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What Is a Slogan? Wait…Tagline!…Whatever

What Is a Slogan? Wait…Tagline!…Whatever

Nothing is Impossible. The Best A Man Can Get. I’m Lovin’ It. Taste the Rainbow. Call it a slogan, call it a tagline. It doesn't matter what you call it, it's something that can revolutionize the appeal and image of a brand with just a few right words. 

The other day I heard someone talk about a company's value proposition and call it a marketing slogan. As somebody who knows a little bit about marketing, I was outraged. But then, I thought, well, marketing jargon can be really confusing. So I decided to write a blog article that explains what a slogan is so people don't confuse it with other important marketing terms.

Before we start, let me clarify this thing about a slogan and a tagline. To many people, (me included) they are the same exact thing. But some marketers would say that taglines are more permanent. They represent the whole brand and are only changed for a large company rebranding. 

Slogans, on the other hand, are used for marketing campaigns. They can be changed frequently and highlight a specific aspect of a product or service.

This opinion makes a lot of sense, and I accept it. But I do believe that these two concepts aren't really that much different, and I like the word "slogan" more. 

Now, let's get to it.

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What is a slogan?


Well, first of all, Merriam-Webster defines a slogan as "a brief attention-getting phrase used in advertising or promotion." During the Middle Ages, slogans were used primarily as passwords to help recognize individuals at night or in a battle.

In advertising, the world's first slogan appeared in 1859 in print. It was an ad for a cure-all medicine called Beechams Pills:

Bechams Pills: Worth a Guinea a Box.

In the ad, the brand promised to “dislodge bile, stir up the liver, cure sick-headache, female ailments, remove disease and promote good health.” It cost less than a guinea to buy.



Beechams Pills ad


Another century-old but still well-known slogan goes back to 1895 and belongs to Procter & Gamble. They used it to promote their Ivory soap product. The slogan itself is pretty weird, it says: "99 and 44/100 percent pure."


Ivory soap's slogan


To win sales, Harley Procter, son of Procter & Gamble co-founder, decided to run a lab test to prove that Ivory soap was purer than the castile soap, which at that time was considered as the best soap available. It turned out it was. Thinking that consumers would be impressed by technical authenticity, Procter began sticking the phrase "99 and 44/100 percent pure" in Ivory advertisements. 

And it worked better than their previous slogan "It Floats!" written in 1891. What's more, it's still in use today. You can check out their vintage ad to see this slogan in action:


How slogans sell 


Today, it's hard to imagine an advertising campaign without a catchy slogan. Slogan's main goal is to catch the audience's attention and influence their buying decision. There are four things that the most successful slogans do:

1. Grab attention 

Apple's simple and grammatically clumsy slogan “Think Different” became one of the most talked-about advertising campaigns of the decade. You can check out more Apple's slogans here.


2. Leave a memorable impression 

L’Oréal Paris “Because you’re worth it” left a remarkable impression on women at the time when feminism was taking over. I bet you remember this slogan. It feels like it's been created recently. But in fact, it was written in 1973...almost 50 years ago.


3. Use simple, familiar vocabulary  

Nike's “Just Do It,” is one of the simplest and most powerful slogans ever written. It was inspired by the last words of a murderer before he was executed: "Let's do it." The "Just Do It" campaign allowed Nike to increase its market share from 18% to 43% in 10 years.

4. Make a positive impression

MasterCard's slogan “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard” was written for their Priceless campaign with the purpose to position MasterCard as a friendly credit card company with a sense of humor, something people would not normally associate with an industry giant like MasterCard. 


Grab attention; leave a memorable impression; use simple, familiar vocabulary; make a positive impression – if your slogan does all that, it can affect the audiences’ buying behavior.


What likable slogans have in common


According to one study, the most likable slogans have the following things in common:

  • They clearly communicate a message
  • They emphasize the benefits of the product or service they're advertising
  • They are creative
  • They don't mention a brand name

Another study analyzed 100 English advertising slogans to define what words they use most frequently. It turns out the majority of successful slogans use the following 8 adjectives:

  1. Good

Good food, good life. (Nestle)

See how good they feel. (Van Dal, women's shoes)

  1. Beautiful

Beautiful. Colorful. You. (Bonne Bell brand, makeup for eyes, lips, face)

For life's most beautiful moments. (Bucherer, leading retailer for watches and jewelry in Switzerland)

  1. Real

Real ice creamier. (Tip Top Ice Cream Company, New Zealand)

Real health. Real beauty. (Glow, Canadian Beauty and Health magazine)

A real company in a virtual world. (Amazon.com)

Tastes like real milk because it is. (Devondale milk, Australia)

  1. Better

Make it better. (Timberland boots)

Mudd. Better when it's on you. (Mudd jeans, American youth brand)

Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. (Papa John's pizza)

  1. Best

The best part of the day. (Evening Herald tabloid newspaper)

The best a man can get. (Gillette)

  1. Great

Great seafood. Not a lot of clams. (ROCKFISH Seafood Grill Restaurant, Dallas, Texas)

For great American food… Think daily. (Daily Grill restaurant, California)

Great ideas for small rooms. (Ikea)

  1. Perfect

Perfect for when friends drop in. (Houghton Australian Wines)

The perfect moment between past and future. (Rochas watches, France)

  1. Pure 

Pure. Fresh. Clean. (Colgate Oxygen toothpaste)

Pure life. (Nestle Natural Spring Water)

Check out a list of popular brand slogans here.


How to approach your own slogan


Now when you’ve seen all those beautiful slogans, you probably want to write one yourself. Not to disappoint you, but I’m not going to share any step-by-step processes or winning frameworks for creating great slogans. Because there are none. A slogan is the consequence of research, lots of bad drafts, and creativity.

But there are a few things that can point you in the right direction.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What do you do?
  • What's your promise?
  • What is your brand like?

What do you do?

When trying to answer the first question, you want to be clear. Are you sharing marketing tips on Instagram? Teaching English lessons on Zoom? Offering IT consulting services? Write down what you have to offer and move on to the next question.

What’s your promise?

The easiest way to define your promise is to put your offer in front of you and keep asking “so what?” to yourself. For example, let's say you have a blog where you tell stories about art from ancient times to the present day. So what? What are the benefits of reading about art history? 

  • Study history
  • Understand the world
  • Get a greater perspective on different cultures
  • Talk about art without sounding dumb
  • Feel inspired and creative

Now when you know your benefits, let's answer the last question:

What is your brand like?

You need to show a little bit of your brand personality in your slogan. Let's say your art blog is designed as a timescale where each article has a work of art as a header image. Put it to work in your slogan.

You need to come up with something that encompasses what you do, your benefits, and your brand image. What do you get?

2000 years of life in shapes and colors.

That’s a great slogan! If you put it on your website as a title, you can add a subtitle that communicates your value proposition.

Slogan vs value proposition


Many people confuse a slogan with a value proposition. Let's figure out the difference.

A value proposition is a promise to your future customers. It's a statement that describes what problems you solve or what needs you address, for whom, and why your offer is better than alternatives.

Shopify has a great explanation of a value proposition.

Source: Shopify


In other words, your value proposition should focus on the superpowers that potential customers get.

Slack, a popular corporate messaging app, has a slogan "Slack is your digital HQ." And their value prop is: "Transform the way you work with one place for everyone and everything you need to get stuff done."

Source: Slack

As you can see, a slogan is figurative while a value proposition is literal.

Going back to our art blog, what value proposition can we add to the slogan: "2000 years of life in shapes and colors"?

How about:

Stories about art to understand the world and create a better one.

Hope this blog post has made the concept of a slogan a little bit clearer for you.


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