Business Columns & Blogs

Making your slogans and taglines count

"Think different" -- Apple

Businesses spend countless hours and a lot of money developing taglines and slogans to try to convince their customers they offer something others do not. When used correctly, taglines can be very effective.

There is Nike's classic slogan: "Just do it."

Unfortunately, however, not all slogans are good ones. Many just leave you wondering what the companies were thinking when they picked them.

For example, I was driving on Interstate 10 recently and noticed a tagline on the side of a truck. It said, "You drive and you retire." I had no idea what that could mean. Were they saying that you drive their trucks, and then you die?

Audi's tagline has always puzzled me as well. I received a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech many years ago, so Audi's "Truth in Engineering" slogan has always left me wondering what point they were trying to make. Firstly, I have never heard of anyone doubting engineering, and secondly, I cannot see how this slogan differentiates them from their competitors.

On the other side is BMW, whose slogan is "Sheer Driving Pleasure" or "The Ultimate Driving Machine." Unlike Audi, BMW has chosen a tagline that tells you something about the experience you will have when you own one of its vehicles.

All taglines generally fall into one of three classifications. The first type is the descriptive tagline, and GE and Capelouto Termite and Pest Control give us good examples. GE's slo

gan is "A company of good things," and Capelouto's is "Hello Capelouto Goodbye Bugs!"

A second type of tagline is aspirational. These are like Nike's "Just do it." and First Commerce Credit Union's "Your financial partner for life."

A third type is a comparative tagline, in which you compare your products or services to your competitors'. Bounty's "The Quicker Picker Upper," for example, clearly claims their products are better than other paper towels.

Some of my favorite taglines include "Stronger Than Dirt" by Ajax, "Don't Leave Home Without It" by American Express and "For Virtually Spotless Dishes" by Cascade. Each of these sends a clear message about the product and what you can expect when using it.

One thing that makes these slogans successful is they do not take a lot of thought to decipher what they mean. However, "Drive one." by Ford, "Eat Jimmy Dean" by Jimmy Dean and "No more late fees. The start of more." by Blockbuster are all bad taglines because they do not convey anything meaningful.

If you are like me, you are probably wondering how in the world these crazy taglines ever came to be. I am honestly not sure, but I do know that someone had to sign off on them or they never would have made it to market.

Taglines are a critical part of your advertising brand, and it is important you put the right amount of effort into developing one that is truthful, timeless, simple and communicates a very clear message.

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant, is a Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. Reach him at