One-Word Slogans: More with Less
Slogans. Does your company need one?*
Good slogans–sometimes called “taglines”–along with good company names and good logos are your most-salient brand identifiers. And for all three (ceteris paribus), simpler is usually better.
A slogan with fewer, better words is more likely to cut through our cluttered world. As long as they’re the right words. The “right” words communicate the right information. A slogan’s primary purpose isn’t to be clever. It must convey your organization’s raison d’être. It needs to position you as different from your competitors. It needs to be redolent.
So it’s with a little amusement that I’ve been noticing the emergence of one-word slogans.
Wait! One word?
Is this some kind of joke?
You’re telling me that companies can distill their complex missions into a single word while still fulfilling the purpose of a slogan?
Apparently, yes. I think they work. Kudos to the brains who came up with them.
Capella University: Matter
Kaiser Permanente: Thrive
Barack Obama (2012 campaign): Forward
If your organization was tasked with developing a one-word slogan, what would it be?
Not so easy, is it?
It turns out that one-word slogans may not be so revolutionary. They’ve been around. You might remember these…
Hankook (tires) and Nissan (U.S.): Driven
Bill Clinton (1996 campaign): Again
Irn-Bru (Scottish carbonated soft drink): Different
Optus (Australian mobile phone): Yes
Rover (UK car company): Relax
United Airlines: Rising
Three-word slogans are de rigueur. Perhaps it’s like the seven-digit phone number: Our brains are conditioned to remember them. See if you can link the slogans below with the companies that used them.
(a) _____________: Just Do It
(b) _____________: I’m Lovin’ It
(c) _____________: The Real Thing
(d) _____________: Where’s the Beef
(e) _____________: Now That’s Better
Answers: (a) Nike, (b) McDonalds, (c) Coke, (d) Wendy’s, and (e) Wendy’s, again (in use currently).
Just to make things interesting, here are three-word slogans of one word, each.
Air France: New. Fast. Efficient.
British Gas: Energy. Efficiency. Advice.
ICI: World problems. World solutions. World class. (Okay…SIX words. But “world” is repeated. You get the idea.)
Jaguar: Grace. Space. Pace.
Marks & Spencer: Quality. Value. Service.
Wrangler: Real. Comfortable. Jeans.
And how could I forget a staple of my childhood? Many thanks to my cousins (Mia and Adrienne) for reminding me of Velvet Peanut Butter. Fresh. Pure. Delicious.
I’m not in favor of slogans that incorporate double-entendres. Their cleverness is outweighed by the probability of misinterpretation. You don’t want your stakeholders having one of two different interpretations–even if both interpretations are positive. You want to convey one message, and then hammer it home with repetition.
A hilarious slogan idea–but one that should never be used–was proposed for a mental health center: “We’re Committed. So You Won’t Be.”
What about grammatically-incorrect slogans? Remember “Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee?” Of course you do. Part of its charm is the folksiness of the double-negative. But it would only work once. So don’t try it.
*Do You Need A Slogan?
No. You don’t. And better if you spend the time figuring out what your organization is all about. How you improve people’s lives. What makes your organization relevant.
Don’t rush into the slogan war. Breathe. Do your soul searching instead.
I’m reminded of Phil Guarascio. These days, he’s a special advisor to the National Football League (a kind of big brand). Formerly, he was head of GM’s advertising and marketing. There, he eliminated the slogans for every GM brand. Every. Single. One.
Guarascio realized that all those slogans fueled an intracompany rivalry. GM’s divisions were essentially competing with the others. And the public was confused. (Confused consumers seek clarity elsewhere.)
A ballsy move. Good for him.
Creating a Good Slogan
But, if you think you need a (new) corporate slogan, Timothy Foster (“The Art and Science of the Advertising Slogan”) provides this checklist:
But, as with logos, company names, products / services–and anything else you’re considering launching–THERE’S ONE MORE STEP! Test it! Show it to your key customers and constituents. Ask them what they think. What does the slogan “say” to them? Better yet, schedule 3-4 focus groups–8-12 people each And hire a moderator who knows how to manage group dynamics.
Don’t try explaining it. If you need to explain it, it’s time to move on. And leave your ego at the door. Just because you think it’s great doesn’t mean everyone else will. You want honest feedback.
If you’ve done your job right, people will understand.
Otherwise… Get. Back. To. Work.