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A slogan is a standard promotional statement used by an advertiser to influence audiences and establish a brand identity. A brief catchword or phrase, a slogan summarizes in a unique and memorable manner the essence of the creative message underlying a marketing and advertising strategy.

Slogans emerged late in the 19th century. Chas. H. Fletcher's Castoria castor oil slogan, "Children cry for it," was found in magazines and outdoor advertising during the period. By 2000, 80% of magazine ads used slogans to create an image or reinforce a brand name.

Slogans can be divided into four types: product reward, institutional, action and a combination of both action and reward. Product reward slogans tout the direct benefits derived from the brand and convey to buyers a good reason to purchase the brand (e.g., Morton Salt's "When it rains it pours"). Institutional slogans attempt to create a favorable corporate image. Slogans such as "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse" evoke a corporate image rather than promoting a specific product or service. Action-based slogans, such as "Come to Marlboro country" (Marlboro cigarettes), command the consumer to do something without explicitly stating direct benefits or the superiority of a brand. Some slogans combine action and reward in a phrase, such as "Take Sominex tonight and sleep...sleep...sleep."

Role in creative strategy

Slogans are selected with great care for at least two reasons. First, they must align with marketing and advertising strategy. Slogans are developed to reflect such marketing factors as advertising and promotional objectives, product differentiation and augmentation strategies, buyer's needs and motivations, price strategies, quality and value interrelationships, competition, the regulatory environment and ethical principles. Since a slogan sets a brand apart from the competition, it reflects the brand's positioning strategy.

Second, slogans are selected in the hope that they will last. Advertisers look for slogans that are likely to remain persuasive over time. In many cases, a slogan will be used across campaigns for a number of years. Rigorous research, detailed planning and the careful use of syntax and mnemonics underlie the creation and selection of a slogan.

Slogans perform several important, interrelated functions within an advertising strategy. They are used to repeat the central message communicated in the ad. Research indicates that repetition of a message tends to prolong memory of the message and make it easier to access that memory.

Marketers also want the audience to associate rational benefits and warm feelings with the brand or marketer. Slogans facilitate this process by summarizing and repeating the dominant selling proposition.

Slogans work in two ways to assist an audience in grasping a complex message. As message complexity increases, so must the number of message repetitions for learning to result. Slogans provide the necessary repetition. By simplifying messages and making them easier to comprehend, they facilitate learning.

Moreover, slogans increase learning by placing the brand name and brand information in close proximity to one another in the ad, thus helping the audience to connect the two.

The first advertisers to use slogans believed that a slogan would produce higher levels of brand recognition when constructed using rhyme, alliteration, rhythm, meter and/or parallelism—all devices that supposedly serve as aids in increasing recall. For example, Kellogg's "Leggo my Eggo" and Blue Bonnet margarine's "Everything's better with Blue Bonnet on it" use mnemonics to establish and maintain brand identity.

That practice began to change in the early 1970s, soon after a series of articles by Al Ries and Jack Trout, titled "The Positioning Era," was published in Advertising Age. According to the theory of positioning, the main objective of advertising was to establish in buyers' minds the brand name and the distinctive characteristics of the brand that give it a competitive advantage. Positioning stressed unique, positive, important and memorable difference as the best way to establish a brand as a leader in its category. It assigned relatively less importance to reliance on rhyme, rhythm and alliteration.

While gimmicks such as mnemonic devices have continued to be regarded as helpful, some advertisers have elected instead to use a straightforward slogan to associate positive, memorable differences with a brand. Many slogans from the 1970s and '80s reflect the straightforward approach—Dove soap's "For the beauty that is already there," for example, dispenses with devices such as rhyme and alliteration.

In the 1990s, however, researchers confirmed earlier notions about slogans, finding that the linguistic devices do in fact exert powerful influence on brand recall. Studies have demonstrated that self-reference (i.e., including the brand name in the slogan), alliteration, parallel constructions, metaphors, well-known phrases and rhyme are found in the most highly memorable slogans. For example, Saturn uses parallel construction and repetition in its slogan, "A different kind of company. A different kind of car." Carefree Gum's slogan, "Shine your smile with Carefree" is an example of self-reference. The slogan for Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s GoodNites absorbent underpants for children combines parallel construction and self-reference: "GoodNites mean good morning."

Parallelism and contrast are other techniques often employed in slogans. Parallelism implies that identical thoughts should be identical in form, syntax or sentence structure. The Manwich slogan "A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal" demonstrates parallelism in that each clause is approximately equal in meter and length. Parallelism often employs wordplay or puns when repeating the first clause. Such tactics create a contrast that holds the audience's attention until they figure out the substitution.

Slogans also act as a continuity device, helping an audience make associations among the set of ads comprising a campaign and among a message in one campaign and messages received through other campaigns. Slogans combine with other continuity devices such as trade characters, logos and jingles to increase and sustain memory impact.

Because slogans are brief, they often permeate the sponsor's integrated promotional and advertising plans. In addition to being found in advertisements, slogans may be widely displayed in other promotional formats: banners, uniforms, company vehicles and stationery, packages, signage, sales promotions and corporate reports.

Nonetheless, some successful slogans have been relatively wordy—for example, David Ogilvy's 1955 slogan for Dove soap: "One-quarter cleansing cream. Dove creams your skin while you wash."


Advertisers face a difficult challenge when attempting to create slogans for international use. Slogans often fail to convey meaning across national and cultural boundaries; consequently, advertisers may have to tailor them to conform to local conditions. Furthermore, in some cultures much has to be explained before the true meaning of a phrase or word is correctly and fully understood. Because of their brevity and propensity to employ wordplay, slogans may not transfer effectively into such contexts.

Copywriters sometimes face legal constraints when constructing slogans. As is the case with any promotional claim, a slogan must be reasonable and must not violate professional ethics or legal standards.

Slogans are factored into the layout and design of ads. The effectiveness of a slogan can be increased when it is accompanied by a visual image. When the brand name cannot be included in the slogan, the logo and brand name should be in close proximity to each other.

Because slogans enrich the company "signature" (the company or brand name, its logo, slogan, package design or any combination of these used to identify the company or brand), they are generally positioned at the point where eyes or ears leave the ad (typically at the bottom right corner of a print ad or near the end of a broadcast commercial). Accordingly, slogans are also called "taglines," a name arising from the realization that slogans are normally "tagged onto" the end of a commercial.

In some cases, however, especially when the slogan is new, it may be used as the headline, key visual or focal point of the ad.

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