Every day we encounter hundreds of advertisements and probably just as many slogans. Advertisements are so ubiquitous that often times we aren’t even consciously aware of what we are being exposed to. Yet, regardless of our awareness, good advertising campaigns leave a lasting impression and this subconscious influence often plays a role when we are drawn to a specific brand, or when we choose one product over another. Slogans are like that to; we may not actively remember a slogan, but when faced with a company’s product, often the slogan will spring to mind.
The history of slogans has its roots in the birth of modern day advertising which began with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. But slogans really became an integral part of consumer culture as a result of the Industrial Revolution. As products and goods were able to be mass produced, the proliferation of available items ushered in the necessity of advertising to distinguish brands and draw customers. Early slogans were not for promotional purposes, but instead existed to inform customers about additional product details. As advertising developed, slogans became an integral part of many advertising campaigns.
A slogan can also be referred to as a tagline or strapline. It usually appears at the bottom of an advertisement or under the logo and exists as a short phrase or sentence that imparts the essence of what is being marketed. Slogans are designed to hook the consumer and linger in the mind so when faced with a purchasing decision, the remembrance of the slogan and what it represents will compel the consumer to choose the advertised product. Over time, a good slogan becomes integrated with the brand it represents and is easily recognizable even without the accompanying company logo or product. Successful slogans stand the test of time and need no alteration. For example, The New York Times introduced its tagline, “All the news that’s fit to print” in 1896, and it is still in use today. Many times slogans remain known to the public years after the company or function they were created for has ceased to exist. The tagline, “The customer is always right” was created for Selfridges Store in 1910 and today is used as the shopper’s mantra to justify customer expectations although most people have no idea where the phrase originated.
There are many characteristics that must be considered to create a successful slogan. Chief among them, a slogan must be memorable. Usually a slogan is made memorable through repetition, but if a slogan is just being introduced to the market, narrative illustration or advertisement to frame the slogan and put it into context will help it stick in the mind of the public as this specific visual will be recalled when the slogan is seen or heard later. In the 1980s, Energizer batteries created a memorable television ad campaign to support their slogan. It featured a pink, battery-powered, drum playing bunny rabbit that moved across the screen to illustrate the slogan “It keeps going and going.” This slogan is still popular today, but it started with the association between the product, the slogan and a drum playing pink rabbit.
Other methods used to create memorable slogans include the use of jingles to accompany the slogan, alliteration, invented words, personification, puns and rhymes. It is worth noting the importance of trying to include the brand name within the slogan. Otherwise, a slogan may be memorable, but may not necessarily be associated with the correct brand. In a recent study, participants were exposed to numerous popular slogans and asked to identify the brand that each slogan represented. Although slogan recognition was high, if a slogan did not reference the brand name, most study participants were unable to successfully match it to the correct product or brand. For example, the Visa credit card tagline, “It’s everywhere you want to be” was recognized by 70% of respondents, but only 15% were able to match the phrase to Visa.
Many effective slogans use word form to provoke consumers to take action by changing their behavior. This call to action technique is typically emotive, evocative or imperative. The leading example of this sort of tagline is the legendary Nike slogan, “Just do it.” Many times call to action slogans may not be grammatically correct as their focus is on compelling consumers to do something. A great example is the Apple tagline, “Think different” which utilizes an adjective when grammar rules dictate that a verb should be modified by an adverb.
A good slogan should also include a key benefit of what it is advertising and show how it differs from other brands. A tagline should portray the individuality of a brand and illustrate how it is superior to other brands which offer similar services or products. One notable example of this characteristic is the Mercedes tagline, “Engineered like no other car in the world.” Additionally, a slogan benefits from being positive and able to support a variety of advertising concepts for the brand. The MasterCard slogan is a memorable example of this; it states, “There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercard.” This slogan accompanied an advertising campaign that depicted a variety of moments where using the card to purchase something resulted in an action or event that was “priceless” and full of meaning. Associating the tagline with such memorable moments branded MasterCard as a compassionate company that values emotion and personal connections.
Finally, a successful slogan should be simple, believable, original and not easily used by the competition. For example, the American city of Las Vegas utilized the slogan “What happens here, stays here” in a series of print and television advertisements to increase tourism. The slogan became so well known that it has now been endlessly parodied and even used as the title and setting for a popular movie.
Creating an enduring slogan is a challenging task made more difficult by the preponderance of taglines already in existence. A well-crafted slogan not only distills the essence of a brand, it can also motivate people to take action or compel them to favor a specific product. Slogans have become an integral and often unforgettable part of our lexicon. Even though we may mindlessly remember any number of them, it’s fascinating to consider all the qualities that combine to generate that one line that will instantly bring a specific brand to mind.