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Al Ries On Marketing Column

ATLANTA GETS IT WRONG WITH NEW BRAND PITCH

City Joins a Long List of Meaningless and Unmemorable Ad Slogans

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Last February, Mayor Shirley Franklin and the Atlanta Committee for Progress announced the launch of a public/private initiative “to create a new, compelling branding strategy and marketing campaign for Atlanta.”
The Atlanta promotional Web site is dominated by an animated display that flys the slogan "Opportunity. Optimism. Openess" together and then enlarges the three Os to dramatically morph them into the Atlanta logo.

After eight months of gestation, the new logotype and slogan for the Brand Atlanta campaign was just introduced.

Promotional campaign
But just what is the new slogan? Good question. If you go to Atlanta’s new website (www.ATLopen.com) you’ll find a big red rectangle with the words: “Opportunity. Optimism. Openness.” The three words fade into three O’s, which dissolve into a circle that highlight the “ATL” in the Atlanta name.

Below that, much less visible, is yet another slogan that reads: "Every Day is an Opening Day." But which slogan will viewers perceive to be the primary one? No question there. The same bright-red animated "Opportunity. Optimism. Openness" slogan that dominates the page will also clearly dominate their memory. And that's a shame.

Three Os
"Opportunity, Optimism, Openness" sounds like a theme for the state of Ohio and not a very good one at that. I’ll guarantee that few people will remember the three O's, let alone connect them with a name that doesn’t have a single O in it

How about “Awesome. Attractive. Affordable” to connect with the three As in Atlanta? Or “Amazing. Tolerant. Lovable.” to connect with ATL? In truth, neither are very good slogans.

But why complain? There are a lot of slogans out there that are much worse. Try connecting some of the following slogans to their brand names:

  • Driven to thrill.
  • Drive your way.
  • Think. Feel. Drive.

And how about these slogans.

  • Work hard. Fly right.
  • There’s no better way to fly.
  • It’s time to fly.
  • We know why you fly.

Answers to the first three: Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Subaru. And to the last four: Continental, Lufthansa, United and American Airlines.

Meaningless and unmemorable
What leads cities, states, countries and companies to concoct meaningless, unmemorable slogans? I believe the culprit is “creativity.”

Look at the guidelines issued to the Brand Atlanta task force. The objective was “to create a new, compelling branding strategy.”

Every day of the week, advertising agencies are hired to create new, compelling branding strategies and fired when these new, compelling branding strategies don’t work.

Years ago when Jack Trout and I wrote a series of articles on positioning for Advertising Age, we outlined a six-step process. Step No. 1: “What position do we own in the mind?”

What position does Atlanta own in the mind? Atlanta is booming, especially since the 1996 Summer Olympics. As a result, the city is widely known as “Hotlanta.” Not only is Atlanta growing rapidly, but it’s also the home of Hartsfield-Jackson airport, which recently passed Chicago’s O’Hare to become the world’s No. 1 airport.

So well-known is this idea that Coca-Cola is running a local billboard campaign with a frosty bottle of Coke and the words “Welcome to Coldlanta.”

Hotlanta communicates “opportunity and optimism” in a unique, distinctive and believable way. But, of course, it’s not creative because it’s been used before. (As far as openness is concerned, this is a claim any city could make.)

“It’s not creative” is the reason why you will never see Coca-Cola advertising “The real thing.” Why you won’t find Pepsi-Cola advertising “The Pepsi Generation." And why McDonald’s won’t advertise “You deserve a break today.”

These slogans are not creative. That is, they are not new and different anymore. And you can’t win an advertising award with a campaign that is not new and different.

One of the longest-running (and most effective) advertising campaigns is De Beers’ “A diamond is forever.” First used in 1948, the slogan is particularly effective because it’s a double entendre. Not only is a diamond the hardest substance on Earth and therefore bound to last a long time, but also a diamond is often given as a symbol of a loving relationship that, hopefully, will last a long time, too.

So what did De Beers’ do recently? You guessed it. They changed the slogan to “Forever, now.”

De Beer' non sequitur
Not only is “Forever, now” a non sequitur, but it also has no meaning unless you can connect it with the original, “A diamond is forever.”

The best example of the power of consistency is the Marlboro cowboy, who has been riding the range for 50 years. The advertising doesn’t win any awards, but it has taken the brand from nowhere to become the No. 1 selling cigarette brand in the world.

In the U.S., Marlboro is so far ahead of No. 2 that most people can’t even name the second-place brand. Hint: It’s a seaport on the East Coast.

A powerful brand is not built by creativity, although there needs to be a creative spark to get the brand ignited. A powerful brand is built by consistency, year after year after year.

BMW: The ultimate driving machine.

Grey Goose: The world’s best-tasting vodka.

Barilla: Italy’s No. 1 pasta.

As a matter of fact, it’s hard to find many examples of companies that have used advertising slogans consistently over the years. Sooner or later, the creativity itch occurs and the slogan disappears.

Has Mercedes-Benz made any real progress in enhancing its brand since it dropped its longtime slogan “Engineered like no other car in the world”? I think not.

Has the U.S. Army made any recruiting progress since it dropped its longtime slogan “Be all you can be” and substituted “An army of one”? I think not.

Has FedEx enhanced its brand since it dropped “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”? I think not.

Has Budweiser enhanced its brand since it dropped “King of beers” from its advertising? I think not.

New York City is The Big Apple. Paris is The City of Light. Rome is The Eternal City. Nashville is The Music City. Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Would you change any of these slogans? I think not.

Loony idea
A number of years ago, the Minneapolis Tribune sponsored a contest to develop a new slogan to replace Land of 10,000 Lakes. The winner: “Come fall in love with a loon.” (Creativity at its looniest.)

It was N.W. Ayer, an agency that could trace its history to the first advertising agency founded in America, that coined the motto “Keeping everlastingly at it brings success.”

It was also N.W. Ayer that coined the slogan “A diamond is forever.”

Every year, the number of brands that keep everlastingly at it, as far as slogans are concerned, continues to fall, victims of the creativity crowd.

A slogan is forever.

~ ~ ~
Al Ries is the author or co-author of 11 books on marketing, including his latest, The Origin of Brands. He and his daughter Laura run the Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries. Their website: www.ries.com.

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