Thinking about running a marketing campaign, launching a new product or promoting a particular service? One of the first steps you’ll need to take is to create a slogan.
A slogan isn’t the same as a tagline or a motto – it’s a memorable phrase that spearheads specific marketing campaigns. This means that creating a slogan is quite different to developing a tagline (which represents your entire brand).
In this article, I’ll walk you through practical tips for consistently producing catchy, high-quality slogans.
1. Start with the concept
Before you start writing anything, you need to consider why you’re creating a slogan. Normally, it will be for one of two reasons:
- To accompany a specific marketing campaign
- To be attached to a specific product/service, for use in that product/service’s future campaigns
Therefore, your slogan needs to capture the spirit of either the campaign itself or the product/service. Here are a few examples to help clarify what I mean.
‘Seize the Summer’
‘Seize the summer’ is actually a personal example; I developed it as a campaign slogan for a client in the tourism sector, with the goal of generating more hotel bookings over summer. It’s one of the best slogans I’ve ever written, because it’s simple, catchy and succinctly summarises the exact attitude we wanted to inspire our target audience with.
When I was putting the campaign branding together, I remember mentally flipping through synonyms until I settled on ‘seize’. Straight away, I realised it was perfect – it granted agency to our audience, but was still an imperative, a command to book, to take action. It also perfectly aligned with the company branding at the time, which focused on high-energy, adrenaline-focused activities.
Critically, it also focuses on the audience. It’s a directive to take control of their holiday season, not a plea for them to book with us. It reminds them that they are in control of their own lives, that they should get out there and live, which, of course, mental primes them to make holiday plans and bookings.
‘Turn on the Fun’
‘Turn on the fun’ is a slogan from a 2019 Toyota Australia campaign for Corolla Hybrids. At a glance, it seems misleading – Corollas aren’t sporty cars, they’re not ‘cool’ and most people wouldn’t consider driving one ‘fun’.
But, if we look at this slogan in the context of broader Corolla branding, it starts to make sense. Over the past few years, Toyota Australia has been targeting its Corolla ads at a younger demographic, promoting the Corolla family as a versatile solution for the needs of young adults.
The ‘Turn on the fun’ campaign is a solid attempt to shift consumer perceptions of Corollas as boring, vanilla and utilitarian to exciting, adventurous and fun – and its slogan perfectly captures that.
‘Deus hoc vault’
The word ‘slogan’ is actually derived from the medieval Gaelic term for ‘battle-cry’. Why is this relevant? Because ‘deus hoc vault’ is an excellent example of a slogan that doubled as a war-cry.
At the inception of the First Crusade in 1095, Pope Urban II allegedly commanded his followers to shout ‘deus hoc vault’ (Latin for ‘God wills it’) as they attacked. It remained the favoured slogan of the Crusades right until their end in the 13th century, because it perfectly encapsulated the point of the holy campaigns.
Fulfilling the will of God was exactly what was most Crusaders understood themselves to be doing on a moral level, and also served as a convenient marketing slogan for recruits: what we are doing is by God’s will, so come and join us.
Think about this in a modern context, like the United States Marine Corps’ pseudo-slogan ‘The Few. The Proud. The Marines.’, which embodies the elite reputation of the Marines. You can use a similar approach for your campaigns and products/services – capture the spirit of your offering and the rationale behind why you need the slogan, and then distil it into three or four words.
2. Integrate your promise
A brand promise isn’t a marketing concept designed to sell anything. It’s actually a core aspect of your business that you should think about before you start designing products, developing branding materials or hiring staff.
A promise is the commitment you make to your consumers. In exchange for their time and money, what are you giving them? Here’s a hint: you’re not giving them a physical product. That product or service can and will change over time, so your promise shouldn’t be based around that (although there are exceptions). Instead, you’re promising them a benefit.
Here’s a personal example. Recently, I developed a family law slogan for a law firm. They wanted to push their family law department more. The issue? They had no USPs, no proper branding and the market in question was moderately saturated.
So I had to find a way to promote their service without being fallacious or sounding clichéd and boring (harder than it sounds in the law industry). After chatting with one of their lawyers, I narrowed down exactly what their family lawyers offered.
They didn’t help you ‘take back control’, ‘win your case’ or ‘keep what’s yours’ – although numerous other law firms used variations of those promises, they’re based on the assumption that those lawyers will win every case, which, of course, isn’t true, and consequently makes those promises impossible to keep at least some of the time.
No, what they actually offered was ‘helping clients and their families move towards a better future’. Is it non-specific? Yes. But is it true, accurate and possible to keep? Also yes. Helping your client achieve the best possible outcome while retaining family relationships is the best-case scenario for family lawyers.
‘Helping clients and their families move towards a better future’ wasn’t the final form of the slogan (brand promises don’t need to be), but it definitely contributed to it.
If we look at the examples we talked about before, you can see this is also true:
- ‘Seize the summer’ implies that by following the campaign, you’ll retake control of your holidays, which is pretty much the promise of that particular brand.
- ‘Turn on the fun’ implies that Corollas facilitate a more enjoyable lifestyle than other makes/models – which may well be Toyota’s promise for the Corolla line.
- ‘Deus hoc vault’ implies that recruits are fulfilling the will of God, which was a major reason for ordinary people joining the Crusades.
- ‘The Few. The Proud. The Marines.’ implies that recruits will become part of an elite, highly respected fighting force, which is certainly part of the reason many soldiers join the Marines rather than other military units.
3. Put it together
Once you’ve figured why you’re creating your slogan and what promise it should contain, it’s time to actually write it. Putting a slogan together is a learned skill, and it isn’t easy to balance all of the elements you need, so don’t stress if your first few slogans are less than effortlessly brilliant.
With that in mind, here are a few of my tips for creating a technically good slogan:
- Keep it between three to five words. Some slogans might be slightly shorter or longer, but going more than seven words means your slogan risks becoming forgettable, and one-word slogans are typically too general to be tied specifically to your campaign or product.
- Make it memorable. Avoid clichés and slogans used by other companies.
- Keep it simple. Don’t use big words, jargon or odd turns of phrase unless those usages sync with your brand.
- Make it snappy. The best slogans roll effortlessly off the tongue.
- Make it clever. Despite all the (good) advice to avoid copy that’s clever for the sake of being clever, slogans are actually one place where it’s fine to experiment stylistically. Use alliteration, use homophones, use rhymes, use puns – just don’t make it too clever for your target audience, and definitely don’t come off as corny.
- Make sure it’s brand-appropriate. If you’re a funeral company offering high-quality ceremonies, your slogans definitely shouldn’t be funny. If you’re a law firm, you don’t want to come off as sleazy or greedy. If you sell courses, you need to sound honest, reliable and authentic. You get the idea – your slogans always need to align with your overall brand.
- Write a list of prospective slogans. This is a bit of personal preference, and other copywriters may certainly have other methods, but I always find it helpful just to jot down all my ideas for slogans, even if they’re slight variations of each other. This gives me comparison points for which ones sound good; from there, I narrow down on a few I really like and either make a judgement call or present them to my client for review.
- Even once I’ve definitively settled on a slogan, I keep the others – for products and services, you can test a few different ideas across platforms to see if there’s any significant difference in conversion rates. Example in the real world: the same Google search revealed two different slogans for the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% – ‘Speed, with Style’ and ‘the Next Generation of Fast’.
It’s worth noting that, as with everything creative, there are exceptions to the advice I’ve just given. There are plenty of examples of slogans that break all the rules and still perform excellently – and maybe that’s exactly why they’re so great. For a small business owner or a fledgling marketer, though, sticking to the above tips is a good way to ensure you’ll avoid the problems that contribute to ineffective slogans.
If you’ve gotten to this point and you’re thinking, “Wow, that actually sounds pretty complex – I hadn’t realised so much thought went into just a few words”, congratulations! You’ve just learned one of the most valuable lessons of marketing: anything that seems simple and effortless was probably complex and time-consuming to create.
Luckily, you don’t always have to create your own slogans. Outsourcing campaign creation or product branding to an agency or freelancer to get those perfect three to five words is often a smart and budget-efficient option. For example, we offer slogan writing as part of our Copywriting services, and I’ve personally seen the difference a good slogan can make to client campaigns. Most importantly, a slogan can be a long-term asset – Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, for example, was so successful that their ‘Think Different’ slogan became a de facto tagline.