What's in a slogan?


What's in a slogan, and does your brand need one? The origin of the word “slogan” comes from a Gaelic word used by Scottish clans to mean “war cry.” Slogans (or taglines) have become a brand’s “war cry” – shorthand for the principles behind a brand and a way to communicate its personality. It distinguishes the company from its competitors, and is often the centerpiece of a marketing campaign. That’s an enormous task for just a few words.

The best taglines are meaningful and memorable, and need consistent use. They can be descriptive (Target tells you to Expect more. Pay less.), or superlative (DeBeers reminds you that a diamond is forever), or specific to the brand’s category (Olay wants you to love the skin you’re in). These slogans create interest while clarifying what the brand is about, and what a consumer can expect.


There has been a movement recently for large established brands to move away from using taglines. Starbucks and Whole Foods don’t use them. Apple hasn’t used “Think different” in several years. Nike’s Vice President of digital sport, Stefan Olander, said that the way its customers interact with the brand has changed so that “People now demand us not to say, ‘Just do it.’ They say, ‘Help me just do it.’” Many times, companies will use a tagline, but find the need to replace it in order to refresh the brand when the message no longer represents their current strategy. In a massive marketing shift, soda giant Coca Cola recently replaced their long running slogan of "Open Happiness" with "Taste the Feeling" in an attempt to revitalize their message.


However, for a smaller brand, moving away from taglines altogether would be a mistake. A smaller brand may not be as known to a consumer, so it’s much more important to have the chance to quickly communicate what that brand is all about. You can see a business’s cool name and nice logo, but if you don’t know what they do, you may not even give them a second thought. A tagline takes the guesswork out of figuring out a brand’s purpose and personality, which is hugely beneficial in reaching the people that need that service or product.

And for every large brand that decides it doesn’t need their slogan anymore, Dunkin Donuts is still telling us that America runs on Dunkin’, and State Farm reminds us that “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” These phrases strengthen the brands’ positions in our minds and give them a voice. Successful taglines can work as both a welcome sign, and as a succinct mission statement as well. What more could you ask from six words or less?