What New Research Reveals About Slogans

According to dictionary.com the word slogan is defined as “a distinctive cry, phrase, or motto of any party, group, manufacturer, or person; catchword or catch phrase.” In marketing and advertising parlance there are no shortage of definitions:  

  • “A short phrase used in advertising campaigns to generate publicity and unify a company’s marketing strategy.” 
  • “A short and catchy phrase that seeks to reinforce the image of the brand of any company.” 
  • “A short phrase that is easy to remember.” 

The commonality amongst these and all definitions of the word in the context of advertising is short. It’s a well-held belief that an advertising slogan should not be, say, 25 words in length.  

However, recent research has shown that slogans that are longer in length – longer in the sense that they’re not 1, 3 or 5 words – may have value.

Memorable vs. Likeable

This past May, Brady Hodges, assistant professor at the Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business at the University of Missouri – along with a few colleagues – released a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, titled “Intel Inside: The Linguistic Properties of Effective Slogans.”  

Among the findings:  

  • Slogans with long words are less likable, but more memorable.  
  • Slogans that use more commonly used words will be liked, but not always remembered.  

So, the question for brands is do you want your slogan to be memorable or liked? Well, according to the research it all depends on where your brand is in its brand-building timeline.  

“It’s important for businesses to determine what stage of brand building they are in,” Hodges said. “Our research finds that having a memorable slogan may turn some potential consumers off, but it can help a newer brand make a name for itself.” 

For example, the research references the origin of Coca-Cola, whose first slogans included Coca-Cola revives and sustains and The great national temperance beverage. And at one time used the highly verbose Whoever You Are, Whatever You Do, Wherever You May Be, When You Think of Refreshment Think of Ice Cold Coca-Cola. 

That last one just flows off your tongue, doesn’t it?  

Of course, Coca-Cola is the gold standard when it comes to brand equity and awareness which is why they can “get by” with slogans such as It’s the real thing and Taste the feeling. We all know, however, not every brand has such a luxury. For example, if you’re a new brand starting out, you will and in fact need your name in the slogan, i.e., Dan’s Discount Furniture, Great Deals Every Day. Something like that. You get the idea.  

However, if you get to the right level of awareness and equity – and only you will know this – then you can think about shortening it to Great Deals Every Day 

It is also worth noting that there is a noticeable difference between the offline and digital worlds we all find ourselves in when it comes to slogans. In his book, Lemon, Chief Innovation Officer for System1 Group Orlando Wood says audiences have more control in an online advertising environment and process it at speed. “In these environments, a familiar character or slogan will very quickly refresh the neural networks associated with the brand and generate an emotional response before the viewer has the chance to move on to the next piece of content,” says Wood.  

In other words, investing in a strong slogan for television, outdoor and print campaigns will also greatly benefit your brand in an increasingly digital landscape. The vast majority of digital ads don’t capture attention for long enough to be remembered at a later time, like when someone is ready to make a purchase. However, if your digital ads incorporate the slogan for which your brand is well known, you can increase the likelihood that your creative will catch and hold attention even in a lower-attention environment that encourages mass consumption via quick scrolling.  

Now What?

Ok, so now you know a little as to how and why certain slogans work for certain brands. But how do you truly know which slogan will perform best for your brand?  

You could just roll the proverbial dice and hope for the best.  

Or you could take Hodges’ advice and test and, as he aptly stated: “put slogans in front of people and then see which one performs better.” 

Luckily for you we can help. Our Test Your Idea platform allows you to do just what the good professor advises: Test.  

Test Your Idea puts your slogan in front of a sample of the public to understand how it makes them feel. We know that the more people feel, the more they buy. So ideally your slogan will result in intense feelings of happiness.  

Because we know that diverse crowds are proven to make better predictions compared to small, targeted groups, we take our testing an important step further than your typical focus group of 10-15 people who purchase your product or within your category. Test Your Idea taps into “Wisdom of the Crowd” for more accurate predictions and more representative insights, giving you a better understanding of the profit potential of your slogan in just 48 hours.