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The Secrets to a Great Slogan: Creativity and Clarity

The Secrets to a Great Slogan: Creativity and Clarity
Credit: Boston/Shutterstock

While slogans can help build brand awareness and likability, they don't always resonate with consumers.

In order to create a slogan that consumers like, businesses need to focus on three key elements, according to a new study in the Journal of Business Research. The research shows that out of 14 possible characteristics of slogans, only three matter for likability: creativity of phrasing, clarity of message and inclusion of a benefit. The other factors, such as including a brand name and the consumers' familiarity with the product or the brand, matter very little in terms of likability.

Piyush Kumar, a professor of marketing at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business and a co-author of the study, said that although brands would like their slogans to be both memorable and likable, that's not always possible. He said there seems to be a discrepancy between what makes people remember slogans and what makes them like slogans.

"The slogans that score highly on the recall front are not really the ones that score highly on the likability front," Kumar said in a statement. "That tells you that you cannot manage both simultaneously."

The research also revealed that while businesses can spend money to make a slogan memorable and improve its recall score, the same tactic can't be used to make a slogan more likable.

The researchers discovered that if you look at exposure in the media by asking how long the slogan has been around and how much money has been thrown at it, neither one makes any difference.

"If I like something, I like it," Kumar said. "Exposing me to it again and again doesn't make me like it any better."

As part of the study, more than 500 consumers were asked to recall as many slogans as they could. The top 150 slogans were selected and shown in small sets to a large sample of respondents, who were asked to indicate how much they liked each one of them. The researchers then developed a new model of slogan likability, to assess which of 14 common slogan characteristics determined why people liked some slogans more than others.

The study revealed that these are the slogans consumers like the most:

  • "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand." — M&M's
  • "The few, the proud, the Marines" — The U.S. Marine Corps
  • "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." — Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
  • "The happiest place on Earth" — Walt Disney World
  • "Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl" — Cover Girl
  • "Eat fresh" — Subway
  • "Red Bull gives you wings" — Red Bull
  • "Think outside the bun" — Taco Bell
  • "Got milk?" — California Milk Processor Board
  • "Get in the Zone" — AutoZone

From a cognitive point of view, Kumar said, if there is a clear message from the brand, people tend to like it.

"And if it's being said creatively, people tend to like it as well," he said. "So both sides of the picture seem to matter."

Since slogans are one of the three components of brand identity, alongside brand name and logo, researchers believe the study's results have significant implications for brand managers and slogan designers.

In the grand scheme of things, Kumar said, making a slogan likable is important because it's not processed as purely a creative statement. If recall becomes a problem, you can always pump more money into it and increase a slogan's memorability, Kumar added.

"But you can't pump more money and make something more likable once it's already been crafted," Kumar said. "So from that extent, you have to be careful to build likability in your slogans."

The study was co-authored by Mayukh Dass and Sunil Thomas of the Texas Tech University Rawls College of Business and Chiranjeev Kohli of the California State University Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.