If a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a great slogan. A few well-chosen syllables can become a catchphrase for a brand and a perfect springboard to learning more about a product or company. The very best become classics, like “Just do it” or “Nationwide is on your side.” The worst are a waste of ink, like telling your audience how old you are (e.g., “Since 1927.”). But plenty are just solid marketing tools that go a long way toward building their brand and helping to sustain it. Here are few less famous, but still hardworking, examples:
L.L. Bean: Be an Outsider—The venerable Maine apparel provider introduced this tagline in 2017 after a deep dive on their brand showed a lack of an emotional connection with their customers, even some of their most loyal. Although the core message is that this brand values the benefits of fresh air and nature, the second meaning of individualism is just below the surface. In one recent TV spot, a man attends a holiday party in his favorite L.L. Bean flannel shirt because that makes him comfortable. The creators deserve bonus points for cleverly building the brand name in the first two words of the slogan.
Dollar Shave Club: Shave time. Shave money.—This is a brand that came along at the right time for the right price with the right tagline. Dollar Shave Club is a subscription razor blade company that disrupted the premium razor category dominated by Gillette by offering good quality razor cartridges via an online subscription at a time that online retailing was exploding. The simplicity of the concept is reflected in the slogan. Again, four words tell a much larger story. No more trips to the store to buy expensive blades with anti-theft devices complicating the whole process. And they cost less. The concept worked so well that Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club in 2016 $1 billion.
Dunkin’ (Donuts): America runs on Dunkin’—The Dunkin’ brand introduced this slogan when they were still known by their original name, Dunkin’ Donuts. The tagline was meant to broaden the perception of the donut purveyor beyond boxes of donuts to a provider of coffee beverages and breakfast sandwiches. It also has a subtle common man appeal that opposes premium coffee brands like Starbucks. In 2018, the brand began the shift to simply “Dunkin’” and had an established tagline already using that name.
Each of these brand taglines does a really effective job of taking a few words and telling an entire story about the brand. You could think of taglines like the haiku poetry of branding—they are able to create an emotional connection in a few syllables. Thus, L.L. Bean tells us they are a brand about enjoying nature and marching to the beat of your own drum. Dollar Shave Club tells us that it’s a smart choice for getting quality razor blades at less than a premium price, and Dunkin’ encourages us to think of them as fueling the daily lives of middle America. All in three to four words. How poetic.