions:

  • How referable are your candidates for president? “By which I mean, how likely are their followers to passionately advocate for them to their family, friends, neighbors, and peers?”
  • How inspiring are their ideas? “How much do they move their followers? Can their followers even really say what their core ideas are?”

Following the Wrong Business Model

Top Down Marketing: Bill notes that the model for selecting a candidate is heavily weighted towards a relatively small number of huge donors who don’t understand or share the interests of ordinary voters but control the ideas the party generates. The results:

And what has this model delivered? After hundreds of millions of dollars spent, and interminable months campaigning against a clearly vulnerable incumbent president presiding over a persistently weak economy, the best we can say is that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are in a dead heat. We can’t say that Romney has cultivated a growing number of passionate and inspired citizen advocates for his candidacy and its ideas. And in the final three weeks, his success will depend on some dispiriting, high-risk combination of the final debate performance, the hopes of exploiting some possible “October surprise” (and avoiding one of his own), and most of all, negative ads.

Voice of the Institution: I have referred to this as the Voice of the Institution, as opposed to the Voice of the Customer. It’s Company Centricity, vs. Customer Centricity. Bill rightly faults the Republican model for this. They unabashedly represent the interests of the 1%, and attempt to tie this to the interests of the average voter by making the old, economically discredited supply side claim that wealth “trickles down.” The term “job creators” is the latest reincarnation of this disproven construct.

Disconnected Voice: Democratic marketing can make the same mistake of sounding disconnected from the interests of the common person when discussing government initiatives to help those who are struggling economically. To the average employed citizen, this raises the specter of increased taxation, and the notion that his/her meager, hard earned wealth will be confiscated to help others. While the average voter may not want to have his/her pocket picked to support the wealthy, the notion of an inefficient and corrupt government siphoning  off his or her money to support pet projects whose benefits do not accrue to him/her is also unpalatable.

Engaging the Consumer With the Appeal to Individual Initiative: The marketing challenge of either party is to show how the tax policies benefit the taxpayers themselves. I believe that the general strength of the Republican Party in national elections, despite their outmoded ideas, derives from the appeal to the notion of individual initiative and financial independence. The voting public would like to believe that they can make it on their own given the opportunity to do so, and, further, experience upward mobility. This is the core appeal of the Republican brand, even if their policies achieve the opposite.

The Democratic Positioning Dilemma:  Democrats have tried to challenge the Republican appeal to individual initiative by pointing to the dry economic facts and figures that show that Republican policies are actually antithetical to economic improvement. The main problem with that approach is that it is intellectual, rather than heartfelt. It is a defensive strategy, and it is more difficult to prove a negative because this is itself an abstract argument.

The problem that the Democratic Party needs to solve is how to either coopt the Republican appeal to individual initiative, and appropriate the brand for themselves (which is unlikely), or create an economic brand that captivates the voting public with an appeal to their core values and beliefs. Leaving social issues aside, what argument can the Democrats make that can overcome the conceptual bias that the public has that they do not create, but redistribute wealth? Although the economy tends to thrive more under Democratic administrations, it’s a hard case to make for one very important reason: the Republican economic brand is deeply instilled.

There’s a Better Way to Pick the Nation’s Leader

Create An Advocacy Model: Bill’s observation is that progressive businesses are increasingly abandoning the old marketing model that uses hired professionals to market and sell to consumers, and are beginning to build organizations that depend on customer advocates for their growth and success. Contrasting that approach to the Republican Convention in Tampa, he asks where the Republican citizen advocates who could appeal to the voters were:

What we saw was a parade of entrepreneur after entrepreneur trying to inspire voters with their stories of how they took a risk, built their business and accepted responsibility. What the vast majority of voters — who have no desire to start a business — got was a lecture from people they don’t relate to.

Where was an average worker Republican who is thriving in the new job he got as a result of first-rate training from a community college, built with the help of Republican-led initiatives? Where was a Republican soccer mom whose kids are thriving after moving from a hopelessly broken, politically fractured school system to a vibrant charter school, made possible by Republican reforms?

Best practicesinclude businesses like and SAS Canada, who are moving toward a new marketing model in which customers sell, market and participate heavily in helping develop innovative solutions for them.

Inspire: Businesses like, who use cause marketing (they donate one percent of all top line revenues to charity) and companies like Apple that appeal to the passion of the technology of the future available here today, can inspire consumers. Bill bemoans the fact that America seems to lack “another Big Goal that a president can rally all Americans behind — such as John F. Kennedy’s goal to land a man on the moon?” Instead, he finds that:

It’s a sad day when the party of Reagan trots out a Power Point-toting Paul Ryan to inspire voters, with his message of small government and individual responsibility straight from the pages of Ayn Rand. How inspiring is that to, say, Jeremy, the college student at Tuesday night’s debate? Not very, I suspect.

We can also applying this principle to President Obama, who has been criticized for appearing “too professorial.” His failure in the first presidential debate derived from his inability to rise to the grandiose occasion and match the spirited tone of his rival.

Position: While neither political party, given the political polarization, could have led the nation to a full recovery from the Bush recession, President Obama’s initiatives have not been well presented. As a result, the narrative was coopted by an opposition that portrayed the jobs bill as pork and health care reform as a bureaucratic nightmare and a drag on the economy. Even though the stimulus has been judged a success by economists, the average citizen sees the bailout of large institutions, rather than feels the effects of the economy having been brought back from the brink of disaster.  While the Obama administration has an impressive record of economic results, including jobs recovery and the lowest spending of any recent administration, it’s hard to prove a negative. The argument that things would have been much worse given the austerity policies of the Republican Party is a difficult one to make stick.  Vital initiatives that could have been heralded as amazing accomplishments could have been better positioned to resonate with and inspire the average citizen.

Resonate:  An important principle in organizational communication is that a marketer needs to understand how to cascade communications through the organization and to position accomplishments by aligning them so that they resonate with the values and beliefs that people hold. Even coopting the anger of the audience is a way to relate to them, per Mitt Romney’s campaign approach. While Mitt Romney may not be a very inspiring candidate, President Obama’s failure to captivate the imaginations of people, as he did in his first presidential bid has proven a major a marketing deficit. And the failure to present a strong case has allowed the Romney campaign to coopt the anger and frustration of the public, a dynamic that candidate Obama had formerly tapped into in his first campaign.


It is easy to oversimplify or overgeneralize, and I do not mean to trivialize or take a cynical view of the issues behind the politics. However, there are general marketing lessons that we can take away from the political arena. In focusing on the marketing aspects of the politics, it is clear enough that the parties have a brand problem.  And the reality is that the way in which a candidate is positioned can greatly impact the outcomes of the election, and the policies. As Bill puts it:

I say “market” presidents rather than “select” them because the way in which an organization commits to market its products and services can substantially determine the quality of the product it produces and sells.

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.

Click to view the Facebook Marketing Humor and Wisdom Page and be sure to “like” it!

I Built It But…They Didn’t Come!

Brad Smith of Social Media Today discusses the dilemma of corporate social media accounts – they don’t spread like wildfire. So they try posting more frequently, or using the latest tactic, and still, the results don’t come.

3 Reasons Your Content Isn’t Being Shared

According to Brad, they need to revisit their social media strategy for the reasons no one shares their content. Consider these 3 reasons:

1: It Isn’t “Shareable”

Brad puts it succinctly: “Nothing kills social media activity faster than a sales pitch.” Of course, you have to sell with social media at some pointm and this raises a key question that I have explored in this blog: how to turn social media into conversion opportunities.  Since you can’t pressure the consumer to buy, but you also can’t just sit around and hope for the best, what can you do to better control the situation?

Brad’s corrective strategy: Create “shareable content” to promote. Give every social media update an interesting hook that grabs attention interests your customers. “Shareable content” has to meet the following criteria:

  • Useful: It needs to offer some utility or benefit.
  • “Evergreen” or Timeless: Chasing new stories or limited content that won’t be relevant for a long period will have diminishing returns.
  • Branded: Make your offering unique to stand out and be memorable
  • Promotable: The content needs to be 1. simple (but not dumbed down) and focused so it’s easy to understand, engages, and begs to be shared.

If content is interesting enough to spread it will be because people are spreading the story first. Then after getting attention and interest, the company can be introduced.

Financial Services Applications: It’s hard to get people to engage with you or share your content in “aggressive industries like insurance, real estate or other financial services.” So you need to change the positioning from products to match the worldview of your consumers – promote their lifestyles. The focus should be on what people care enough about to want to protect or build: family and career, lifestyle and the sense of social purpose that underlies money. In the crowded auto insurance field, Progressive promotes the ease of the online experience in which you can compare prices.

2: There’s No Core Benefit

The use of incentives remains one of the best ways to get engagement and participation, as well as sharing. Brad’s corrective strategy: “Focus on your customers pain points, and position your content, social media updates and products/services as the solution.”

Ask the question: “Why should someone interact with you in the first place?” Brad suggests that the need for relief drives engagement.

Take humor: it’s a release of pent-up tension. An interesting angle that benefits the audience can offer them relief from a problem that’s on their minds.

Best Practice: PayScale helps job candidates, employees, job seekers, and employers (HR) to compare their salaries across job titles, industries and locations. What’s the benefit: sought after information, research and insight to business professionals and hiring managers. So PayScale analyzed their data and created an infographic about how employers are using and managing social media for their employees, and contracted with  Mashable to publish it. The results:

  • 2,900 Tweets
  • 1,700 LinkedIn shares
  • And 901 Pins

3: There’s No Bold Positioning or Value Proposition

To stand out – and be remembered – in a crowded field in a crowded medium, you obviously need to be seen as unique, interesting or different.Approaches that seldom work are ones that focus on product attributes, rather than consumer beliefs and values. For instance, everyone claims to be:

  • low-cost” (someone will eventually undersell you.)
  • “better” (someone will always be better than you at some specific aspect.

Worst Practices: For instance, Dunkin’ Donuts recently baffled the advertising world by offering the 19th century strategy of filing to register the phrase“Best Coffee In America” as their trademark, which, according to Huff Post, is so old that it’s “hardly worth more than a lukewarm cup of coffee.” In the past, the Patent and Trademark Office has sometimes declined to grant registered trademarks for such superlative phrases, and, in financial services, it would be a compliance non-starter.  When the Boston Beer Company sought to claim the phrase “Best Beer in America,” the office said the wording was too generic for any one company to own as a trademark. In 2006, Walmart tried unsuccessfully to trademark the smiley face, claiming that the image had become associated with its stores in the retail sector. Taglines or slogans are only a small component of a value proposition. As Brad puts it: “Stand for something.” Best Practice: Stone Brewery, Southern California’s largest brewery, and one of the biggest craft brewers in the country, announced in 2011  an expansion plan that includes a 18.7 acre organic farm so they can use the best ingredients in their beer and restaurants, and a possible tourist hotel because their brewery is one of the largest tourist attractions in San Diego. These are consistent with a strong stand that they have taken:

They’re unabashedly against light, tasteless lagers (and the people who drink them).  And as the scrappy up-start, they’re the complete opposite of the large, stuffy corporations in the industries.

The label on one of their most popular beers, Arrogant Bastard, warns:

Their social media updates are consistent with this: “witty, interesting, and slightly arrogant in a funny-sarcastic way.” So Stone’s social media are an extension of their originality and bold positioning – an extension of their brand.


If your social media accounts are not an extension of your brand, you’ll lack engagement for a glaringly obvious reason: because people don’t care enough about you:

Even if you’re never heard of Stone Brewery before (and whether you agree or disagree with their philosophy), you already have an opinion. And that’s the first step to getting people to talk about you. Or interacting and engaging with you in social media.

In summary, make your content shareable, beneficial, and bold.

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