On a recent flight to San Francisco, I rediscovered some great messaging hacks from the daughter and business partner of the man who “invented” positioning. I was reading her new book about the most successful consumer advertising slogans of all time. The more she talked about the techniques used to create these B2C messages, the more I thought about how well they translate to B2B messaging.
The book is called Battlecry, by Laura Ries. In it, she unpacks five techniques behind famous taglines and slogans that have stood the test of time. Here are three that stood out to me, along with a few of the examples she lists (and a couple I’ve added).
Many of the most successful ad campaigns of all time were built using rhyme. For example, the Timex slogan “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” helped take them from an underdog in the 1950s to an industry leader with over half the US watch market by 1970.
Every holiday season, Lexus runs their “December to remember” campaign. It’s dead simple, but highly memorable. That’s why they’ve kept it going for nearly 20 years. How many other holiday ad campaigns for automobiles can you remember?
There’s something about a rhyme that people just naturally latch onto – from Dr. Seuss books … to sayings like “an apple a day” … to the latest hit song, such as Adele’s “Hello”. Words that rhyme get remembered every time.
This simple literary device of repeating the first sound in a series of words is surprisingly effective. You see it all the time in company names. Ries lists Dunkin Donuts, Coca-Cola, PayPal, Range Rover, TurboTax, and Best Buy, to name but a few. One of the best-known B2C advertising slogans using this technique is the M&M’s line, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” (Extra points for double alliteration with the name.)
What about the B2B space? EY makes great use of alliteration with their tagline, “Building a better working world.” And there’s the famous “Intel Inside” line that helped turn the company into a household name.
When it comes to B2B branding, alliteration always attracts attention.
In 1911, Morton Salt started adding magnesium carbonate to its table salt to prevent it from “caking” in humidity. Shortly after, they began using the slogan “When it rains it pours” on their packaging (along with the famous umbrella girl) to drive home the point that their salt flows freely even in wet weather. This double-entendre has become one of the longest running slogans in history.
Margaret Thatcher beat the UK’s labour party in 1979 with the slogan, “Labour isn’t working”, paired with the image of a long line of job seekers standing outside the unemployment office. The EY example mentioned above (“Building a better working world”) actually uses this principle as well.
Double-entendre makes people do a double take. It engages their mind and, as a result, makes the message stick.
How not to use these principles
Even though Battlecry is about how to craft your tip-of-the-spear message (the tagline or slogan), don’t limit it to that. You can use these principles in everything from product names to ad headlines to ebook titles. Just remember, not all successful taglines use all of these techniques. So, don’t view them as hard and fast rules – or as the standard by which to judge every new creative concept. After all, advertising is all about breaking the rules. But, if you’re struggling to make your message stick, try these techniques (and the others in Ries’s book) as idea starters.