Words To Live By

Meaningful Mottos

Using corporate slogans to manage as well as market is common among America's corporate giants. For 17 years, Ford used "Quality is job one" to convince car buyers of its emphasis on quality and to remind workers of the importance of this characteristic.

Many other companies, including Avis ("We try harder") and Charles Schwab ("Helping investors help themselves") have made the most of the management value of slogans, according to Robert W. Keidel, owner of organizational consulting firm Robert W. Keidel Associates in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and there's no reason smaller companies can't do the same. In fact, he adds, the flexibility, low cost and high rate of effectiveness of slogans as management tools make them almost mandatory for companies of any size.

Samets agrees. "I don't know how you can operate a company without one," he says. The best slogans for management purposes are miniature vision statements, Samets suggests. When carefully crafted, they convey a company's key characteristics to a variety of audiences, from investors and customers to suppliers and job applicants.

In fact, this versatility is one of the primary benefits of a slogan. A brief, catchy slogan can be used in advertisements, on workplace posters and business cards, and even on uniforms and corporate stationery, providing a constant reminder of what makes the company special. Says Keidel, "The good slogans resonate on several levels."

Among Keidel's favorite management slogans are "You expect more from a leader" (Amoco) and "We help business do more business" (Sprint). He's especially fond of "We don't cut corners," used by Hartmann luggage. "Imagine what kind of statement that makes to employees," he says.

Slogans are particularly effective when you're trying to communicate a major shift in strategy. Keidel points to Nike, which is changing its infamously audacious "Just do it" catch phrase to the softer "I can," to try to market more shoes and apparel to women. Similarly, Xerox's new slogan, "The document company," describes its recent return to its roots after forays into financial services and other unrelated areas.

Slogans may also change to reflect societal shifts, Keidel notes. Ford, for instance, recently dropped its "Quality is job one" because of the widespread perception that today, high quality is a given and is no longer an important marketing variable.

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Words To Live By.

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