The biggest mistake in writing company slogans

The biggest companies in the world all have slogans, so you should have one for your company too… right? Maybe… maybe not.

We all know the slogans or tag lines of the big, successful companies:

McDonalds – I’m lovin’ it

Nike – Just Do It

KFC – Finger Lickin’ Good

Skittles – Taste the Rainbow

So we think we should have something like that for our own companies, but there is a problem; small, start-up companies are not the same as big established companies. Everyone knows that McDonalds sells burgers, that Nike sells sneakers, that KFC sells chicken and that Skittles sells e-numbers and sugar. They don’t have to explain to customers what they do. If you’re reading this there’s a chance that your company is less well-known than McDonalds, Nike, KFC and Skittles, so you might need to tell people who you are or what you do.

A few years ago, thanks to The Times newspaper, I was lucky enough to win a month’s mentorship with Sophie Cornish, the founder of – a huge success story. She explained to me that their slogan was “A life less ordinary” – less ordinary for the people who shopped on the site, less ordinary for the people who sold through the site, less ordinary for the people who worked there and most importantly less ordinary for people receiving gifts purchased on the site. This sounds great and something that you would want to emulate, but as Sophie explained to me, it was only good because the company was well established and people knew what they did and what the site was about. If they used this slogan at launch it wouldn’t have worked. When they launched they used the slogan “A thousand stores, one basket”, not as “good” as the later one, but far better far explaining what they did to people who didn’t know… which was most people.

At the time my company used the slogan “Naturally powered pet health”, which we also spent the money on trademarking. We loved this slogan, and our biggest trade customers loved it too. The problem was that us and our customers knew the brand, knew the market place and knew our products. This line was brilliant and encapsulating what we did, IF you already knew what we did. It wasn’t good at explaining what we did to people who didn’t know…. and that is/was most people. Sp we changed our line to “Health food for dogs”. This isn’t as unique as the previous line, but it is far simpler to understand for anyone who doesn’t know the brand, it acts as a good introduction to the brand.

So… if you need to develop a tag line for your company you have two options; Something vague and ‘ownable’ or something simple and understandable.

If you have a mountain of cash to spend introducing potential customers to your brand then go for the vague option. If you don’t, keep it simple.