All About Slogans, Taglines & Mottos
What are they? How to make them & Few famous examples.
(+Worksheet & Resources)
Image Source: George Pagan III
After starting my own business and a website, I realized that I might need a slogan. So that’s how this research project started. In Part I, we will go over the definitions of slogans, taglines, mottos; some examples of the most famous ones; and how to create one for your venture. After I tried coming up with a slogan on my own, I gave Slogan Generators a try. The process of using slogan generators and picking the best tagline will be documented in Part II.
What Are Slogans? Slogan Definition
A slogan is a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising. It should identify your brand and convey to customers your unique appeal. In addition, a slogan should highlight your brand image and the benefits of your products or service.
So we know what a slogan is, but what about a tagline? Is it the same thing? What about a motto?
Slogan vs. Tagline vs. Motto
Even Google seems puzzled about the difference between the three. When I searched for company slogans (A), company taglines (B), and company mottos (C), the results were pretty much the same.
Google search for company Slogans
Each Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) provided by Google had Apple’s Think Different as the top slogan, tagline, and motto. It was also the case with Nike’s Just Do It and Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness.
Unless you work in marketing or advertising, they all seem the same to an average person. They are often also used interchangeably, especially slogans and taglines. However, there are differences.
Motto is your life/brand philosophy. Your mantra. It is very short & to the point. Some companies use motto as a tagline.
Tagline is a more permanent motto. We frequently recognize taglines when we think De Beers’s Diamonds are Forever or Sprite’s Obey Your Thirst. A tagline should represent your brand overall rather than a specific product or service.
Slogan is a tagline that is often campaign specific to your product or service. Slogans can often become taglines, like Nike’s Just Do It, McDonald’s I’m Lovin’ It, FedEx’ When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight or M&M’s Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. These phrases began as campaign slogans that became interchangeably associated with each brand.
When brands are just starting out, a slogan and a tagline are one and the same.
Relationship between Motto, Tagline & Slogan
Why Are Slogans Used?
Slogans and taglines are used to create a quick positive impression of your brand, product, or service. You want a catchy and memorable slogan to keep your business in people’s minds and distinguish yourself in the marketplace away from the competitors.
They are often used in printed, visual and audio ads. They are displayed on product packaging and often accompany logos and brand names. They help customers quickly identify the brand’s offerings and corporate identity.
What Are 10 Best Slogans of All Time?
Before I spoil it for you, how about taking the quiz below and testing your slogan knowledge? Let’s check if the best slogans of all time are truly that? You can quiz your slogan knowledge in a couple of industries. No scrolling and peaking below. (≖_≖ )
The challenge is that companies’ slogans and taglines are fluid and constantly evolve. For example, when you search for the Coca-Cola slogan or tagline, you can find It’s the Real Thing from 1969, Can’t Beat the Real Thing from 1990, Open Happiness from 2009–2015, Taste the Feeling from 2016, and others. So even if a company declares that it is ‘retiring’ a slogan/tagline, the general public doesn’t stop using or associating it with the brand.
Therefore you can often have more than one tagline/slogan associated with one brand. These are the lucky few where several phrases are engraved in people’s minds when they think of the company.
With that in mind, below is a list of company slogans in alphabetical order that are frequently listed as the most recognizable.
- Adidas Impossible is Nothing
- Apple Think Different
- Burger King Have It Your Way
- Coca-Cola Open Happiness
- De Beers A Diamond is Forever
- Dunkin’ Donuts America runs on Dunkin’
- Gillette The best a man can get
- KFC Finger-Lickin’ Good
- L’Oreal Because You’re Worth It
- M&Ms Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
- Maybelline Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.
- McDonald’s I’m Lovin’ It
- Nike Just Do It
- Skittles Taste the Rainbow
- Verizon Can you hear me now?
- Wendy’s Where’s the Beef?
There are some interesting stories on how certain famous slogans came to be. Subway chose Eat Fresh to identify it as a healthier fast food option.
Adidas Impossible is Nothing is a quote from the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, while Nike’s Just Do It are the last words of a murderer awaiting execution by a firing squad.
The last one is certainly not what we associate with Nike’s very inspiring famous phrase.
Most Frequently Used Words in Slogans
What are the most frequently used words in slogans? I looked at over 350 slogans from various industries, and the word Good was used most times — 16 times. Several other words that are also frequently used are: Better (14), Life (14), Make (13), World (13), More (12), and Best (11).
Most frequently used slogan words using WordArt
Can Slogans Be Copyrighted?
Per the United States Copyright Office, copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Generic phrases such as “fresh-baked donuts” or deceptive phrases such as “best high-definition TVs” can’t be trademarked.
Some companies tried to copyright a generic phrase but received a refusal on a trademark: Drive Safely (Volvo), The Best Beer in America (Boston Beer Co.), Proudly Made in the USA (Remington Products), and Think Green (Manco Inc).
A slogan can be protected when the owner can show that it is:
- distinctive and unique or
- achieved secondary meaning where consumers associate the phrase with the product/service/brand.
Some famous trademarked phrases include: You are in good hands with Allstate or The King of Beers by Budweiser.¹ Notice the similarity between The King of Beers (protected) and The Best Beer in America (not protected).
Title vs. Sentence Case for Slogans
Generally, short phrases are written in a title case, and longer ones are written in a sentence case. However, big brands also seem to play around with the presentation of their slogans.
For example, Apples’ Think Different has been used in the title, sentence, and all small letters.
For longer phrases such as FedEx’ When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, the sentence case seems less exhausting than When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight.
Test your slogan in both ways and see which one works better for your brand. You can also be like Apple and alternate how you present your brand. There is nothing wrong with having a little fun and being flexible.
How to Create a Slogan?
In the 1970s, the average person saw between 500 to 1,600 ads per day.
In 2007, Yankelovich’s market research firm estimated that the average person saw up to 5,000 ads per day.
In 2021, an average person was estimated to see between 6,000 to 10,000 ads per day.
Individual ad exposure per day
What Good Slogans Should Be?
There is significant demand for our attention; therefore, there are several factors you have to keep in mind in order to create a catchy slogan. A good tagline should be:
- Memorable — Just Do It (Nike)
- Unique — The Quicker Picker Upper (Bounty)
- Short and simple — Think Different (Apple)
- Timeless — A Diamond is Forever (De Beers)
- Have a good rhythm — There Are Some Things Money Can’T Buy. For Everything Else, There’s Mastercard (Mastercard)
- Positive — Taste the Rainbow (Skittles)
- Include benefit — Save money. Live better. (Walmart)
- Can incorporate humor/pun — Don’t be evil (Google)
We are asking for the world here. <(￣︶￣)> Don’t feel bad if you don’t create an instant winner. Even big brands that spend millions in marketing and consulting fees had their own share of failures.
- Adidas Impossible Is Nothing….what?
- Under Armour I Will….continue…
- Time Warner Cable Enjoy Better…than what?
- Fidelity Turn here….where?
- New Balance Always in Beta…that’s not good
- Perdue Chickens It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken…ok
- McDonald’s Lovin’ Beats Hatin’ (2014)…or beats stabbing.
- UPS What Can Brown Do For You? …I hope nothing.
- Burger King Be Your Way (2014)…well, yes, thank you.
- Mobil We Want You To Live (1966)…I hope so.
- Denny’s A Good Place to Sit and Eat…I feel special. ◔̯◔
Creating a Tagline/Slogan On Your Own
To create a great slogan or a tagline for your business, use the brainstorming process below to identify what you want to communicate in your tagline.
PART I - Brainstorming
- Brand Identity
▶ What is your mission/purpose?
▶ What are your core values?
▶ How do you want people to feel when they think of your brand?
- Product / Service
▶ What do you offer?
▶ Why is it needed?
▶ What problems does it solve?
▶ Why should people buy it?
▶ How will this product/service help?
▶ Who are your ideal customers?
▶ What problems are your customers trying to solve?
▶ What differentiates you from the competition?
▶ What are their slogans? Don’t copy, just study them.
▶ What characterizes the industry?
▶ What is missing and lacking?
PART II - Mind-Map
Create a mind-map with all your keywords from Part I. Think outside the box and try to evaluate commonalities between the themes visually.
PART III – List of Slogan Ideas
Create a list of 20–50 taglines for your business. Check against the checklist of great slogan characteristics (i.e., memorable, unique, short, simple, timeless, good rhythm, positive, list benefit, fun). Select five favorites.
PART IV – Testing
- Check your winning slogans against the checklist of typical mistakes (read the section below).
- Ask an outsider for an opinion.
- If you can, run A&B testing.
Common Tagline Mistakes
Avoid these common mistakes when you are creating a tagline:
- Being cliche — An instinct for growth. (Grant Thornton)
- Being boring, generic — Simply the best (Aspen, HME Firetrucks & Kuoni) or Soup is Good Food (Campbell in 1980s)
- All about You — Red Bull gives you wings (Red Bull)
- Using jargon or being too clever — Nothing sucks like an Electrolux (Electrolux)
- Copying others — Think outside the recipe box. (Yummly)
- Unauthentic — The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection (Lexus) or You’re Wendy’s Kind of People (Wendy’s in 1980s)
- Too sarcastic — What’s your problem? (FileMaker)
- Too Long or too short — It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken (Perdue Farms) & We can (CA Technologies)
- Not enduring time/evergreen — Quality never goes out of style (Levi’s)
- Lack of context what it is about — I Will (Under Armour)
Tagline Ideas for Different Industries
An excellent place to find slogan ideas for different industries is to search Brandon Gaille’s blog posts. He is a popular blogger with many slogan posts for various industries.
Type the following into the Google search box: brandongaille + industry + slogans (i.e., brandongaille + finance + slogans).
Below is a link to a few industry-specific slogan ideas from Brandon Gaille.
Personal Trials & Tribulations
I wanted to create a tagline that would not bound me into a niche because I create all kinds of content and consider myself a multipotentialite. In addition, I wanted something that would work should I change gears, grow, or change my path.
I wanted something authentic, clever, short, clear, fun would be nice….and a million dollars to go with that. <(￣︶￣)> Just kidding.
Below are a few of my failures and one potential winner:
- Info Explained — too generic
- Crystal Clear — cliche
- Helpful Stuff — too sarcastic, too generic
- In a Nutshell — lack of info, not evergreen
- One-Stop-Design — not authentic, not true
- Web & Content Design — hum, I kind of like this one
- Creative. Useful. Honest. — too clever
I wasn’t blown away by my creations, so I decided to give slogan generators a try.
Part II will compare and review 16 slogan generators. You will discover how some are good, some are bad, and others are just plain ugly.
¹ 100 Effective Slogans for Inspiration by B12 — great slogan ideas for different industries starting with Legal, Construction, Health, Accounting, and others.
² How Ad Slogans Work by HowStuffWorks — explanations, definitions, and some great examples.
³ SloganList — a searchable collection of marketing and advertising slogans.
⁴ How to Create a Tagline with Benefits Your Customers Want by Strategic Content — step by step how to create a tagline by yourself.
⁵ What Is A Tagline? A 3-Step Plan To Create An Amazing Business Tagline by Sumo — you can get a tagline worksheet…maybe, eventually, still waiting on mine. TK
⁶ The 10 Biggest Tagline Mistakes by Tagline Guru — good information and explanation, although lack of examples (maybe because our guru actually works with the top brands). Fun quiz tagline trivia under Nuts & Bolts.
⁷ 10 Cliche Marketing Taglines We Should All Stop Using by HubSpot — not just problems, alternative solutions also.
⁸ 9 Branding Exercises by Arek Dvornechuck — step by step excersises how to brainstorm your brand, voice, tagline.
¹⁰ 135 Tagline and Business Names Examples of Impact Brands by Brands for the Heart — list of less-known B-corps and social enterprises and their taglines.
¹¹ Slogan-Tagline database — divided by categories, has number of slogans for each company
¹² Logo Repository by LogoDix — over 14,000 logos of 489 biggest brands.
¹³ Advertising Slogans and Brand Taglines — a collection of many slogans and taglines searchable by industry or company