When you introduce a new brand into the world, its strapline, or descriptive positional statement is a key means to communicate its brand values to its intended consumer audience. A great strapline can rapidly accelerate the brand adoption process and lend added weight to marketing and campaign messages.
Brands of course evolve along a parabola curve, with a slow and steady ascent to general awareness and acceptance. At different time intervals along a brand’s forward evolution, different positioning statements might be required to best serve the brand’s evolution.
I like to categorise straplines into 4 generic categories as below; they are not mutually exclusive, as a strapline can serve dual purposes. The 4 categories as I define them are as follows:
Brand Definition - This is simply defining the essence of what a brand does; and is commonly used for newly launched brands; our own Comrz brand for instance has the strapline "Social Commerce Specialists" which is really about describing and defining what it is we do. Affino Professional Film Community Filmutea similarly has the strapline "Make films. Share your talent" which once more is very much of a basic descriptive nature, as is the "Celebrating Irish Literature" strapline for the new Irish Books Direct book community site.
Brand Differentiation - Once establised, most actual and potential customers know what it is that you do, you now need to differentiate yourself from your competitors; examples of this are quite obviously Apple’s "Think Different" slogan, as well as The Independent Newspaper’s "It is. Are you?" strapline. These slogans / straplines can often be in the form of question, challenging the status quo and current brand hierarchy.
Brand Building - These are typically slightly more esoteric statements and are usually connected to a mature brand which is trying to cement its position in the world; for instance IBM’s - "Solutions for a small planet" and HSBC’s "The world’s local bank".
Brand Aspiration - At the uppermost level of brand positioning we have slogans as aspirational lifestyle choices - such as L’Oreal’s "Because I’m worth it" or Diesel’s "For Successful Living". Here the brand is a personal statement or extension to the consumer’s own perceived personality.
A brand positioning statement can take many grammatical forms, it can be just a straight-up statement of course, questions can also work quite well, as can even exclamations and commands. Each lends a specific nuance to the meaning and values conveyed. Slogans are well served by rhymes, rhythmic meter and alliteration - all these help to make the slogan / strapline more memorable; of cours the most important thing is to:
Speak directly to your itended audience, in their own language and terms and in an appropriate tone of voice
Everyone has their own favourite straplines from the annals of advertising. I have selected the 16 which I personally feel are the strongest, and best serve their brands as intended.
Here follow my own marketing interpretations and interpolations of what these straplines stand for, and what they really mean:
Nike - "Just do it"
Here Nike is saying - our sports equipment and apparel is so performance-enhanced and reliable that you don’t even need to think for a moment how to apply it - just do your own thing, and we will take care of the rest; needless to say this is one of the strongest positional statements of all time!
Adidas - "Impossible Is Nothing"
Funnily enough, this is Adidas saying pretty much the same thing as Nike, just in a slightly different manner; the implication is the same - that Adidas equipment will totally see you through, in fact to such an extent that seemingly impossible barriers pose no challenge to Adidas or its wearers.
McDonalds - "I’m lovin’ it"
This is a classic aspirational statement similar to "Enjoy Coca-Cola" - it is conveying the central precept that the consumer is having a wonderful time / life, and that McDonald’s is a part of that wonderful lifestyle - this is the part of the essence of the American Dream.
Stella Artois - "Reassuringly Expensive"
This is really just a mass market beer, but it has a slightly higher price point, which gives the illusion of better quality; the message is not altogether dissimilar to L’Oreal’s "Because I’m worth it" - consumers will buy this to demonstrate their belief in higher personal prestige.
BMW - "The Ultimate Driving Machine"
This is akin to Gillette’s "The best a man can get" - the inference is that you are a fantastic driver and deserve the very best in automotive conveyances because of your supreme driving skill and your enjoyment of them.
Audi - "Vorsprung durch Technik"
Literally - "Advancement Through Technology", underlines German prestige automotive engineering and makes the owner of an Audi an automtive engineering connoisseur by association. You are saying - I own this Audi, because I know better!
L’Oreal - "Because I’m worth it"
Possibly the ultimate in aspirational statements - you are buying something because your status as a human being has earnt it and deserves to be rewarded at this level; buy anything else, and the inference is that you have low self esteem.
Gillette - "The best a man can get"
Nicely poetic and alliterative, which is always good for slogans - this statement is very much along the same lines as L’Oreal’s - you’re worth it, so you can have the best - there are numerous aspirational associations here with being the best, and you can see that in recent advertising campaigns where sports superstars are used to underline the message.
Tesco - "Every Little Helps"
This slogan evokes a benevolent supermarket which is always trying to give you more for your money. It’s a very clever slogan, as it does not get caught up in a price war or cost comparison, but is more a statement of value and quality. It is often used to infer lower cost overall, but without actually touching on cost in and of itself. For this reason, it easy for Tesco’s to extend its brand almost infinitely to different areas of enterprise - banking, insurance etc.
John Lewis - "Never Knowingly Undersold"
This is a very clever legalese line on being the best value; it has come to infer a sense of value, where really it is no more than a platitude about ’trying’ to be the cheapest but not necessarily succeeding. In many ways it’s a bit of a cop out for a slogan, as if general ignorance is protection against overpricing on certain lines! The meaning and brand value inherent in the slogan has very much come to be about value over time, where as it could all have gone quite in a different direction. The alliteration makes the slogan memorable, although semantically, the slogan itself is not particularly strong.
HSBC - "The world’s local bank"
A very strong and simple statement with several inferences; in essence it is saying - wherever you are in the world, we will have a branch handy for you - this implies a vast size of banking operation which must have significant resources to be able to operate at such a level. It is akin to saying, we are the biggest and best and have more branches worldwide than any other bank. It nicely turns the attention on the consumer, and makes it a matter of local as well as international choice.
Coca-Cola - "Always Coca-Cola"
I could have chosen "It’s The Real Thing" which actually has 2 meanings - firstly, that it was a return to the Classic Coke taste of old, but also that Coca-Cola was the original ’Cola’ and that whatever Pepsi says, Pepsi will always be the copycat pretender. I find the "Always Coca-Cola" is even stronger - this hints at that throughout the best moments of your life, Coca-Cola was always there to help you celebrate - it gives it a classic timelessness which is the very epitome of a lifestyle brand.
De Beers - "A Diamonds Is Forever"
This is actually a classic ’Brand Differentiation’ slogan which carries several meanings - you can of course buy several different gifts for the love of your life, but only a Diamond will be timeless and last forever. It infers that the appeal of lesser gifts will fade, but also that because a Diamond is nigh on indestructible and so long-lasting, it justifies its extraodinarily high price - for something which is just one step away from pencil lead.
Diesel - "For Successful Living"
This is one of The classic aspirational slogans - if ’the clothes maketh the man’, then Diesel clothes ’maketh the successful man’. This is typical endorsement and associative branding - lending inferred benefits by simple brand association - I wear Diesel, therefore I must be great!
Lilt - "The Totally Tropical Taste"
This is one of the greatest ’Brand Definitions’ of all time. Launching a new soft drink with Pineapple and Grapefruit flavours - how do you brand it? Why of course you associate it with a lush Tropical Island, and include some alliteration in the slogan - giving you a very memorable "The Totally Tropical Taste" - it perfectly describes the product, as well as gives it a sense of locational aspiration and comparitive difference. It was at it peak in the 80’s, it’s probably due for a relaunch!
Ronseal - "Does exactly what it says on the tin"
The ultimate in no-nonsense statements, as with a surfeit of hyperbolic slogans, this one brings it all down to basic function. This is about total reliability, it’s saying ignore all the fancy shmansy competing products, because ours is precise and exact and very good value in that it really does just what you would expect it to do, at exactly the value you would expect to pay. In some ways it is creating a strenght out of a comparative weakness, that is to say - it does not really have a specific point of difference, it just does the basics very well. For the no-nonsense DIY sector this is a perfect semantic match.
WHAT NOT TO DO!:
Dr Pepper’s - "What’s the worst that can happen?"
For a branding man, Dr Pepper’s is the worst possible example. You don’t really want a consumer to think about their product choice in negative terms, you want them to be inspired and to act positively and in a life-reaffirming manner. Using negative wording it atrocious NLP, and actually encouraging consumers to think bad things about a product is just branding suicide - "What’s the worst that can happen?" - well, I could choke to death when the drink goes down the wrong way, or I could trip up and fall head-first onto the can and totally disfigure my face ... why would the consumer be encouraged to think up negative scenarios for a brand?!?