Writing a Slogan

When it comes to making your mark, finding the right catch phrase is half the battle.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the July 2001 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Finish the following phrase: "You're in good hands with..." If you immediately recognized this motto as belonging to Allstate Insurance, then all the marketing muscle and millions of dollars the company has invested in the slogan are paying off by firmly establishing its brand name. Now try to identify the company that uses this phrase: "It's everywhere you want to be." Did you instantly think of Visa, or did you wonder for a second whether that slogan might belong to MasterCard?

To win the name game in the marketing world, you must make sure your prospects and customers do more than remember hearing your slogan-they have to associate it with your brand name, not your competitor's. To make sure your slogan or tag line hits home, follow these four tips:

1. Evoke your key benefit. Great slogans not only are built around a brand's core promise-they also establish an exclusive connection in customers' minds. You and your in-house marketing staff or advertising agency must create a slogan that evokes your key benefits and reflects the unique experience your product or service delivers.

For example, back when Burger King introduced its "Have it your way" slogan in 1974, the company was battling the cookie-cutter image of assembly-line fast-food burger restaurants. It positioned itself as the chain where burgers were made to order and focused on diners' ability to customize their burgers by asking counter staff to "hold the pickle, hold the lettuce." Burger King's focus on that flexibility was directly reflected in this memorable slogan.

2. Test with prospects and customers. Qualitative research is essential before putting your marketing resources squarely behind a newly developed slogan. It's important to speak to potential customers as well as existing ones to avoid skewing the outcome. If you only query your current customers, you may never figure out how to appeal to those who never considered your previous marketing messages very compelling. Phone surveys (particularly for B2B marketers) and focus groups can be used to test proposed slogans as well as uncover or verify information about the benefits your prospects and customers expect to realize when they use your product or service.

3. Include your company name. Evidence suggests slogans fare better when it comes to customer recall if they incorporate the company or product name. Wolf Group New York, an ad agency with such clients as Häagen-Dazs and Miracle-Gro, tested consumer recognition of 19 tag lines that were part of successful, long-running advertising campaigns backed by hundreds of millions of dollars. Each of the top-five brands in the survey included the product or advertiser's name, while none of the bottom 10 did. For example, Visa's slogan, "It's everywhere you want to be," was familiar to 70 percent of respondents, but only 15 percent could correctly identify who the advertiser was . On the other hand, the tag line "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there," experienced practically universal recognition.

4. Stick with it. Never adopt a new slogan as a quick fix or as part of a temporary campaign. Success requires committing to a slogan or tag line for several years-perhaps even decades-and incorporating it into all your marketing materials as a part of the company logo. If you want to protect your business's marketing investment in the new slogan, you should consider trademarking it. At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, you can fill out a trademark application, search the trademark database and research general information about trademarks.

Whatever you do, just remember that a great slogan is like a partner in a happy marriage-it will share your company's name and be your marketing partner for many years to come. So consider your options carefully.

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