Creating A Great Slogan

6 min read

A great slogan can help establish and reinforce your company’s brand and value proposition.  Once it’s in the mind of your target audience, it tends to stick.

How great would it be to have your brand and value proposition literally stuck in your prospect’s head (or at least in the part of the head she uses for recalling your types of products or services)?

Just consider all of the slogans you know.

think different

a diamond is forever

the quicker picker upper

eat fresh



All of these classic slogans are quickly identifiable with the respective company and help potential customers understand their value proposition.

(‘A diamond is forever’ is slightly different–it was designed and promoted by De Beers just to be associated with any diamond in the consumer’s mind.  Which worked fine for De Beers, which has had a virtual monopoly on providing rough diamonds to dealers the world over.)

Slogans can be powerful things.

In the 1990s, Las Vegas started going after family vacationers, de-emphasizing its casinos and gambling and focusing more on family-friendly attractions (often offered at discounted prices).  The city discovered that this started taking away from the allure of Las Vegas as an ‘adult’ location.

Their solution?

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  A slogan that ended up re-defining Las Vegas in the public imagination.

In 2014, the Journal of Business Research actually published a study of the ten most-liked slogans and the ten most-remembered slogans.  The study surveyed 595 people, asking them about 150 well-known slogans.

The most liked:

1. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” (M&M’s)

2. “The few, the proud, the marines” (U.S. Marine Corps)

3. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” (Las Vegas)

4. “The happiest place on the earth” (Disneyland)

5. “Easy breezy beautiful cover girl” (CoverGirl)

6. “Eat fresh” (Subway)

7. “Red Bull gives you wings” (Red Bull)

8. “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell)

9. “Got milk?” (California Milk Processor Board)

10. “Get in the zone” (AutoZone)


The most recalled:

1. “Just do it” (Nike)

2. “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonald’s)

3. “Have it your way” (Burger King)

4. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” (M&M’s)

5. “Got milk?” (California Milk Processor Board)

6. “Eat fresh” (Subway)

7. “Mmm mmm good!” (Campbell Soup Company)

8. “You’re in good hands with Allstate” (Allstate)

9. “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell)

10. “The ultimate driving machine” (BMW)


Did you notice the four slogans that appeared in both lists?  “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (M&M’s), “Eat fresh” (Subway), “Got milk?” (California Milk Processor Board), and “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell).

Interestingly, the study finds that repeated exposure to a slogan doesn’t make it more likable.  And contrary to popular wisdom, being brief doesn’t help either (nor does having a jingle).

What did the researchers find helps a slogan be liked?  Clarity, explanation of benefits, rhymes and ‘creativity.’

Here are some other things to consider when you’re developing the next great slogan for your business.

Participatory Language

Just Do It.  Nike’s tag line isn’t a statement about how Nike operates.  It doesn’t say,  ‘Nike just does it.’  It’s a command.  It’s telling YOU to just do it.

Nike is the motivational friend telling you that you can, you should, you have no excuses.  It’s directly involving you and subtly reinforcing its own image by doing it.

I’m loving it. McDonald’s slogan actually skips the command and tells you what you’re thinking.  It doesn’t say, ‘love it’ or ‘you’ll love our food.’  It’s ‘i’m loving it.’

When you say this logo to yourself in your head (after hearing it thousands of times through hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing efforts to reach you), you’re actually telling yourself what you feel about McDonald’s.  Wow–that’s occupying a piece of the consumer’s ‘mind space.’

Eat fresh.  Again, Subway is telling you what to do.  It’s not saying, ‘we offer fresh subs.’

Most people want to do, be or have the things great slogans tell them to do, be or have.  They want to eat fresh.  They don’t want to procrastinate–they want to ‘just do it.’

When your logo tells them to do this in a command, at some subconscious level it’s prompting them to assume that their products or services deliver these things.

got milk

The famous Got Milk? slogan invites you to participate.   It’s a question.  Do you, in fact, have milk?  Do you need to buy some right now?  Good question for milk producers to be asking regularly.

It also, of course, is evoking a phrase that everyone has heard inside their house at some point.  It’s familiar. This is the first ad that launched the slogan back in 1993:



Keep It Simple (But Not Too Simple)

There’s definitely value in clarity.  You don’t want to confuse people with your slogan.

And being brief often offers clarity.  The talent of great copywriters is to distill complex ideas into short, powerful statements.

But don’t get carried away with being brief.  There’s a trend today to go to shorter and shorter slogans or taglines.  This doesn’t always lead to success.

Not every great slogan is two or three words.

Veteran marketer Al Ries is convinced memorable slogans are usually longerHe firmly believes that most of the most memorable slogans are ‘relatively long.’

  • Ace Hardware: “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.” (9 words)
  • Avis: “Avis is only No.2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try harder.” (12 words)
  • Dyson: “The first vacuum cleaner that doesn’t lose suction.” (8 words)
  • Geico: “15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.” (12 words)
  • Las Vegas: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” (7 words)
  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” (8 words)
  • The New York Times: “All the news that’s fit to print.” (7 words)
  • Reese’s peanut butter cups: “Two great tastes that taste great together.” (7 words)
  • Reno, Nevada: “The biggest little city in the world.” (7 words)
  • Roto-Rooter: “That’s the name and away go troubles down the drain.” (10 words)
  • Saturn: “A different kind of company. A different kind of car.” (10 words)
  • Secret deodorant: “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” (10 words)
  • Smuckers: “With a name like Smuckers, it’s got to be good.” (10 words)
  • Splenda: “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” (8 words)

Another argument in favor of not going too short?

It usually requires years and millions of marketing dollars to get short, non-descript slogans to have real meaning.  And often it works only if the brand is already well-known.

You may really like Coke’s ‘Taste The Feeling’ slogan.  But that slogan really only works because you already know what Coke is and have a feeling for their brand.

Doing this with a young business or a small business is much harder to pull off and much more likely to simply be confusing or ineffective.  Consider instead listing an actual service or benefit in your slogan.

Small businesses have to explain their value.

Even Apple, of ‘Think Different’ fame, used a specific USP when delivering the groundbreaking iPod: “1,000 Songs in your Pocket.”  Most people didn’t know what MP3 players were at the time (or assumed they held about 5 songs).  Apple needed to explain.

Be Unique, But Be Careful

One of the things that a great slogan can do is deliver your unique selling proposition (USP). One of the classic examples is Domino’s pizza.

domino's 30 minutes

Domino’s started out in Michigan in 1960.  Their market was college students on campus.  The thing that differentiated them was that the pizza would be there in half an hour–something college kids value immensely.

The idea was simple, clear and unique.  It sold well.

If you’ve got a similar USP that’s selling, of course you should consider basing your slogan on it.  Just be careful: once it’s your slogan, it’s a core piece of your identity and brand and it can limit you.

Have Emotion

No matter what business you’re in, you’re ultimately selling to people.  And people are emotional beings.  Connecting your brand to an appropriate emotion can be a powerful selling tool.

melts in your mouth not in your hands

The M&Ms slogan–well-remembered and well-liked–is a great example. It’s not often thought of as emotionally-driven, but consider the message a little more.

Is it a USP?  Not really–any hard-shelled candy is going to melt slowly and be more likely to do so in your mouth than your hands.

What M&Ms is really appealing to is the emotion of that moment–when the candy melts, the full chocolate taste come through.  Anybody who likes chocolate knows that at that instant you’re happy and satisfied.

Not bad feelings to have associated with your product.