What’s in a slogan?

July 18, 2012 in The Work

Photo by benleto via Flickr

Some advertising slogans need to be changed because they’re outdated. Would it be of much use (or make much sense for that matter) if Coca-Cola still used its 1930 slogan, “Meet me at the soda fountain”? Or how about the beverage giant’s even-more-dated slogan from 1906, touting Coca-Cola as being the “Great national temperance beverage”?

Other slogans need to be changed because, well, they’re just plain bad. In 2004, Tyson Foods was using the neglectfully assuming (and even somewhat threatening) slogan, “It’s what your family deserves.” That bad slogan cost Tyson $40 million, by the way. Currently, Tyson is asking customers: “Have you had your Tyson today?” Sadly, many people are left scratching their heads as they ask “What’s a Tyson?”

Good slogans may seem harder to come by, especially since so many companies are constantly changing theirs. Earlier this year, restaurant chain Applebee’s unveiled its latest slogan “See you tomorrow.” It’s effective because it’s short, simple and plants the idea in customers’ minds that they’ll be soon returning to a friendly and welcoming place. Simply put, Applebee’s makes itself a friend of the customer, one that eagerly awaits their return — if that’s not good brand positioning, we don’t know what is. Other examples of sweet and simple slogans include “Red Bull Gives You Wings,” McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” — complete with an easy-to-recognize musical lick – and long withstanding slogans such as Nike’s “Just Do It.” and USA Network’s “Characters Welcome.”

So what makes a slogan good? A 2011 article from The Atlantic puts it nicely, suggesting it’s “Ideally a positioning [that] taps into our underlying human motivations” paired with conveying something useful about the brand. Of course this is no easy task, especially given the fact that these “underlying human motivations” are constantly changing due to a variety of circumstances: market competition, pop culture, new technology, world events, et al. This being the case, many companies are forced to change their slogans every few years.

Going back to Coca-Cola, without a doubt a world-leader in advertising, the soft drink company recently returned to its 2009 slogan telling customers in two simple words to “Open happiness,” whereas last year they suggested that “Life begins here” with a Coke.

With 60-plus slogan changes in its 120-plus years as a company, perhaps Coca-Cola proves that slogans are about as permanent as the fizz that forms it.

What are some examples of memorable slogans? Let us know in the comments below.