THE BLOG
10/04/2015 08:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 04, 2016

Weak Slogans Weaken Your Brand

Along with your name and logo, your slogan is one of the "Big Three" components of your brand identity that comprise what I call the "Signature" of a marketing communication. Since slogans are used virtually everywhere -- in your ads, brochures, letterhead, business cards, signs, company vehicles, and packages -- creating an effective one should not be an afterthought. It should be a critically important marketing decision that can increase your sales and profits. Unfortunately, so many slogans do not work for the companies that have created or approved them. Why? They don't add sufficient value to communicate what the company does or why it is unique.

What should a slogan do for you?

In conjunction with your name and logo, your slogan should make it clear to your constituents (customers, prospects, vendors, and stakeholders) and help them remember the following three things:

  1. What you do.
  2. Why they should do business with you.
  3. Why they should prefer you.

How do you know if yours is working or not?

You know it is working if members of your target audience can repeat and pass on to others these same three things. All you have to do is ask them you what your company does and why they should do business with you over others. If they can clearly articulate both, it is working. If they can't, you have more work to do.

Don't get hung up on slogan length

Without having the data, so many marketers limit the length of names and slogans because they intuitively think they should. They presume that shorter is better, and ignore the fact that many of the most effective names and slogans are not exactly short. A few examples: The 15-word GEICO slogan is "Give us 15 minutes and we will save you 15% or more on car insurance?" The 10-word Smuckers slogan is "With a name like Smuckers, it's got to be good." The 8-word M&M's slogan is "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands."

Al Ries, co-author of the best selling book Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, says in the headline of an article published in Adage "Long Slogans Are Absolutely, Positively More Effective Than Short Ones." He points out in his article that...

After three years of operations and $29 million in losses, Federal Express gave up trying to compete head-to-head with air-cargo leader Emery Air Freight. Instead, it decided to focus the company on overnight service. Federal Express could have positioned itself as: 'The overnight company.' But it didn't. Instead, it launched a campaign that not only turned around the brand, but also made marketing history: 'When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.'

Longer slogans sell more

Longer slogans tend to work better because they sell more by making benefits clearer, and they give the reader enough information to form a brand preference. While counter-intuitive, they are also more memorable. They provide the rhythm, benefits, and emotional glue that help market targets better remember them.

What in slogans hurt effectiveness?

Slogans that are not as effective typically share the following characteristics:

  1. Any brand could say the same. Chevron: People do
  2. Don't help the reader understand what the company does. Fidelity: Turn here
  3. Have no uniqueness to help establish brand preference. Toyota: Let's go places
  4. Brag and boast about the company rather than focus on customer benefits. Mercedes: The best or nothing
  5. Make hard to believe, or untruthful, claims. Pizza Hut: The Best Pizzas Under One Roof; VW: Clean Diesel.

Slogans that do not help the market understand what companies do or what makes them unique are largely ineffective. Even worse, if they make hard to believe claims, they can cause prospective buyers to not trust the company. Once trust is gone, sales and profits head south.

Recognizing the opportunity

If your company recognizes the important opportunity that slogans provide, you are more likely to create one that works effectively. It works if it helps those that interact with your brand understand what you do and why they should do business with you. If it does not meet those conditions (and you can test that very easily), you have more work to do. And, if you have no slogan, you are missing this opportunity to work with your name and logo to stamp a brand impression in people's brains that will help your sales, lower your costs, and boost your profits. Best of luck.