Marketers, Take a Shortcut to Branding Success.

Secret for success? Put a sheep in the horsebox to calm a high-strung thoroughbred. Photo: Dan Raustadt.

Beanz Meanz Heinz, right?
Beanz Meanz Heinz, right?

Yes, there are shortcuts to success. The easy route is out there if you know where to look.

Take gardening, for starters. There are those who wait until the circus comes to town to buy elephant dung.

They secretly dig it into their rosebush beds to make the colors ecstatic and their neighbors jealous.

Who ever thought rose fanciers could be so scheming?

Racehorse trainers have been known to keep a sheep in a  horsebox to calm a  high-strung thoroughbred. Why? An unruffled horse runs better.

Haitian voodoo practitioners have a sure-thing hangover cure. Stick 13 black-headed pins into the cork of the offending bottle to relieve your aching head.

There’s a shortcut to marketing success, too. It’s less exotic than 13 black-headed pins, but it addresses those ‘how can we do better’ questions that often monopolize management reviews.

Simply, focus on the tag line of your ads. Review the message under your logo and use it as a kind of blood pressure cuff to test the health of your positioning.

So, is your tag line just okay or is it electrifying? Does it have surprise value or is it incurious? Does it separate your product from the rest? Is it full of promise?

The idea of ‘promise’ is key. It’s  summed up by the 18th century wit and writer, Dr. Johnson, who defined a good advertisement as a ‘communication full of promise’.

The Doctor was commenting on a handbill announcing the auction of a brewery. More than copper kettles, he explained, what was for sale was the promise of wealth from becoming a brewer.

We echo this thinking with the expression ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’.

With sizzle in mind, evaluate what others are offering. As you look at tag lines you won’t be the first to conclude that many are the marketing equivalent of dog paddle. Certainly, few  prompt you to stop and think.

More’s the pity.

So, why put up with inert work and a copywriter who is a dime-store Bill Bernbach? A writer who fumbles your strategic positioning and is dull to boot.

Take a few simple steps to avoid undernourished thinking.

Your tag line should be more than strategy warmed-over — it should embody emotion. It should alert consumers to the fact that you are different/more appealing/smarter/more human.

In an era of so many me-too products, ‘more human’ becomes your difference.

A case in point is Seagram’s 100 Pipers Scotch. It’s a brand that screams ‘commodity’. It’s  cheap stuff. Yet the right line can rectify that – one that recognizes that having a drink is about relaxing and seeing the humorous side of things.

So when you say, ‘100 Pipers Scotch … Makes Bagpipes Sound Like Music’, the brand begins to radiate the sort of wit that separates it from the rest.

Suddenly for the Seagram company the proverbial glass is half-full rather than half you-know-what.

One advertising writer, Martin Puris, took tag lines to new heights. He injects ‘promise’ into them. He coined ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ for a car company you might have heard of. He also wrote ‘The Antidote for Civilization’ for Club Med.

What’s so powerful about BMW’s signature is that it  addresses the only two things that consumers care about: ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ‘Compared to What?”

Cruise lines spend lavishly to persuade us that you can see more and be more carefree on a ship.

CTC of London does this better than most with ‘Relax. We’ll Change the Scenery’.

For a discount operation this begins to characterize  a level of luxury.

More importantly, it allows CTC to protect their margins by selling something other than rock-bottom-priced fares.

In our office the nod for the best tag line used to belong to a can of  beans — Beanz Meanz Heinz.

But now the vote goes to a knitting wool company — Cleckheaton.

Think a minute. What can you do with the knit-one, purl-two? How do you give it impact and memorability?

Well, the onomatopoetic power of the tag line, ‘Click Clack Cleckheaton’, is transforming.

Authority is stamped on the brand as the sound of knitting needles and the Cleckheaton name are artfully combined.

It’s a great way to begin to own the market — click clack clap clap.

Use these lines as a high bar; strive to match their power and individuality. Spur your agency to think harder on your behalf.

If your positioning and your tag line aren’t wonderful, stick 13 black-headed pins into them and start again.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.