The latest in Lifestyle Marketing

The Power of a Strapline

Just Do It…..Taste the Rainbow:

The Power of Words

written by Pamela Carvell, January 2018

The Strapline

Marketers will realise that my title above incorporates 2 of the best-known current, and long-standing, advertising slogans. Nike have been using ‘Just Do It’ since 1988, during which time it has become synonymous with their ‘tick’. ‘Taste the Rainbow’ has been used to promote Skittles sweets since 1994, across all types of media and channels. These slogans are global and memorable & yet is all too easy for Marketers to underestimate the power of a slogan, or strapline, viewing them as just words. So much time, energy and resources are devoted to the visual content of an ad, and the brand positioning, that the power of a strapline is easy to overlook.


Research from 1967 by Dr Albert Mehrabian is still universally quoted, whether by business consultants, body language experts or lifestyle magazines, when assessing the impact that words have in any communication. He concluded that words contributed a mere 7% to the communication, with tone of voice accounting for 38% and non-verbal communication (i.e. facial expression and body language) 55%. Surprisingly there are no more recent studies, as even Mehrabian himself says that the percentages are only relevant if there is incongruence in the communication i.e. you don’t really mean what you are saying. And, only if there is no existing relationship between the 2 parties! Furthermore, his sample was in no way a representative one, comprising solely 30 female undergraduates! However, percentages aside, it is generally accepted that words are the least impactful part of a communication. And I suspect that the current generation of marketers is perhaps interpreting this too literally, and placing far too little emphasis on the power of a strapline alongside a logo. Try flicking through a few magazines, as I have just done, and you will struggle to find ads with straplines. I chose 3 completely different magazines: a female lifestyle magazine aimed at the 20-something, an upscale travel magazine and a TV-show property magazine aimed at the 40+ market. Barely a strapline in sight!

Word of Mouth

Of course video will always be the most powerful way to create an impact, as it is stimulating the visual, auditory & kinaesthetic parts of the brain. The combination of music and emotion, or humour, create a lasting-impression on the viewer. And we live in a world where it is video content that goes viral, as it amuses or shocks people the world over. But, it is the words that we typically remember. And in advertising it is the logo and strapline that remain constant, as images and sounds change, either to promote variations of the product, or to reflect the seasons, or to impact slightly different target markets.

‘Word of Mouth’ has long been acknowledged as the most powerful type of marketing, and with social media channels facilitating this process, it is easy to overlook the fact that it is the words that we remember most easily and that we can spread most easily and prolifically.

Brand Slogans

I believe that every generation can remember some key straplines, that in some way shape or form, impacted their lives. For me it is ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ first aired in 1967, and reintroduced more recently and ‘Don’t say brown, say Hovis’. Hovis produced some fab TV ads with really lovely music and memorable images, conveying an idyllic life ‘up North’, and trying to make their brand stand out in a commodity product. But the slogan that makes me smile, and brings back crazy memories is Budweiser and ‘Wassup’. In bars, cafes and pubs all over the world, people were walking in, spotting their friends and shouting ‘Wassup’, with the obligatory sticking out of the tongue!

My current favourite has to be Subway’s ‘Eat Fresh’. It isn’t easy to come up with a great strapline that encompasses your brand personality and values, but this one does so much more, as it identifies their USP in the very crowded take-away food market.

The Evolution of Straplines

Great brands allow their straplines to evolve, as their business evolves. British Airways is a classic case of this. In the mid-70’s their strapline ‘Fly the Flag’ appealed to the patriotic nature of their customers, as the choice of airlines grew significantly. This was then replaced in 1989 with ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’, as their target market expanded from principally the British market, and as the ‘Britishness’ suggested by their brand name needed to be countered if they were to have global appeal. They withdrew this slogan at the point when Lufthansa overtook them in size and they could no longer claim to be the ‘the world’s favourite’. I also recall much negative publicity around the fact that they were only the ‘favourite’ because they kept buying up competitors, and giving people less choice, rather than ‘favourite’ reflecting customers’ choice. In 2011 they decided to create appeal based on their imperial heritage, using ‘To Fly. To Serve.’ To me that is a slogan with a very limited appeal, and simply suggests that the brand is out of touch.

Great Straplines

A great strapline is meaningful and memorable. It also stimulates beliefs, dreams, ambitions and expectations in the mid of the consumer. ‘Just Do It’ made a generation of people of every race, colour, religion and background believe that they could achieve something. Great straplines become part of modern culture. And with the power of hashtags, a strapline that works well in this context will always gain traction e.g. #eatfresh #justdoit

The challenge is for the modern marketer to come up with straplines that encompass such simplicity, memorability and relevance.

This article may be reproduced in part or in full, so long as credit is given to Pamela Carvell and her blog


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