These days, startups rise and fall on almost a daily basis. The fact that they are commonly funded by wealthy investors doesn’t promise they will keep their heads above the water forever. Usually, people tend to attribute the success or failure of a business to the product or to the sales team. However, in many cases, success and failure are determined by much smaller factors, which tend to go unnoticed since they are hard to measure. I argue that advertising and marketing are among these hard-to-measure factors. In this blog post, I’ll focus on a very specific but essential part of advertising your business: Creating a slogan.
My name is Ofir Bar, an investor with a quarter of a century of experience in various markets, and a special interest in startups. As you may have heard, recently, Belgium destroyed an incoming shipment of 2,300 cans of the American ‘Miller’ beer that had the ‘Champagne of Beer’ slogan printed on them. Why? This, apparently, violated the rights of the Champagne jurisdiction in France on the term ‘Champagne’. This kind of case may be unlucky for a brand like ‘Miller’, but rather a death blow for a new startup. This is why I decided to dedicate this post to the dos and don’ts of slogan creation.
The magic of storytelling
I know this may raise some eyebrows, but I truly believe that your company’s slogan can determine your business’ fate — even more than the product and the sales team’s performance. This is because it’s the most powerful storytelling tool you can use. The company name is usually a 1–2 word structure. Therefore, it’s complex to express your company in a nutshell solely with it. A good slogan, though, can make your idea and vision clear in one short sentence — which can be a useful tool to either raise capital or get new customers.
The story of your brand constantly changes. Therefore, so should your slogan. Creating a slogan for a brand-new and unfamiliar business is quite different from creating a slogan for a well-known business. Allow me to give you some pointers for creating a slogan for both of these brand life cycles.
Walking a thin line
Hopefully, when you named your company, you took into account factors like your startup’s core values, goals, and target audience. Use these insights also to create a slogan. Note: there must be some correlation between the two — in vibe, language level, and so on.
The slogan must be catchy, so use 2–6 words and no more. You have to walk a thin line here: On the one hand, your slogan has to clarify what service you are offering, and who it is designated to. After all, no one actually knows your business yet, so if potential clients don’t understand what you have to offer right away, they’ll just overlook your brand. On the other hand, it mustn’t be too complicated or clumsy, or else your brand will also go unnoticed.
A good example of an initial slogan is Uber’s “Everyone’s private driver”. Short, catchy, and to the point — it explains to the potential client exactly ‘what’s in it for them’. Just imagine Uber would have used their current slogan, “The go-getters”, a short time after the business had launched. No one would have even tried to understand what this business had had to offer.
If things go your way, and many people use or are familiar with your services at some point, in a few years it may be a good idea to refresh your slogan. Remember, your slogan and your set of messages to potential clients should evolve as your company evolves. Now you can go for a slogan that is less descriptive and is directed more toward emotions. “Life tastes good” is Coca-Cola’s slogan from 2001. This wouldn’t have said anything to a consumer living in the early 20th century who had never heard of this brand. But these days, it’s a bull’s eye.
Startup success or failure can be attributed to many factors. Usually, it’s really a set of happenings that determines your initiative’s fate, not one. So, it’s important to get many things done right if you want to succeed. Remember, not all the things that contribute to success can be easily measured, if at all.
In this highly-stimulating world, you have to make an immense effort to get your company to stand out from the crowd — even before the crowd learns about what you have to offer. Advertising is the key to that. A good ad (containing a slogan) is surely just a trick to get a potential client’s attention. However, without it, the consumer will probably not be even interested in getting to know your startup. It’s like dating: You may be the potentially best life partner ever, but if you lack the skills to make the other party curious in the first place, well, you’re out of luck. Advertising is your doorway to the consumer’s heart.