My wife thinks I’m strange. I won’t go into all the reasons for this, but one
of them is that I’m constantly looking up words in the dictionary and thesaurus.
The other day I looked up the word “slogan”. What I found fascinated me.
We all know what a slogan is. Too often it’s a bland and meaningless piece of
self-serving verbiage we see on signs, letterhead, business cards, billboards and
everywhere else companies paint their marketing messages. In my experience, most
slogans are worthless as a way to deliver a useful marketing message. They’re worthless because
they usually say nothing.
Or worse, they often give a meaning the author didn’t intend but the reader
finds funny, in an unflattering way.
For example, I live in Minnesota. Our nice neighbor to the south is Iowa. For
a while, their big “welcome to our state” signs had a happy smiley face picture
and this text:
“Iowa. You make me smile.”
Okay, this seems fine. Until people start tweaking it so it reads:
“Iowa. You make me laugh.”
(I think a Minnesotan came up with that.)
“In Washington Dulles one airport hotel sports the slogan, “Wave to the
plane.” Somehow it makes me think I am going to hear and feel the plane all
night long as well.”
“In Chicago, there is another airport hotel with the slogan, “So close to
the airport, it’s like sleeping on the runway.” And this is a good thing?”
It’s no surprise to most of us that lame and misguided slogans abound. But
what I found in the dictionary got my attention. Here’s how it describes the
“A war cry or gathering cry, as formerly used among the Scottish
Now that’s more like it! There’s a great example of the power words can have.
Just imagine a slogan so clear and strong that it can motivate, focus and
energize a band of warriors going into battle. Back then, slogans saved lives,
even entire villages!
What would those fierce Scottish warriors think of today’s weak and wimpy
slogans? “Castrol makes it work better” doesn’t quite have the impact
I’d want as I launched into battle against my sworn enemies.
Maybe I’m taking this personally because those Scottish warriors could have
been my ancestors. (I have Logan blood in my veins.)
Or, maybe we should all take our slogans as seriously as my Scottish
forebears did. Maybe we should view them in the same light, as something to
rally around. If we did, I’ll bet we’d have a lot more powerful and memorable
slogans all around us. Companies would have one more useful weapon in their
As you think of how to promote your company or brand, remember the Scottish
warriors. Craft your slogan with the same care and purpose, as if it were to
lead you into battle. Make it work for you rather than against you. Make it
worthwhile. Make it so powerful people can’t help but remember it.