In the latest Fast Company the authors of “Made to Stick” argue that the urge to use catchy slogans has created a cacophony of flip, empty catchphrases at the expense of substance. In their post, these guys raise some great points – namely that too many communicators (or wanna-be copy writers) focus most of their intellectual energy on developing snappy phrases and not enough on a broader strategy to communicate a marketing position or corporate program. I agree that the end result is often vacuous, misdirected top-heavy campaigns that are dead on arrival.
That said, a cogent, catchy phrase can play an important, even critical role in an advertising or communication campaign. There is logic behind the urge to develop slogans – as communicators we’re often trying to convey complex themes and messages in a crowded, busy environment. We’re competing for eyeballs, after all, whether we work in PR, internal communication or advertising. So it can definitely help to develop a phrase or slogan that nicely captures the essence of your message – if only to have a “label” and facilitate the promotion and delivery. The catch is that slogans have to be relevant and credible, and backed-up by supporting activities and information that provide the required context and drive the desired action (whether to buy a product or support a strategy.) The other challenge is that one slogan can be great, but in too many companies several teams are throwing a number of competing slogans (and brands and icons) into the mix, which dilutes the impact of all except the best.
Perhaps the lesson here is that execution matters. There is nothing wrong with a great slogan – as we’ve learned from the world of advertising. But making it great is more than a cool phrase.