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by Jan Norman
What company do you think of when you hear "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking"? How about "Relief is just a swallow away"? Or "Like a good neighbor (company) is there"?
Slogans such as these are very important in building a brand, yet the vast majority cannot be recalled by most consumers, according to marketing researchers at California State University Fullerton. (The answers are at the end of the column.)
In a research paper for the "Journal of Advertising Research," marketing professor Chiranjeev Kohli and associate professor Sunil Thomas say that three fourths of the national brands of 649 slogans tested were recalled by less than one percent of consumers.
Even the most memorable slogans don't perform that great, they found. The most memorable slogan in their research – "Just do it" for Nike – was recalled by 58 percent of those interviewed, followed by 38 percent for McDonald's "I'm lovin' it," and 28 percent for Burger King's "Have it your way."
Their research can help not only the major corporations that pour – and apparently waste - millions of dollars into branding, but also small businesses that need every branding boost they can get.
"My core competency is branding," Kohli said, "and integral elements of branding are name, logo and slogan. The least researched of these three is the performance of slogans. We wanted to know what makes a slogan effective."
Names and logos are limited in what they can convey because they're so short, so a slogan gives a company a few more words to capture the essence of what a product or service is all about, the authors explain.
"The most common indicator of brand awareness is brand recall... the ease with which slogans can be remembered is the most important factor in their effectiveness" Thomas reported.
It turns out, most slogans aren't effective because so few contribute to consumers' image and recall of the brand, Kohli and Thomas found.
Some of the factors often attributed to making a slogan memorable include:
Bottom line: the most memorable slogans are short, have been around a long time and used in big-dollar ad campaigns. Jingles, rhymes and simplicity of a slogan aren't factors Kohli and Thomas conclude.
"Small businesses try to copy what big businesses do, like having a similar slogan," Kohli said. "They think if it works for the big company it will work for them but that's not true. The large companies have lots of money to spend and small companies don't."
Shorter slogans were more memorable in this research. Of the 10 most recalled slogans, two were only two words and another three were three words long. For example, "Got milk?" for the National Milk Processor Board and "M'm! M'm! Good!" for Campbell soup.
Length is not the same as complex, Kohli said. Mastercard's slogan – "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard" – is remarkably simple and memorable, Kohli said. (Although some people summarize this slogan as "Priceless.")
And slogans that have been around the longest seem to be more memorable. Morton Salt has used "When it rains, it pours" since 1911. And Maxwell coffee has used "Good to the last drop" since 1917.
The researchers point out that Pepsi and Coca-Cola have successfully changed slogans in the past but spend millions of dollars on advertising. Pepsi, for example, has roughly a $50 million annual advertising budget in the United States, Thomas said.
Kohli and Thomas conclude that "reducing the length of the slogan by a word will have the same impact as retaining the slogan for an extra five and a half years.
"In a nutshell...companies are better served focusing on shorter slogans and maintaining them for longer periods of time," the researchers said.
Kohli added, "My advice to small companies about their slogans: Don't get too creative. Be descriptive. Once you have a slogan, stick with it."
Answers from the start of the story: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking is Timex watches; Relief is just a swallow away is Alka-Selzer antacid; and Like a good neighbor, State Farm (insurance) is there.
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