Skip links

Slogans: The Art and Neuro[science]

We Try Harder
It’s the Real Thing
Just do it

Slogans are everywhere!

We’re surrounded by them. You’ve even memorized a countless number of them. But it’s not until you’re faced with developing your own, do you learn to truly appreciate both the art and science of creating one.

Slogans have been around as long as there has been advertising. And it’s not only big brands with slick campaign agencies generating slogans. We’ve all recently witnessed this side of marketing turn the tide of a political contest.

In short, a slogan (or tagline) is a message that enhances your company’s identity. While slogans are not all created equal, you don’t need a big ad agency to create one for you if you understand the mechanics behind it.

There’s a science, or rather, a neuroscience to creating a slogan that is meaningful and memorable because it requires both the left and right side of your brain. The right side is behind thoughtfulness, creativity, intuition, and your emotions. The left side works on logic, relevance, and functionality.

Arguably the right side will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to writing a slogan, but both hemispheres need to work together.

Types of Slogan

There are 5 different types of slogans at your disposal.

Now that you know the five distinctly different types of slogans, you’re on your way to determining which is best for your company. But the real beauty of a slogan (unlike a company name) is that you can change or refresh it from time to time. Or not – the choice is yours.

Stay Fresh

McDonald’s is a classic example of a brand that has used 23 different slogans over their 60+ year history. In their case, they have used slogans as a way of communicating an overall McDonald’s experience, rather than a product.

Here’s a look at some of the memorable catchphrases that have been used by McDonald’s over the decades:

Early 1960s: Look for the Golden Arches
Mid 1960s: Let’s Eat Out!
Late 1960s: The Closet Thing to Home
Early 1970s: You Deserve a Break Today
Early 2000s: We Love to See You Smile
Present: I’m Lovin’ It

Expression Yourself

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure, and at times, the angst of writing slogans for businesses. Here are a few tips I’ve compiled along the way to help navigate writing an effective slogan:

TIP 1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK – Once you narrow down your list of possible slogans, it’s important to check to see if it is trademarked by someone else. While it’s not a requirement to trademark a slogan, some companies do. If it is trademarked you can count on receiving a cease and desist letter. Then you’ll be back to the drawing board to begin crafting another slogan.

TIP 2: K.I.S.S. – The adage “keep it short and simple” applies here. Slogans should never be longer than a sentence. In some cases, it might just be a fragment or a phrase.

TIP 3: MAKE IT MEMORABLE – The slogan should be easy to say and remember. Keep in mind, a good slogan is absorbed into one’s memory without consciously taking it in.

TIP 4: BE ORIGINAL – Don’t mimic or adapt a well-known slogan that’s already successful. You aren’t fooling anyone and it won’t earn you any points. Not to mention, you could run the risk of infringing on copyrights. Being unique and standing out from the crowd is both safer and smarter.

TIP 5: KNOW THY CUSTOMER – Keep your customers in mind when creating a slogan. Even better, when you narrow it down to 2 to 3 options, ask a few customers for feedback.

TIP 6: DON’T GO AT IT ALONE – Whether you decide to pen a slogan on your own or hire a professional, collaboration and brainstorming are the key ingredients to developing a slogan that is on brand and on target.

TIP 7: PATIENCE – Creating a slogan is a creative, iterative process. Don’t think this is something you can rush through. Give yourself or others the time necessary to get it right. Just as important is to know when you need to step away and come back to it. Some of the best and brightest ideas come during the least expected times (taking a shower, going for a run, or walking the dog).

TIP 8: SPREAD THE WORD – Once you create a slogan that complements your company’s identity, it’s time to monetize your efforts. The best way to get people to take note of it and remember it is to have frequent and repetitive exposure. As the saying goes, repetition is the mother of all learning.

TIP 9: HONOR & PROTECT – This quite possibly could be the most important tip of all. Your slogan is a claim to who you are and what your brand represents. This comes with the responsibility to honor and protect your slogan at all costs. If something goes wrong, such as a bad customer experience, your slogan could become a target.

United Airlines is a glowing example of how their slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies” came under brutal attack after the incident that transpired on an overbooked flight. A slogan needs to represent your culture and standards. If you’re planning on putting your intent of a ‘friendly’ experience in your slogan, then you need to uphold it at all costs.

Good (Advice) to the Last Drop

Curious what some of my favorite slogans are? Well, here you go…

What’s in your wallet (Capital One)

Think Different (Apple)

The happiest place on earth (Disneyland)

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking (Yellow Pages) – an oldie, but goodie

Here to help life go right. (State Farm) I’m also digging their current TV ad campaign “Jacked Up”, which brings their slogan to life (no pun intended).

As I mentioned before, slogans are everywhere and I’ve come across some of the most clever and memorable ones right on my local Chicago expressways:

We Don’t Want an Arm and a Leg… We Just Want Your Tows. (Prairie Land Towing)

A Dry Crack is a Happy Crack (The Crack Team – they fix cracks and leaks in concrete and foundations)

Do you have any other tips on creating a killer slogan or have a favorite slogan or two? Share it in the comments below.


Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.

Leave a comment

  1. It’s great to have a deeper understanding of the neuroscience behind art appreciation, but we’re still focused on the fact that Dr. Tedi Flippin’ Asher, the greatest neuroscience in Museum Hack’s world, called us geniuses. We’re gonna go home and call our moms. We’ve officially made it.