by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

Can you name a current slogan that adds any value to a brand?

I know the dare is a bit contentious. Here are my ground rules:

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  • Name retention doesn't count. Just because you might remember that GE Brings Good Things to Life or NIKE says Just Do It doesn't mean those lines accomplished anything for those businesses. They also spent oodles of money to drill the words into your head, and you already knew the brand names. Equating brand with awareness is like arguing that intelligence is synonymous with consciousness
  • Value means changing something. Did a slogan help you learn something you didn't already know? A new benefit perhaps, or an additional way to apply to brand to your life? McDonalds can repeat Lovin' It until the hamburgers come home to roost, but it didn't change what I already knew from seeing the word McDonald's
  • Making no sense is a negative. So is doing nothing. If the slogan needed to be translated, deconstructed, or was otherwise isn't wholly obvious after the first read, it doesn't count. So UBS' You and Us or Microsoft's Where Do You Want to Go Today? weren't just abstractly innocuous, but actually sucked value from the brands.

I know there are answers...I'll give you at least two from the past:

  1. Burger King. Remember when it declared Have It Your Way? That slogan made perfect, obvious sense. The product differentiation was that you could ask for your favorite condiments on your burger. Full stop. I got it. BK has since replaced it with numerous other lines and images, most recently the obsessive use of its Burger King mascot (which is completely unintelligible to me)
  2. Avis. We Try Harder was a brilliant cut-line. Service was its differentiator, and the line had direct relevance to the customer experience. I associated a new value to the brand name whenever I heard (or thought) it

I'm having trouble identifying similarly wonderful slogans these days. 

It's as if the slogan business has been taken over by a caste of secret code writers, hellbent on creating text that is abstract and purposeless. I'm sure it's all perfectly on-brand, but most of the slogans I can think of today don't make a difference to consumer preference or choice. They don't even seem to care...it's as if the creatives are writing haiku.

As you take me up on my dare, consider this rule of thumb for your business: if a slogan, whether in use or contemplation, doesn't add immediate and obvious value to your brand, don't use it. Skip the slogan entirely. Every space you've bought for an ad should be used to your benefit...or left blank. Your customers will appreciate the breather and the empty space, even if it could have been filled with a brilliant haiku.

So, have at it. Name a slogan that means something. Post it here, or write me at haiku (at) baskinbrand (dot) com.

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/08/when-slogans-ar.html

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