Writing great slogans: strategies for success

Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet, an advertising slogan, tagline and effective example of copywriting at its finest. Writing a great slogan is a very delicate art-form. For the most successful brands, a few words can create a memorable image. Slogans, straplines, taglines and headlines are incredibly important when building a brand because their marketing potential far surpasses any other single piece of advertising. Logos are recognisable, web content can give service descriptions, testimonials demonstrate value, but a good slogan can do all these things at once. They are examples of advertising copy at its most effective. Those few carefully chosen words form an immediate bond, spread the message and tell a story. Here’s how. 

1. Forming a bond

Before reading a press release, listening to an elevator pitch or investigating a company’s product, something simpler has to draw you to that company. An eye-catching logo is an effective head-turner, but an advert with an effective slogan can form an immediate meaningful bond. Consider the following slogans:

Google: Don’t be evil.

Google’s slogan implies good business practice, a sense of morality and, more than anything, a belief in the common good. There’s a sense of unity that comes from not doing evil, because to do good really you have to do it together.

Nike: Just do it.

Nike’s attitude is more immediate, defiant – it’s for people who want to get ahead despite difficulties. Something anyone who faces challenges can relate to: you have to act to succeed. It’s aspirational.

Fedex: When there is no tomorrow.

Do you like to live in the moment? Most people want to, and Fedex’s slogan taps into that. It’s not just about making your delivery on time, it’s about getting things done. It’s a slogan that appeals to proactive people, declaring the company feels the same.

These all relate to the reader on a personal level, without directly saying it, because their message is so accurate. For a host of further examples, check out this link and think about how each of them relates to a certain personality.

 

2.  Spreading the message

If you remember the 90s, you probably remember people screaming ‘Whassup!’ and ‘True.’ Those two words were an international hit not because everyone loved Budweiser, but because of the practical application of the phrases. It was a simple and universal way to express you were having a good time, with a social call and response (bet you never thought Whassup was that sophisticated). A truly effective slogan is not just about the company, it is something that can be applied to life in general, and when it is successful it will be spread by being used.

Those living in the UK will also recall a few years back Abbey National produced a series of adverts insisting ‘life’s complicated enough’, and Michael Winner charmed (infuriated) the country by telling flustering old ladies ‘Calm down dear!’ These slogans represented a similar brand idea, that the consumer should take things easy because of the service offered, and they did so with a catchphrase that was easily picked up by the public and adopted in everyday speech.

How many times have you heard someone call their food ‘finger lickin’ good’ (KFC) or claim ‘I’m loving it!’ (McDonald’s)? What about when they say ‘because I’m worth it’ (L’Oreal)? These slogans represent emotions relating to everyday life, and get used naturally because of  it. But what about the vorsprung durch technique? Del used it in Only Fools and Horses, and it’s found in Blur’s massive hit Park Life, a funny little phrase people have enjoyed throwing around since the 80s. Thanks to Audi. It means advancement through technology, but the reason people started saying it is because it sounded amusing. And, crucially, it showed you were a certain type of person, a consumer with an awareness of popular culture.

People say these slogans as a way to relate to others with similar values, to demonstrate they like similar brands and activities. Which is a massive win for the businesses behind such slogans, because every time a member of the public jokingly recites one of their slogans it’s free advertising.

 

3. Telling a story

Coming up with a slogan that will be so readily adopted is no small task, and there’s no set formula for doing it. It has to be something people can relate to, and it has to mean something in popular culture, but to do these two things, most importantly, it has to say more than the sum of its few words.

Towards the end of the 80s, Hamlet’s advertising campaign was still in full swing. I was seven years old when they stopped advertising on TV in the UK, but their slogan remains my go-to tagline to this day.

Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.

It’s possible (but don’t hold me to it) that I even smoked a few Hamlet cigars in my youth to live the dream of this slogan. The ad campaign was simple but genius – a man in an awkward situation overcomes his stress by taking a step back and having a cigar. You couldn’t get it away with it today, but the suggestion that a relaxing smoke can ease all your troubles is an instantly relatable, timeless idea. Even as a seven-year-old I wanted a smoke to make life easier. Of course, that’s why the ads were banned.

The slogan was successful because it did not simply suggest the product produced happiness. It conjured a whole story with those few words. It’s not just happiness they’re offering, it’s respite from misery – it’s an answer that implies you have problems that need solving. This theme was very deliberately developed around the slogan with a series of excellent adverts.

All the other slogans I’ve noted are successful in similar ways: Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ tells a story of a world where other companies are less morally inclined; Nike’s ‘Just do it.’ suggests a background of adversity you need to overcome, ‘Because I’m worth it’ is a justification of indulgence based on boosting self-esteem.

If you take these ideas away and continue to ponder what makes a slogan great, ask yourself: how does it make the audience feel, how does it connect to them, and what else is being said? If you want some more ideas, here’s a massive list of slogan examples. And please share your favourite slogans, and let me know what makes them so effective!

One response to “Writing great slogans: strategies for success

  1. Pingback: Beer – it’s lovely! Classic copywriting examples | Copywrite Now

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