RIP: Slogans

Every clever formula will eventually fail. The more successful they are, the more likely they'll become poisonous eventually. Let's talk a little bit about tag lines. People freaking love tag lines. Business people love to debate ad nauseam about their precious slogans. The truth is slogans and taglines can be as useless as pilots on planes with modern automation...

Pilot Douche
Pilot Douche

The idea of a slogan has a lot of value. It makes sense to boil down everything about your business into a concise thought. The practice of deciphering a slogan makes sense because it helps you define what is truly important about your business. We just get lost in the importance of the actual words. What’s more important is how you use your concise message over the previous 27 seconds of advertising. Your slogan isn't the climactic marketing orgasm you think it is.

Usually it isn't...
Usually it isn't...

To make things worse by the time everybody in your conference room agrees on something it’s usually the lowest common denominator like “Excellence in X for over Y years.” Ughhhhhhhhh…

Slogans were a great idea. Nike made a huge impact on people with the tagline “Just Do It.” It literally got millions of people off of their fat asses to get active. Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” delighted people so much that they sat right back down on their fat asses and waited for heart disease to claim them once and for all! Incredible! Slogans were such a great idea for such a long time that we have trouble even hearing a commercial without expecting this formulaic conclusion…

Business Name: (DRAMATIC PAUSE) Something about said business.

The problem is when something becomes expected it becomes less effective. The point of your ad is to make people pay attention. You need to surprise them. Nobody wants to hear your advertisement. If you give them something that they'll expect they’re already half way to ignoring it. Give them something they won't expect.

Luckily, clichés always offer opportunity to the creative. Hotels.com’s Captain Obvious campaign is a fantastic example.

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The best part of this commercial is right where you expect the tag line to go. “Hotels Dot Com would have mentioned the finger” is a classic example of surprising your audience. We are expecting a cliché and are hit with something that brings us joy. These are the memorable moments in advertising that actually make us talk about them with friends. Every Hotels Dot Com commercial ends with the same type of joke. When I see a new commercial I wait for the punch line instead of the tagline. That's truly using every part of the commercial (the way the Eskimo do!)

Here’s the thing though… If they keep doing it, and other companies copy the technique, it’ll eventually become ineffective. It’s just the way she goes with marketing. Perhaps by that point this tag line will be relevant again…

“Hotels dot Com. Excellence in Online Hotel Booking for over 8 years.”