Yes, it’s been a long time passing. These days in the digital age our attention spans have shortened to cope with the bewildering array of messages that bombard our every minute. What’s new you might say even as you turn this page. So, let me get to the point right away.
It seems to me that the ad industry doesn’t use one of the most powerful techniques to own an idea – the slogan. That’s a big problem. Because brands are nothing more or less than ideas about names that people store away in their hearts and carry around in their heads. And good slogans are like bullets to the brain. Like “Time’s up” to stop sexual harassment, for example.
Let me get the other key caveat out while I still have your attention dear reader. The slogan we choose should not only be great, it should not be changed, no matter how many campaigns are run, until the purpose or positioning of the brand are changed of course.
Going all the way back to 1940 when Ted Bates joked to a client that he earned his 15% commission by all the hard work it took to stop a client from changing the campaign, it’s true to say that consistency has never been the marketers’ strong suite. And when the days of the commission system died and the fee system was born, agencies naturally wanted to bill more time so who was going to stop the client from briefing in a new campaign? Truth is, change has always been the order of the day. Take a few of America’s great brand icons for example.
Since Coke abandoned “It’s the real thing”, positioning the brand as the authentic leader, it has had 23 slogans. Before Pepsi messed around, it was the great challenger with a great slogan: “The choice of the new generation”. Many taglines later, who knows what Pepsi stands for. Do you?
McDonalds had a slew of slogans until it settled on “I’m lovin’ it”. Then out of the blue it went on the attack with “Lovin’ beats hatin”. When consumers complained, MickyD’s quickly retreated back to “I’m lovin’it” - a folksy way of communicating great taste; which is the high ground of fast food. Seems however that the brand might want to step down from on high as it’s filed to register a trademark for a new slogan: “The Simpler the better”.
Conversely a much smaller but growing player Taco Bell has stuck with “Live Mas”. This gives the brand a great “Why” as Simon Sinek would put it.
I could go on and on. But with your attention span of seconds, let me just say that the impact of a slogan and the frequency with which it runs isn’t what it should be. A case of Marketing 101 somehow being lost by business giants.
The exception proves the rule. “The ultimate driving machine” has been expressing BMW’s idea of driving German excellence for 34 years. Conversely Mercedes – Benz walked away from “Engineered like no other car in the world” in the 90s.
One of the best, most long-lasting slogans is of course Nike’s “Just do it”. Adidas’ “Impossible is Nothing” is less known [less money] but has run for 17 years. So it has remained a worthy challenger.
Arguably the best slogan of all time is “Think Different”. Now if I’ve still held your attention, let me give you the back story. Jobs calls TBWA’s Clow to pitch for the business. Recognizing that time is of the essence Chow doesn’t wait for the Client Brief but instructs his heavy hitter Rob Siltanen to crack a big idea double quick. No time for Planning to craft a Creative Brief. Creative must revert in a week. One idea stood out in a sea of concepts plastered all over the conference room walls. Billboards with nothing else on them but revolutionary people in black and white juxtaposed against Apple’s full color logo and the slogan: “Think Different”. When asked the rationale, creator [an art director] Craig Tanimoto responded with a simple but strategically brilliant answer. IBM is running “Think IBM” for their ThinkPads and as Apple is very different, I felt “Think Different” was interesting. Then I thought it was cool to add the world’s most different-thinking people.
No question “Think Different” helped to propel Apple into the stratosphere. It served as a mantra for the relentless innovation that drove itunes, ipads and the category killer of them all, the iphone. [Goodbye Nokia, world leader at “Connecting people”].
But again, these are exceptions to the rule. The big question remains. Why are marketers and their agencies so lukewarm about slogans? Ad agencies certainly don’t use them to position themselves but then again, agencies all seem to stand for the same thing. [But that’s another story]. Sure you’ve got exceptions: “Resist the usual” for Y&R. “The work, the work, the work” for BBDO. “Truth well told” for McCann. I won’t go into the rest. It’s embarrassing. And as for the slogans of the 4 holding companies. You be the judge. Dentsu: “Good Innovation”. Interpublic: “Invent together”. Publicis: “Viva la difference”. And WPP: no slogan. Many years ago, I asked Sir Martin what the slogan is that holds all his companies together. Quick as a wink he replied: “If we haven’t done it for IBM, I’d say “Solutions for a small planet”. Good answer then. Nothing now.
I know you’re time starved. But one more time. At a time when brands need them most where have all the slogans gone?