To catchphrase or not to catchphrase—that is the question, indeed. Much of today’s most memorable marketing is filled with them: Just do it. I’m lovin’ it. Eat fresh. Think different. Got milk? Just about anyone reading these short catchphrases, also known as taglines, could tell you where they come from. Yet it’s also increasingly apparent that many of today’s biggest companies don’t have them—Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Lululemon, for example. Apple, in fact, hasn’t used its tagline “Think different.” for years. So what’s the deal? Is there a marketing movement away from catchphrases, or can my business still benefit from using one? Here’s a look at the pros of using a catchphrase and not using a catchphrase.
The pros of having a catchphrase are simple. First, they can tell the public what you’re all about. This is especially important for new companies who are seeking to establish an entire identity and reputation from scratch. The Toms Shoes catchphrase “One for One,” for example, told the public early on about their commitment to helping those in need. Second, effective catchphrases can stick in the public’s mind, making your company more memorable and at the forefront of the mind when it comes time to make buying decisions. A catchphrase is a way to keep your company in the mind of the consumer long after the consumer saw your ad.
Not to catchphrase
Adweek discussed the catchphrase-free marketing phenomenon at length in September 2013 in an article titled “The Death of the Tagline.” The article’s author Denise Lee Yohn pointed to the major successes of big-name companies like Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Lululemon, all of which have never really been associated with a catchphrase. And then there were those companies who used short and simple catchphrases to propel them to greatness—Apple with its “Think different.” slogan, for example—and have since abandoned them. The article also shared some surprising statistics: of Taglineguru.com’s 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948, a whopping two-thirds of them ran before 1980. The evidence does seem to taglines being on the decline as part of marketing strategy.
Why is this, however? Yohn posits that it might have something to do with the way we consume media today. In the past, taglines were a great way to summarize lengthy ad copy with a short and simple phrase that consumers would remember. Now, as social media continues to change the way we communicate and interact with media on a daily basis, ad copy is becoming shorter and shorter to better serve out “shorter attention spans” on the web. It could also be due to the fact that there are simply fewer big-name campaigns than there used to be. And without a big-name campaign, there isn’t as much a need for a catchy tagline to go with it.
The bottom line—decide what’s best for you and your business. If you’re just beginning to get your name out there and feel that a memorable catchphrase will help to imprint your company on consumers’ minds, go for it. But, these days, not having a catchphrase isn’t going to leave you caught behind the pack.