» Archive for the 'Marketing and Messaging' Category


Friday, October 19th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Our recent look (as well as Part II here)  at messaging and slogans prompted an unusually high number of e-mails from Basex:TechWatch subscribers.  Here are a few we thought you might want to see.

Hi Jonathan,
I read your commentary every week.
As a professional with a social science background working in the technology arm of a biotech firm.. your weekly summaries are extremely valuable in keeping me up to date.
When I read your piece on slogans and then the request to submit ones that I find memorable.. I couldn’t help but jump at the change to share Genentech’s slogan  “In Business for Life”.

One of my enduring favorites is Alka Seltzer:  “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.  Oh what a relief it is.”
I think you may have mentioned it before, but I keep using Timex’s slogan half a century later: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

I enjoy reading your weekly commentary.  I have a memorable experience with a slogan.  I used to work for a bank in the 1980′s called Ameritrust.  Once we had a meeting and were shown two commercials for our new ad campaign:
“Ameritrust – The Shortest Distance.”  The concept was that Ameritrust could help you achieve your financial goals in the shortest time.  One of the commercials showed someone playing a trumpet.  I remember the look of bewilderment on everyone’s face after the commercials played.  They just didn’t seem to be about banking.  We were handed t-shirts with the new ad campaign slogan and the meeting was over.
The bewilderment must have been contagious, because the TV ad campaign ran less than a week, then disappeared.  And it was never mentioned again, like it never happened.  I decided to call it : “Ameritrust – The Shortest Ad Campaign.”
I still have the t-shirt.

Here are a few slogans that I think are pretty good:

  • “Be all you can be.” (The Army)
  • “The few, the brave, the Marines.” (The Marines)
  • “Quality is Job 1.” (Ford)

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


Friday, October 12th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

THINK was one of the phrases and principles frequently used by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Sr.  Others included LEARN, STUDY, and THINK IN BIG FIGURES.  THINK appeared in IBM offices, plants, and company publications (it was the name of the IBM employee publication for many years) starting in the 1920s.  By the 1930s, THINK had begun to take precedence over other slogans at IBM.  It gained new popularity in the 1990s when, according to company legend, a researcher took a notepad with the word THINK written on it from his pocket and came up with the idea of a small, portable tool with which one could read, write, work, and think.  The rest is history.

This week we continue our look at Getting the Message Out.  IBM’s THINK is rare.  Most messages fall flat and miss the mark.  One that comes to mind is United Airlines’ “Rising.”  Do other airlines fail to rise?  Some messages come ever so close, but then ultimately fail.  A good example of that is Miller Beer’s “It’s Miller Time” campaign.  When it was launched, it required a bit of adjustment as people were going into pubs and saying “It’s Miller time, give me a Bud.”

Sometimes companies come really close.  American Airlines’ “We know why you fly” would have been perfect had they only used “We know why you fly American.”  Otherwise, it’s a rhetorical question that many may answer “to get from point A to point B.”

What does the IT industry have?  Apple Computer countered THINK with  “Think Different,” which suited Apple’s iconoclastic image quite well, even if it brought out the grammar police out in droves.  “The Document Company” certainly matched Xerox.

But a quick look at most IT industry messages tells a different story, one that is mediocre at best.  To wit,

  • Verizon – “We never stop working for you.”
  • Microsoft – “Where do you want to go today” or “Your potential, our power.”
  • Siemens – “Be Inspired.”
  • SAP – “The best run businesses run SAP.”
  • Cisco – “The power of the human network.”

What do any of these tell us about the company?  Frankly, not very much.  And why is Intel going away from “Intel Inside” to “Leap Ahead.”?  If “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” was good enough for the makers of M&M’s for over 50 years, why not “Intel Inside”?  A classic message need not be changed for the sake of change.

While we’re at it, please tell me about slogans you find memorable or abominable.  E-mail me at messages@basex.com.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one that requires some more thought: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Getting the Message Across

Friday, October 5th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Once in a great while – and it’s rare – companies come up with great messages and slogans.

These messages and slogans share one or more characteristics, but generally they change how we think about a particular product or company and they are memorable.  Volkswagen’s “Think Small” (Doyle Dane Bernbach, 1959) and Avis’ “We Try Harder” (DDB again, 1963), numbers one and ten on the list respectively, are among Advertising Age’s top 100 campaigns.  Equally memorable and at the same time category-creating are McDonald’s “You deserve a break today” (Needham, Harper & Steers, 1971) and DeBeers’ “A diamond is forever” (N.W. Ayer & Son, 1948), numbers five and six on the list.

Good messages endure.  Who doesn’t know M&Ms’ “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (Ted Bates & Co., 1954) or AT&T’s “Reach out and touch someone” (N.W. Ayer, 1979) or, from  Motel 6, “We’ll leave a light on for you” (Richards Group, 1988), numbers 39, 80, and 91 on the list.  And let’s not forget number 30, Campbell Soup’s “Mmm mm good” (BBDO, 1930s).

I have a few personal favorites on the list:
12.)    Apple Computer, “1984″, Chiat/Day, 1984 (coming at a critical juncture for Apple, few commercials have ever been more influential).
49.)    Cadillac, “The penalty of leadership”, MacManus, John & Adams, 1915.  (An advert that ran only once and didn’t even mention automobiles or even the brand being advertised.  Rather, it expressed the dilemma of the pioneer who breaks with tradition and is subject to the “fierce denial and detraction” of his competition.)
51.)    Charmin, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin”, Benton & Bowles, 1964 (does anyone not think of Mr. Whipple when entering a supermarket?)
84.)    BMW, “The ultimate driving machine”, Ammirati & Puris, 1975 (40 years ago, BMW invented the concept of the sports sedan).
87.)    Xerox, “It’s a miracle”, Needham, Harper & Steers, 1975 (who can forget the monks in the monastery?)
93.)    IBM, Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein, 1982.

…as well as a few that aren’t (yet) on the list:

  • “Can you hear me now?” Verizon Wireless
  • “Let your fingers do the walking” – Yellow Pages (Geers Gross, 1964)
  • “We’re the dot in .com” Sun Microsystems

Why did these work where hundreds of thousands of slogans and campaigns failed miserably?  The true test for a message is two-fold:
1.) whether the company actually messages out what it intended to say, and
2.) whether the recipient actually understands it as the company intended

This is, as evidenced by the information highway, which is littered with failed messages, much more difficult than it would appear.

Next week we’ll look at the IT industry and why, by and large, the message just isn’t getting through.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.