Hit these 7 notes to craft your brand’s slogan

Hit these 7 notes to craft your brand's slogan

Like many of the most memorable songs, brands have their own hooks, or slogans.

Wikipedia describes a hook as “a short riff, passage, or phrase that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to ‘catch the ear of the listener’”. They are phrases that are simple to understand and remember. They often paint a picture that helps illustrate in a person’s mind what the song is about.

Slogans do the same for brands as hooks do for songs.

Thoughtful slogans not only catch the ear of the prospective customer but also capture the essence of a brand. They are a call to arms that signal to people why the brand exists, and why people should be a part of the brand community.

So what should you consider when creating your brand slogan? Hit these 7 notes:

  1. Base it on research: You need to know the people you are trying to reach and keep. And the only way you can know them is to listen and talk to them. Check out what they are doing online; how they are interacting with your content; how they are engaging with your competition. You need to make sure you understand the need you are satisfying for them and how you are uniquely able to do so. Doing so will help you hit the right note when developing your slogan.
  2. Use it as a bridge to your community: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” anthem seamlessly connects him with his audience; all chanting “Born in the USA! Born in the USA!” Similarly, your slogan should be as much about your community as it is about you. Not only does it need to capture your brand’s essence, but it also needs to serve as that verbal link that brings you and your community together.
  3. Avoid jargon: Forget the marketing and brand jargon. Take a page from country music and be straightforward with your slogan. Use your community’s language. Think about how they talk about the problem that you have a solution for. Use that language to inspire the way you present who you are.
  4. Think of the long term: In “Hot N Cold” Katy Perry sings “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes” (yes, my wife made fun of me for knowing lyrics to this song). You need to think of a slogan that will stand the test of time (new competition, new products/services, economic shifts). Think of the relationship you are forging with your target community. The more frequently you change your slogan, the more likely they are to not know what you stand for. Make sure your slogan has staying power.
  5. Keep it short: A slogan doesn’t have to say everything you do or list every product/service you offer – that’s what marketing, storytelling and customer service are about. Your slogan needs to be that verbal cue quickly that let’s the people you are after, and those who are already under your brand tent, the essence of what you’ll do for them.
  6. Consider global/multicultural reach: If your brand aims to reach across borders and/or cultures you have a more daunting task in crafting a slogan that works well in different languages. You need to consider the words, double meanings, symbolism and overall impact that your phrase can have in the native languages of the communities you are reaching. Strict translation may likely miss the mark so you’ll need to find the best way to adapt it – Test it first. (Check out this amazing version of “Stairway to Heaven” by the Mexican duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela).
  7. A slogan is not the end-all-be-all: A slogan is meant to capture the essence of your brand. A great slogan for a brand that doesn’t deliver on its promise to its community is useless. Your community’s experience with the brand is what brings the slogan to life and makes it ring true.

It’s not an easy endeavor at all, but if you hit on these 7 notes, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a slogan that will be at the top of your community’s chart.

Let me know if you have any other points that should be added!

Need some inspiration? Communications strategist Sarosh Waiz has a list of 40 of the best slogans of modern brands.


5 steps to building a brand people want

"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action." Michael Angelo

Michael Angelo’s “David” – photo by D H Wright

Michael Angelo once said: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.

Many entrepreneurs have a similar vision. They see the opportunity where others don’t. Like a sculptor, they are willing to chip away obstacles to bring their idea to life.

Here are 5 steps to turning that brand vision into a brand that people want:

  • Know what you are making – Just like Michael Angelo knew what to chip away at in order to reveal the sculpture, you need to know what you are building and why. Go beyond features and benefits and get to the heart of what your brand stands for. Simon Sinek’s TED presentation does an excellent job of explaining why you’ll want to start with answering the question “why.”
  • Know who you’re making it for – Sculptures aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. Just like an artist recognizes that s/he doesnt have to be all things to all people, so should you. Once you’ve decided why your brand exists, identify the people you want your brand to connect with. Look at their demographics, psychographics and culturegraphics. Identify the size of your potential market and uncover actionable insights about what makes them tick. Doing so will help you craft the messages you need to deliver to cut through the clutter.
  • Use the right tools – Be it sculpting, woodworking, branding or marketing, there are always more tools and communications channels than you likely need to get the job done. Figure out what channels make the most sense to reach your audience. Then coordinate the use of those channels – email, social media networking sites, direct mail, etc.  Like the authors of “Marketing in the Round” explain, sync all messaging, strategies, and tactics and optimize every medium and platform to deliver the right targeted messages in an integrated manner.
  • Converse – Like great art, building a brand is about creating a conversation between the brand and a community. Using media channels to simply disseminate information is only one-way. Use your brand to elicit discussion about what matters to your audience. Create shareable content, respond to questions, provoke discussion, and listen.
  • Find out if they like it and what they like about it – The only way we’ll know if we’re delivering something that the people we care about actually want is if we observe and ask. Identify your key performance indicators for your business and for your communications efforts. Set benchmarks and then actively engage in the analytics. Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik suggests 4 social media metrics that will get you thinking about what you need to measure, and why.

There’s only one Michael Angelo. But then again, there’s also only one you. Use these steps to bring your vision to life and build a brand that people want.

If you have any other suggestions, please chime in!

“Loss aversion” – Understand what it means in order to rebrand successfully

I play soccer at least once a week in a 30+ league. While mentally I feel like an 18 year-old out on the pitch, my body reminds me that the “studs on my cleats” have been permanently worn down. I don’t run or turn as fast as I used to.

old soccer cleats

But one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that feeling I get when being down by a goal (or more).

It’s like someone has taken something very personal away from me, and I’ll fight until the bitter end to get it back. I’ll sprint (it looks like I’m running in slow motion) after the ball, defend, and take shots up until the last second; doing everything in my power to help get our team to tie the game.

It turns out I’m not alone. From what we understand about our brain, we’re driven to fight harder to recoup what we’ve lost than to try to gain something in the first place. This is loss aversion.

“Loss aversion” and rebranding

An interview with NPR’s Shankar Vedantam about the theory loss aversion got me thinking about what this might mean for marketing professionals, specifically those trying to push forward change in an organization’s image.

Rebranding, specifically a visual and verbal brand identity changes (i.e. logo, icon, tagline), impacts an entire organization: departments, products, services, people. You name it, they are affected.

Groups that have to change their existing visual and verbal sub-brand identities to fit that of the new corporate one, will likely have immediate push-back. Why? Because it’s like someone has scored a goal on them – now they will fight to get back what they’ve lost; to at least even the score.

It doesn’t matter if the change will actually support their business objectives. Data and strategic insights be damned! Losing your identity is an emotional thing, just like losing a soccer game.

It’s the theory of loss aversion at work.

Turning “loss aversion” into a tool to build rebranding support

What if we use the theory of loss aversion to our advantage?

If you are leading a rebranding effort (assuming you are doing a rebrand for strategic reasons and not just for a “refresh.”) do your homework. Have a clear sense of how the business objectives and challenges the company is facing relates to the individual groups whose sub-brand identities are being altered. Then, look for a common “enemy” or “challenge” that the individual groups can jointly get behind – identify the losses and use it as a rallying cry so that all of the individual groups work as a team.

A common enemy could be:

  • a competitor that’s eaten up your market share;
  • economic shifts that have caused sales to drop; or
  • a new product or service another company is launching aimed at your target audience.

Sure, it’s easier said than done. However, you have to look for opportunities to bring people together rather than have them hunker down in their silos. Even a team of soccer all-stars can’t win a game if each of the 11 players works independently.

Do you have any examples of organizations finding a “common enemy” to focus on during a major re-brand? Please share.