How Ad Slogans Work

The Basics

The purpose of the strapline or slogan in an advertisement is to leave the key brand message in the mind of the target (that's you). It is the sign-off that accompanies the logo. Its goal is to stick: "If you get nothing else from this ad, get this..!" A few well-known examples of these slogans include:

  • American Express: "Don't leave home without it"
  • Apple: "Think different"
  • AT&T: "Reach out and touch someone"
  • Timex: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking"
  • Wendy's: "Where's the beef?"
  • Wheaties: "The breakfast of champions"

Unfortunately, ad slogans don't always work, usually because they are generic, ready-to-wear, off-the-shelf lines that are taken out and shined up, ready to be used again and again when the creative juices have stopped flowing. Dozens of advertisers use them without blinking. Their ad agencies should be ashamed of themselves!

Slogans Around the World

Slogan nomenclature varies from place to place. So, what's what, where? In many parts of the world, and generically, they are "slogans." In the USA, they are tags, tag lines, or taglines. In the UK, they are end lines, endlines, or straplines. Germany prefers claims while France uses signatures. In the Netherlands, they are pay-offs or payoffs. To the unimaginative, they are rip-offs or ripoffs. And at ADSlogans Unlimited, we call them slogos (the slogan by the logo). Slogans are often treated as trade marks (™ in most countries). The use of the ™ symbol is merely an assertion by the advertiser that they are treating the line as a trademark. It does not assure any legal right. For legal protection, the line must be registered with the appropriate government trademark office, which then confers the right to use the registered symbol (®), and then they get the full protection of the law against poaching. Service marks (SM in the US) are simply trademarks for services rather than products. Trademark laws are similar in most countries. You can check out details at the US Patent and Trademark Office or the International Trademark Association.

A brand name can be a registered trademark, such as Kodak, Xerox, McDonald's, 7Up, or Coke, but a line such as "your best bet yet!" or "better by a long shot!" can't be protected for exclusive use. To avoid problems, and when in doubt, check with an intellectual property lawyer.