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How to choose a corporate slogan

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Love ‘em or hate’ em, there’s no getting away from corporate slogans. They’re about connecting people and because you’re worth it, and that know how is just what the doctor ordered.

You may have known that the first three belong to Nokia , L’Oreal, and Canon. The last, proving that corporate slogans don’t always last forever, was from a well-known cigarette manufacturer.

They’re ubiquitous across all advertising media, constantly demanding our attention, and all intended to project a sense of corporate identity and brand value.

Some of course are better than others, and the very best have become phrases in their own right, outgrowing the brand they were advertising. For example the customer is always right was a slogan for retailer Selfridges at the start of the 20th century; diamonds are forever was used by the De Beers mining company in the 1940s.

In other words, corporate slogans must be memorable and say, or infer, something about the company or its products. That means having a clear idea of what the company stands for and how customers see the brand.

Developing a corporate slogan needn’t be a difficult process, and nor should it just be for larger companies. At their very best, slogans can help to differentiate a company – personalising it in a way that resonates with customers.

Nor need it involve huge advertising budgets. A corporate slogan can simply be carried on stationary, signage, or on corporate uniforms or name-badges – a daily reminder to staff, customers and suppliers what the company is about.

They can be aspirational, fun or mysterious, depending on the brand. For example, anytime, anyplace, anywhere – the iconic slogan of the 1970s Martini adverts brought to mind a world of jet-set sophistication.

Some slogans are gender or demographic specific. Calvin Klein’s slogan for one of its perfume brands, between love and madness lies obsession, doesn’t do anything for me – but maybe I’m not the target market.

Slogans are meant to concisely distil the essence of a brand, subliminally linking it with the big idea behind it – a kind of micro mission statement.

It’s where some slogans – for example, it’s the real thing (Coca-Cola) or don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it (Thomas Cook) are on the money. Once in the public domain, they set out a brand proposition that competitors simply can’t copy.

Some slogans are dreamed up to only last for a single marketing campaign. Some last for years. Others fade away as times change.

For example, Ford’s quality is job one became irrelevant as technology and changing build practices allowed all car manufacturers to offer quality. Likewise, for digestion’s sake, smoke Camels, didn’t stand up to medical scrutiny for very long.

Here are some of the better slogans (although you might disagree):

  • Mazda – Zoom, zoom
  • Carlsberg – Probably the best lager in the world
  • McDonalds – I’m lovin’ it
  • Gillette – The best a man can get
  • Apple – Think different
  • BMW – The ultimate driving machine
  • Audi – Vorsprung durch technik
  • New York Times – All the news that’s fit to print
  • Amex – Don’t leave home without it
  • Skittles – Taste the rainbow
  • Avis – We try harder
  • Honda – The power of dreams

Developing a corporate slogan begins with thinking through what your company stands for, the brand promise you’re selling, and how customers would describe it. It should also examine competitor slogans, if they have one. (You have to define and occupy a differentiated position in the market).

But beware using your fantastic corporate slogan in different languages. It might have consequences that you didn’t anticipate.

For example, Scandinavian vacuum cleaner Electrolux ran a marketing campaign in the USA under the snappy slogan, Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.

Best of all was the US chicken supplier that traded under the slogan it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken. This was translated into Spanish for a marketing campaign, where it became: “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”

Probably not the best corporate slogan in the world but, there again, it was memorable – the first rule of any successful marketing campaign.

Charlie Laidlaw is a director of David Gray PR and a partner in Laidlaw Westmacott

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