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									                                       How Ad Slogans Work
                                       by Timothy RV Foster

Introduction to How Ad Slogans Work
How many times have you been in your car with your radio on, gotten out, and hours later, had
some jingle playing in your head? This, my friends, is good advertising. That jingle was so
catchy that hours after you had been exposed to it, it still lingered. The same can be said of ad
slogans. Every day, we are surrounded by car ads, credit card ads, travel ads, food ads, clothing
ads... the list goes on. In this edition of How Stuff Works, adman and author Timothy Foster
shows you How Ad Slogans Work so that you can better understand the various techniques
companies use to make their products and services memorable to you.

The History of Advertising
According to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, advertising is "the techniques and practices used
to bring products, services, opinions, or causes to public notice for the purpose of persuading the
public to respond in a certain way toward what is advertised."

In the ancient and medieval world, advertising as it existed was conducted by word of mouth.
The first step toward modern advertising came with the development of printing in the 15th and
16th centuries. In the 17th century, weekly newspapers in London began to carry advertisements,
and by the 18th century such advertising was flourishing.

The great expansion of business in the 19th century was accompanied by the growth of an
advertising industry. It was that century, primarily in the U.S., that saw the establishment of
advertising agencies. The first agencies were, in essence, brokers for space in newspapers. But
by the early 20th century, agencies became involved in producing the advertising message itself,
including copy and artwork, and by the 1920s agencies had come into being that could plan and
execute complete advertising campaigns, from initial research to copy preparation to placement
in various media.

The Basics
The purpose of the strapline or slogan in an advertisement is to leave the key brand message in
the mind of the target (that's you). It is the sign-off that accompanies the logo. Its goal is to stick:
"If you get nothing else from this ad, get this..!" A few well-known examples of these slogans

"It’s everywhere you want to be."
“Just do it.”
“We love to see you smile.”
“The quilted, quicker, picker-upper.”

Unfortunately, ad slogans don't always work, usually because they are generic, ready-to-wear,
off-the-shelf lines that are taken out and shined up, ready to be used again and again when the
creative juices have stopped flowing. Dozens of advertisers use them without blinking. Their ad
agencies should be ashamed of themselves!
Slogans Around the World
Slogan nomenclature varies from place to place. So, what's what, where? In many parts of the
world, and generically, they are "slogans." In the USA, they are tags, tag lines, or taglines. In the
UK, they are end lines, endlines, or straplines. Germany prefers claims while France uses
signatures. In the Netherlands, they are pay-offs or payoffs. To the unimaginative, they are rip-
offs or ripoffs. And at ADSlogans Unlimited, we call them slogos (the slogan by the logo).
Slogans are often treated as trade marks (™ in most countries). The use of the ™ symbol is
merely an assertion by the advertiser that they are treating the line as a trademark. It does not
assure any legal right. For legal protection, the line must be registered with the appropriate
government trademark office, which then confers the right to use the registered symbol (®), and
then they get the full protection of the law against poaching. Service marks (SM in the US) are
simply trademarks for services rather than products. Trademark laws are similar in most
countries. You can check out details at the US Patent and Trademark Office or the International
Trademark Association.

A brand name can be a registered trademark, such as Kodak, Xerox, McDonald's, 7Up, or Coke,
but a line such as "your best bet yet!" or "better by a long shot!" can't be protected for exclusive
use. To avoid problems, and when in doubt, check with an intellectual property lawyer.

The Perfect Tagline
A perfectly-formed tagline should fulfill several criteria. First, it should be memorable.
Memorability has to do with the ability the line has to be recalled unaided. A lot of this is based
on the brand heritage and how much the line has been used over the years. But if it is a new line,
what makes it memorable? The big idea should be told in the advertisement. The more the
tagline resonates with the big idea, the more memorable it will be.

For example, in addition to be being a clever line, "My goodness, my Guinness!" was made
memorable by the illustrations of the Guinness drinker seeing his pint under some sort of threat
(perched on the nose of a performing seal, for example). It invoked a wry smile and a tinge of
sympathy on the part of the audience at the potential loss if the Guinness was dropped.

Guinness used to use the line "Guinness is good for you" until the authorities got after them,
saying "Come on! Guinness is stout! It contains alcohol! It can't be good for you! So stop using
that claim!" So, the Guinness ad agency came up with a stroke of genius. The line? "Guinness
isn't good for you." A good slogan should recall the brand name, and ideally, the brand name
should be included in the line. "My goodness, my Guinness!" works, as does "Coke is it!" On the
other hand, "Once driven, forever smitten" does not easily invoke the word Vauxhall -- a British
car made by General Motors. If it is successful, the line should pass readily into common
parlance as a catchphrase, such as "Beanz meanz Heinz" or "Where's the beef?" In addition to a
provocative and relevant illustration or story, alliteration (Jaguar: "Don't dream it. Drive it."),
coined or made-up words (Louis Vuitton: "Epileather"), puns, and rhymes are good ways of
making a line memorable. So is a jingle.

A good tagline should include a key benefit. "Engineered like no other car in the world" does
this beautifully for Mercedes Benz. "Britain's second-largest international scheduled airline" is a
'so what' statement for the late Air Europe. You might well say "I want a car that is engineered
like no other car in the world," but it is unlikely that you would say "I want two tickets to Paris
on Britain's second-largest international scheduled airline!"

There's a well-known piece of advice in the world of marketing: 'sell the sizzle, not the steak.' It
means to sell the benefits, not the features. Since the tagline is the leave-behind, or the take-
away, surely the opportunity to implant a key benefit should not be missed?
    Holiday Inn: "Pleasing people the world over"
    Karry-Lite: "Takes the 'lug' out of luggage"
    Polaroid: "The fun develops instantly"
    The Economist: "Free enterprise with every issue"

Conversely, the following lines have no obvious benefits:
    Equity & Law: "Need we say more?"
    Exxon: "We're Exxon"
    Lite Tuff: "That's Lite Tuff!"
    Sapolio Soap: "Use Sapolio"

In addition, a good tagline should differentiate the brand. "Heineken refreshes the parts other
beers cannot reach" does this brilliantly. It's a classic. When the line needed refreshing, it was
extended in later executions to show seemingly impossible situations, such as a deserted
expressway in the rush hour, with the line "Only Heineken can do this," and lately showing
unlikely but admirable situations, such as a group of sanitation engineers trying to keep the noise
down to the comment: "How refreshing! How Heineken!"

The distinction here is that the line should depict a characteristic about the brand that sets it apart
from its competitors, such as these lines that deliver differentiation:
    British Rail: "We're getting there"
    Cheese Council: "Anyway you please it, cheese it"
    Timex: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking"
    Metropolitan Home: "Mode for your abode"

A good tagline should also recall the brand name. What's the point of running an advertisement
in which the brand name is not clear? Yet millions of dollars are wasted this way. If the brand
name isn't in the tagline, it had better be firmly suggested. Nike dares to run commercials that
sign off only with their visual logo (the Swoosh). The word Nike is unspoken and does not
appear. This use of semiotics is immensely powerful when it works, because it forces the viewer
to say the brand name.

One of the best techniques for bringing in the brand name is to make the tagline rhyme with it.
Here are some lines we've selected from the ADSlogans Unlimited database:
    "Don't be vague. Ask for Haig."
    "It needn't be hell with Nicotinell."
    "See the USA in your Chevrolet."
    "You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent."
A fall-back position is to use a rhyme and mention the brand name without it actually rhyming.
Examples include "A Mars a day helps you work, rest, and play," and "We will sell no wine
before its time (Paul Masson)." Note how the competitive edge is lost when the brand name is
not the rhyme. It could easily be "An apple a day helps you work, rest and play," or "Ernest and
Julio Gallo will sell no wine before its time."

An effective tagline should impart positive feelings about the brand. All the lines mentioned
previously do this, some more than others. "Once driven, forever smitten," for example, or "Coke
is it!" Contrast this with Triumph's line for its TR7 sports car in 1976: "It doesn't look like you
can afford it," or America's Newport cigarettes: "After all, if smoking isn't a pleasure, why

Publishers will tell you that negative book titles don't sell. It is my belief that negative
advertising is hard to justify. Notice how boring all the negative electioneering is in political
campaigns. The voters just want to turn off. Here is a group of lines that don't profess good

      Bacardi Spice (Rum): "Distilled in hell"
      Hungry Joes: "Bad news for baked potatoes"
      Kellogg's Eggos Waffles: "You'll never want to l'eggo"
      Lea & Perrins: "Steak sauce only a cow could hate"

Quite importantly, a good tagline should not be usable by a competitor. You should not be able
to substitute a competitive brand name and use the line. For example, "My goodness, my
Murphy's!" (taking from the Guinness slogan) just would not work, but "A company called
TRW" could be "A company called (anything)."

So many slogans have absolutely no competitive differentiation, such as "Simply the Best" and
its variants. You could add any brand name to the line and it would make sense. And this often is
proven by how many users of a line there are. Consider the following:
      Aspen: "Simply the best"
      Bishop's Nissan: "Simply the best"
      HME Firetrucks: "Simply... the best"
      Kuoni: "Simply, the best"

That's just four -- we have another 25 users of the same line in our database!

Slogans that are bland, redolent of Mom and apple-pie clearly suffer a weakness. Examples
include "For those who value excellence" (Henredon Furniture), "We make it better" (Singer), or
"We make it happen" (Unisys).

A good tagline should be strategic. Some companies can effectively convey their business
strategy in their lines, such as "Innovation" (3M), "Better things for better living, through
chemistry" (DuPont), or "Disease has no greater enemy" (Glaxo/Wellcome).

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