Slogan savvy


When we think of media, we probably are generally thinking of the obvious media types like television shows, movies or magazines. But we might overlook one type of media that seeps into pretty much everything we do: advertising. I’d venture to say that advertising — and product or company slogans specifically — are just as much a part of our cultural consciousness as any other type of media.

Companies spend huge amounts of money and time on finding just the right set of words that represent their product in a clever, catchy way, so that their slogan will pop into our heads at just the right moment.

Perhaps you’re wondering to yourself, “what kind of cereal should I buy?” Well, Wheaties is the “breakfast of champions,” so that’s one option, and of course Trix “are for kids” so maybe that would be a better choice. You probably should also consider that Kix are “kids tested, mother approved. and that Lucky Charms are “magically delicious.” Let’s not forget, though, that Frosted Flakes are “grrrreat!” and that Rice Krispies “snap, crackle and pop.” Which to choose?!

Once you’ve decided on breakfast, then you’ve got make a decision about lunch. Maybe it’s lunch on the go, and you have to decide are you “lovin'” McDonald’s? Do you “quiero” Taco Bell? Is Arby’s really “good mood food”? (It’s probably not.) Don’t forget that KFC “is finger lickin’ good,” or that Quizno’s is “Mmm, mmm…toasty.”

Advertising is a huge part of the way we communicate. Not only do slogans help remind us of certain products, many of them have made their way into colloquial usage. Most of us probably don’t know where the phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” comes from, but I’d bet that we’ve used it to try and get a laugh from time to time.

Some slogans become so ubiquitous and take on such a life of their own, that they are put to use a generation after their origination. Take, for instance, Wendy’s famous “Where’s the beef?” slogan from the 1980’s, which was recently repurposed and referenced in a 2011 commercial. Watch both below:

We probably use phrases from advertising all the time without even realizing it, which means that advertisers are doing their job — they’re making slogans and products so much a part of life that they’ve even made their way into the way we communicate.

If you think you know your slogans, take The Catchphrase Slogan Quiz I created. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t embed the quiz or remove the first two questions about age and gender. I also gave you a freebie answer. I’d love to know your results in the comments!)


5 thoughts on “Slogan savvy

  1. I think it’s interesting that sometimes too much success (in popular spread) might actually backfire for advertising goals. Do you ever laugh pretty hard at a commercial, and then afterwards can’t even remember what it was for? Or is that just me? I totally remember “Where’s the Beef” from the 80’s, but I honestly had no idea what chain started it. I probably would have guessed Burger King. (Hey, I was just a kid! And Wendy’s wasn’t really on my radar. I think the closest one was like 10 miles away.)

    But seriously, it must be tricky to find the right balance when you’re branding something. You want your catchphrase to be ubiquitous enough that everyone knows it, but not so common that it loses association with you (see the complaints of Kleenex, Xerox, etc.). I think slogans retain that associative link best when they’re touting something that is recognizably unique about the product (KitKat probably is the most easily-breakable candy bar vs. Don’t all cars help you move forward?). Or you can be like Folgers or State Frame and make your name part of the jingle–that always helps.

  2. I had no idea what car maker Moving Forward is from. I think I guessed Ford. Which evidently is wrong.

    Julianne, I think Wendy’s succeeded with their slogan of “Where’s the beef?”, despite you not remembering what restaurant did it. Like you said, it wasn’t even on your radar. And I would argue that Wendy’s wasn’t even going for our age with that ad anyway. While double entendre’s (and I do believe that slogan is intended to be one) are often presented to children, who only get the direct meaning of the phrase, this one in particular shoots for older people in general. I mean, what kid is _really_ going to worry about how big their hamburger patty is?

  3. Yeah, I’m sure you’re right, Steve. For one thing, Wendy’s probably wouldn’t be resurrecting the slogan if it was a failure. 🙂
    And it certainly did stick in people’s heads. What’s more, it says something memorable about Wendy’s product. Even I, mixed-up as I was on the origin, knew the message: “We give you more meat.” And it’s quite a clever way to convey that message. Plus like you say, it’s even better when people appreciate the double entendre.

    So yeah, my experience wasn’t representative. Probably not the best example to make a point about how sometimes just being widespread doesn’t equal success.
    But I’ll still stand by that point: Sometimes a slogan does well on the “funny scale” or the “catches on and spreads like wildfire” scale, but nonetheless isn’t very good on the “actually sells gizmos” scale.
    Hmm, maybe there’s some deep meaning here about how even the rich and powerful can’t fully control language…Or something. 🙂

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