Scott G has been paying attention to the taglines in ads. Somebody needs to, because marketers are making a ton of mistakes in this important area of communication.

Taglines often seem to be a cute little part of advertising but can actually be a deft tool of marketing. More appropriately called theme lines, they are supposed to help cement the most important brand attributes into the minds of consumers. When they work, it seems like magic.

Brilliant Themes
“Lite Beer from Miller. Everything you always wanted in a beer, and less.” Funny, clever, and helped define a new product category.

“Got milk?” Simple, memorable, includes the product, and speaks to consumer concerns. All in two syllables. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Both of the above were endlessly quoted, borrowed, stolen, ripped-off and reworked, which must be both gratifying and galling to the creators.

“DeBeers. A diamond is forever.” Absolutely masterful. In fact, their overall marketing is astonishingly good, especially for a product that is, well, flawed. Quite apart from the slave labor that dug them up, and quite apart from the financing of international terrorist activities, here’s a product that is in such plentiful abundance that the official hoarding of specimens is one of the industry’s primary concerns. Yet ask a woman to describe a diamond and listen to the superlatives flow. “A symbol of love,” one told me. “A permanent reminder,” said another. “A girl’s best friend,” said a third. “Rare, precious and few,” said one young woman, getting it wrong three times in four words.

Not Hot
When clients and agencies conspire to create bad advertising, the results can be amusing and/or appalling.

“Hummer. Like nothing else.” Well, that’s certainly true, but one is tempted to complete the statement: “Hummer. Like nothing else to prove your poor judgment and low self-esteem.”

“Fujitsu. The possibilities are infinite.” Yes, infinite. So infinite that it’s impossible to know what the hell they’re talking about. Unless you’re already involved with this company, there is nothing here to help formulate the brand in your mind. What is a Fujitsu, anyway? Language of a third world nation? New disease? Form of martial arts? Steak knife?

“Skoal Bandits. This product may cause mouth cancer.” Really, I actually saw this. It was in the lower right-hand corner of the ad, it fits the product category, and adds an element of danger to an otherwise disgusting habit, so it must be the theme line.

“Range Rover Sport LR3. Designed for the extraordinary.” As with the Hummer, above, one wants to complete the phrase: “Designed for the extraordinary repair invoice.”

“Sony A100 DSLR.” Allow me to suggest another one: “” I like a lot of Sony products, but their marketing people should be placed in a swamp somewhere and warned “”

“General Motors. Live Green, Go Yellow.” OTFLMAO. Then, I calm down and take a more reasoned approach. Somewhere, some people in expensive suits got paid a shipload of money to come up with this ridiculous concept. I think I need to add some guy in a suit to my business so I, too, can develop indefensible lunacy and sell it to large companies whose shareholders don’t mind wasting money on idiotic marketing.

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Back to Theme Lines
“Shell Gasolines. Made to move.” This is a bit like one of the rejected lines from a script for an episode of The Simpsons: “Duff Beer. Brewed so you can drink it.” Besides, we all know that the tagline for any petroleum company is really “Developed to rape your pocketbook.”

“Merck. Where patients come first.” If it were true, it might be a good theme line. I still remember my mother living in dread as she ran out of each of her eight prescription medications, knowing there might be another battle with Merck and their seemingly endless succession of moronic customer service reps. While she was pleasant enough to the employees, privately she called the company “Merck the jerk,” and everyone in our family will forever know them as such. I defy anyone to show me a theme line that will erase that horrible memory.

“Johnny Walker. Keep walking.” As in, “Keep walking, Johnny, we’ve got to get you sober enough for your wedding tomorrow.”

Designer Phil Hatten says no article on theme lines would be complete without mentioning these historic creations: “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and Avis’ “We try harder.” There were also votes around the office for IBM’s “Think” and the “Intel Inside” campaign.

I’m going to end with some lines that are so good you may recall the product without the name, logo or packaging. (Astonishing, at least two of these lines have recently been retired by morons who have infiltrated the marketing departments of large corporations.)

“When you care enough to send the very best.”
“When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.”
“Because so much is riding on your tires.”
“The ultimate driving machine.”

[tags]The G Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising industry, marketing faux pas, taglines, branding adventures, ad slogans, eNewsChannels[/tags]