By Naseem Javed
Advertising slogans or taglines pushing sales are great for getting a customer’s attention as they often tangle and hold them hostage for a second or two. Some taglines catch the user’s attention, but most are simply confusing, causing them to “escape the trap” and run away.
The combined yearly budgets of all the strangely composed slogans promoting various branding worldwide would easily add up to billions of dollars. Corporations make extraordinary efforts to capture these few words on a string and liberally fund the most lavish extravaganzas when it comes to pushing these cutesy and strange sentences.
Not too long ago, a major credit card company, collected some hundred plus executives from their national offices around the world to an exercise organized by a major ad agency with the sole purpose to find a new slogan. That project was called “universal words” The first order of the day was to dress some of the executives in fictitious characters, like, Superman, Spiderman, or Tarzan, and the others in various imaginary titles from a CEO to shipper or an engineer to garbage collector, and so on. Each participant had to make a mock costume from a large tear sheet from the flip chart. 48 hours of role playing later, they came up with a distilled series of universally accepted words: “life” “without” “the card” and “really boring”, hence the tagline, “life without the card is boring” This million-dollar cost was easily absorbed as a finder’s fee for these magical words, and many additional millions were spent to promote the new tagline for a little while.
Some taglines that are still easy to recall have only worked because of tens of millions of dollars in yearly expenditures like “a tiger in the tank” or “his master’s voice” “the real thing” and “just do it”. There are other stories, and it seems shorter the better. IBM’s “Think” and now HP’s “invent” Samsonite’s “worldproof” or “Relax. It’s FedEx” The long ones are, “What can Brown do for you?” for UPSor Cannon’s “ “Know how. Here’s the future, let’s go to work.”
Here are some more examples. Match the following slogans with their respective companies. The difficulties of recognizing the companies are obvious:
1) “the life unscripted”
2) “software that can think”
3) “what’s on your mind?”
4) “better ideas driven by you”
5) “think big, move fast”
6) “what good thinking can do”
7) “moving ideas”
8) “TV for the chosen few”
1) TLC The Learning Channel
2) CA Computer Associates
8) Bloomberg TV
When Corporate Identity is Weak
When names of corporations are obviously weak, like strange initials or unclear words, then they are no longer able to convey a clear marketing message, and a tagline becomes essential to identify the purpose of the advertising pitch. This short gist is supposed to be a small platform to park the ideology of the corporation. Sometimes capturing the idea, as a large paragraph is just too long, equally, a few shorts words are just too limited to paint the entire story.
For that reason a vast majority of taglines convey very confusing messages. Upon, a newly invented tagline line, often, the entire corporation amazingly gets intoxicated with the slogan while repeating and singing every morning like a mantra as an hypnotic internal branding exercise. While the poor customer at large has no idea of this deep secret, and what the real message is in such a riddle. “we bring what you desire” or “trust life, as it is valuable” Really? Furthermore, the consumer is getting busier and busier by the second, and has no time to memorize or to be able to recognize a company upon coming across that strange riddle again. Slogans are like fireworks; they stay lit in the sky for a second or two and immediately die when the big budgets are cut.
Very often, same products can serve many different markets than it is recommended, to present such ideas with supportive explanations for those specific markets. In that case, a common-sense approach translated into a plain sentence is better than a twisted creative riddle. A simple sentence tells the customer a simple marketing message. Branding concepts and positioning is best achieved by strong and original names and not by fluid and ever-changing slogans. Colors, stripes, logos and slogans come and go, they flow with the budgets and the trade winds, but a solid name identity stays forever. Solid names slowly grow at the grass root level without major budgets, and eventually become a well-known brand. This is a simple common sense approach.
Use slogans that are common, everyday sentences. Use them freely for different products and services, and describe their specific features and benefits. For example, for a line of alarm clocks; “ enjoy seven different ways to set up your wake-up calls” rather than “ rhythmic vibrations, better sexual fantasies”. Slogans are great when they can be easily developed internally and created like simple sentences within an organization. Later, they can be dropped freely without any loss or pain, in contrast to spending extraordinary monies in creating ridiculously twisted and ever-so-confusing slogans. Just keep it sweet and simple.
Naseem Javed, author Naming for Power and also Domain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global name identities and domain issues. Javed founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy he established a quarter century ago, and conducts executive workshops on image and name identity issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.