03 November 2008
The right tagline can boost a brand to legendary status, or make about as much impact as a wet firecracker…

Diamond miner and trader DeBeers’ slogan “Diamonds are forever” didn’t earn the No. 1 spot on Advertising Age’s Top 10 Slogans of the Century by selling the idea of ‘rare’ or ‘luxurious’. What they did was exploit to the max an association between purchasing a piece of the hardest known natural substance on Earth—in the form of a tiny translucent rock set in gold—and the potential buyer declaring some ever-lasting sentiment (i.e. proposing marriage or professing undying love etc.). Essentially, a DeBeers diamond was depicted as a symbol of endurance and commitment. Thus, “Diamonds are forever” not only effectively described and captured the essence of their product, but also made a promise which was alluring to potential buyers.
The right tagline can boost a brand to legendary status, or make about as much impact as a wet firecracker…

Diamond miner and trader DeBeers’ slogan “Diamonds are forever” didn’t earn the No. 1 spot on Advertising Age’s Top 10 Slogans of the Century by selling the idea of ‘rare’ or ‘luxurious’. What they did was exploit to the max an association between purchasing a piece of the hardest known natural substance on Earth—in the form of a tiny translucent rock set in gold—and the potential buyer declaring some ever-lasting sentiment (i.e. proposing marriage or professing undying love etc.). Essentially, a DeBeers diamond was depicted as a symbol of endurance and commitment. Thus, “Diamonds are forever” not only effectively described and captured the essence of their product, but also made a promise which was alluring to potential buyers.
 
 

 

During the 1980s and early 1990s, a television advertising campaign that was part of the US ‘War on Drugs’ was cooked up with focus on developing the resistance skills of youngsters. The slogan for the campaign was “Just Say No”. Some criticised it as oversimplifying America’s serious drug problem, which extended to all levels of society. Others hailed it as revolutionary, observing how the anti-drug slogan was absorbed into American culture. Popular US TV shows of the time such as Diff’rent Strokes and Punky Brewster even produced episodes centred on the campaign. Over time, “Just Say No” also extended into saying ‘NO’ to violence, premarital sex, and any other vices young people are prone to.

Also deceivingly simple is Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. Uniquely, it shifts all focus onto the buyer. “Just Do It” speaks to the heart and gut in such a short and snappy way that it traverses from athletics to any life situation. It motivates you to stop procrastinating and ‘do what you’ve got to do’, aim high, and realize your true potential. There were even rumours that people, so inspired by the slogan, were moved to leave cheating husbands or save drowning victims!

Then there’s cosmetics company Maybellines’ slogan: “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline”. This slogan screams that not every woman is a natural beauty; but that’s not the end of it. It basically articulates that by caking on Maybelline’s beauty-enhancing products, people will find it so hard to tell the plain Janes from the sexy Sarahs that they’ll be jealous and moved to speculate that it’s the makeup that makes the woman (meow!).

This is not to be confused with Clairol’s “Does she… or doesn’t she?” slogan for its line of hair dye. The first batch of these ads were originally written “Does she... or doesn’t she? Hair colour so natural only her mother knows for sure!” However, Clairol was concerned about alienating hairdressers by their attempts at selling retail. By changing the word “mother” to “hairdresser,” the ads turned the hairdresser into an authority. So, the final ads read, “Does she... or doesn’t she? Hair colour so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure!”

What makes a slogan work?

I’ll tell you what doesn’t: going into a global market without doing your homework and assuming the message will be similarly interpreted as in the territory from which it originated. In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” was reportedly taken literally to mean “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”. Here’s one I can’t confirm is true but included here to illustrate my point that it’s important to do your research when embarking on cross-cultural marketing: An American t-shirt maker in Miami, Florida, printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of the desired “I Saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts proclaimed, “I Saw the Potato” (la papa). Needless to say, they didn’t sell very well.

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