Close-Up: What really makes a good ad slogan?

Encapsulating everything a brand stands for in a 'snappy line' is no easy task, Matt Williams writes.

It's been quite a year for Aleksandr Orlov. Not only has the lovable meerkat helped gain huge market share and transformed the price comparison sector, but his "simples" catchphrase has now been named by AdSlogans as the 2008/09 advertising slogan of the year.

From Audi's "vorsprung durch technik" to Nike's "just do it", a slogan can be a powerful tool. That one short sentence needs to sum up a brand's positioning, integrate all of its different marketing channels and give consumers a memorable message to take away with them.

But there's a theory that the desire for creating a relevant slogan is diminishing. With the number of new marketing sectors for brands to capitalise on, it seems that the need for a simple slogan has been replaced by the need for an in-depth marketing idea.

"Most advertising channels don't actually lend themselves to an endline now, which has made slogans become quite unfashionable," Mark Roalfe, the chairman of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says.

"But this shouldn't be the case. Particularly in today's fast-paced world, where most people only seem to communicate in 140 characters or less, the need to sum up a brand's ideal in one snappy line is even more enticing."

He points to Carlsberg's "probably the best lager in the world" slogan as a great example of where this works.

The line carries so much impact that the brand can now get away with simply using the word "probably" and consumers would instantly link it to the drink.

There is no set formula to creating a great slogan, but history has shown that some approaches are far more effective than others.

The majority of the best slogans are declarative. There is no room for modesty here. BMW tells us that it makes "the world's best driving machine" and British Airways states that it is "the world's favourite airline" - consumers trust that confidence.

Other brands opt for a more obvious statement about just what makes their product great. "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play", while the sheer choice at Burger King means you can "have it your way".

These slogans connect a consumer with the brand as much as the ad they're attached to, thereby helping to increase brand loyalty. They are also relevant to the brand too. "Because you're worth it" clearly belongs to L'Oreal. However, if a slogan is too generic, it can easily lose its sense of purpose.

There are some proven ways for brands to ensure that they are maximising memorability.

Common techniques include alliteration ("lick the lid of life"), repetition ("making the unmissable unmissable") or rhyme ("for mash get Smash"). These techniques make the line entertaining and easy to recall.

Darren Bailes, the creative director of VCCP, says: "When we created an ad for Pimm's, the endline 'anyone for Pimm's?' didn't get taken up. Instead, it was the other lines in the ad ('I make that Pimm's o'clock', for example) that worked because they were more entertaining."

Consumers took the lines from the Pimm's ad and regularly repeated them, whether they were intentionally referring to the brand or not. Get the slogan into the vernacular, as Pimm's did, and as Comparethemarket has done, and you stand yourself in very good stead. Simples.

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CREATIVE - Trevor Beattie, partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay

"Slogans are the height of writing. If you can sum up your emotions about a brand in half-a-dozen words or less, then you've cracked it. It's a language by which most of us communicate, so if you can use those few words to make an idea sound appealing, then that can be so powerful.

"I always think that the best approach in writing a good slogan is to write what you want to say long hand and then, within those four or five paragraphs, chances are you'll find a set of words that you can extract.

"This will ensure the slogan says exactly what you need to say about a brand, without overly complicating things."

CREATIVE - Darren Bailes, creative director, VCCP

"People from the old-fashioned school of advertising tend to like using slogans because it allows them to show people just how clever they are.

"But we're not here to be clever, we're here to entertain and sell our ideas to consumers. The ad itself should do the talking, not a couple of words at the end.

"With 'simples', we basically created a culture and a language that people were able to take up and have fun with. It was just a little gift for people to take away from the ad, a small part of a much bigger idea."

PLANNER - Ben Kay, head of planning, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

"The best slogans take simple products and brand truths and give them an attitude that people can adapt and take on as their own.

"A simple, engaging line for sausages is successful because it comes from a more impactful idea.

"But the days of coming up with neat little taglines to sign off a TV ad are gone. Now the interesting thing is taking a thought and developing it throughout a brand, and then the great slogan is usually born out of that.

"The problem comes when you apply a generic slogan, as that means the line becomes less of an idea and doesn't give the consumers any thought to grab hold of and take with them."

PLANNER - Tom Morton, executive planning director, TBWA\Media Arts

"Many of today's best endlines are more like mottos or attitude statements. 'Lead a Muller life' is a company motto, a point of view about yoghurt as a food for a full and healthy life.

"Ideally the lines are deep enough that they can influence the shape of brand activity even when the endline doesn't appear. That's even more important when many of the growth channels of marketing - content, events, mobile - don't even carry endlines.

"So a good slogan can really work for brand owners to hold it all together."