Words To Live By

What's The Catch?

It's important to choose your slogan wisely: Using a slogan as a management tool involves some risk. One danger is that you won't be able to live up to the slogan's promise. That's especially true if your slogan makes a quantitative claim, as does Embassy Suites' "Twice the hotel," referring to its claim of charging one-room rates for two-room suites. Although quantitative slogans can be very effective, if you make a promise and can't live up to it, you'll succeed only in looking foolish in front of your employees and customers.

You may also err by coming up with a slogan that focuses employees' attention on the wrong issues. For instance, it's probably not a good idea to have a slogan that deals strictly with financial matters. "Your cornerstone shouldn't be something like `Maximizing profit,' " says Miesing.

Another way to go wrong is to choose something employees can't believe in. It's easy to do this when you're trying to evoke a vision that will force your employees to stretch their capabilities. "The biggest mistake is coming out with a slogan they simply can't live up to," says Keidel.

Creating the right slogan can be inexpensive--or very costly. Large companies spend millions of dollars to have ad agencies and image consultants create new slogans. Communicating the new slogans can be expensive, too; Ford has budgeted $40 million for the corporate advertising campaign that will roll out its new slogan, "Better ideas. Driven by you." But you don't have to break the bank. Printing slogans on posters, memo pads and other visible places works well for smaller companies, says DuBrin.

Keep in mind that not every company is ready for a slogan. If your business is changing direction and you're uncertain about where it's going, you should wait until you have a firm strategy before trying to develop a slogan to express it. "You need a fair sense of where you're headed," says Keidel. "And you'd better be sure it's something you want to live with for a while."

Similarly, if you're experiencing serious business problems, you should delay creating a slogan until the issues are settled. "You can't use a slogan to paper over a crack," says Miesing.

At Kelliher/Samets/Volk, the only crack that's appeared is the widening gap between past and present performance. Samets credits much of a 20 percent increase in billings this year to the energizing and focusing effects of the company's 2-year-old slogan. And he's ready to subject his own performance to the "Where's the wow?" question.

"If I were standing in front of a board of directors today," he says, "I could definitely wow them with the caliber of work we're doing and the profits we're generating now versus 24 months ago." Wow.

Contact Sources

Kelliher/Samets/Volk, (802) 862-8261, ysamets@ksvc.com

Robert W. Keidel Associates, (215) 576-5823, fax: (215) 576-7881

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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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