Why are good small business slogans so challenging to create?
A slogan has to be succinct, catchy, and memorable, all while communicating what your small business stands for. It’s a tall order, but plenty of companies achieve success.
Big industry players are often known for their slogans: Nike’s “Just Do It” communicates the feeling behind their company culture, is short, easy to remember, and drives the consumer to do something.
So how do you replicate that at your small business, and create a slogan that checks the necessary boxes without feeling contrived?
Two of the companies I’ve worked for went through the process of creating a new slogan while I was there. Each time, we came up with a working slogan within an hour and reached a final version within a week. I used the same method I outline in this article to create a slogan for my own small business a few years ago.
If you want to create a great slogan fast, follow the five steps laid out below during the process.
5 steps to small business slogan success
Step 1: Assemble your ‘slogan squad’
To come up with a great company slogan, you need to involve your primary stakeholders—in other words, your staff. Don’t involve the entire office (at first); “too many cooks in the kitchen” really does apply here.
Having too many stakeholders often results in a slogan that’s been twisted to fit everyone’s opinions and ideas, all without representing the company as well as it could. Assemble a team that includes:
- A few senior staff members who know the company culture
- Applicable C-suite executives familiar with the company’s business trajectory and future goals
- A few good copywriters/creatives
- A mix of marketing team members, including from your branding and PR teams
Your remaining staff should be split into two groups (if possible) to act as A/B testers once you have some rough slogan copy (more on this in step five).
Then, create a list of employees who accept the invitation, and set a date for an initial two-hour meeting. (Pro tip: Schedule the meeting before the lunchtime slump hits around noon to take full advantage of morning brainpower.)
Step 2: Define what your company stands for
If you’re a startup or small company, the world likely doesn’t know enough about your product to automatically “know who you are” without a descriptive slogan. If your business uses a vague description of what you do, you’ll miss your chance to hook your customers.
This is the step where you ask yourself and your fellow slogan team members: What do we do that makes us different than every other small business out there?
If you can’t articulate what your company stands for, how will your customers understand what you do?
Step 3: Decide what feeling you want your slogan to elicit
Now that you know what your company stands for, you need to figure out how to communicate that to your consumers through a feeling.
People are more likely to remember a slogan that evokes an emotion. It’s science.
Do you want your customers to feel empowered? Happy? Excited?
Your slogan should elicit a specific, carefully selected feeling that, going forward, you want to be directly associated with your brand. While getting your “feeling” wrong detracts from your overall message, successfully tying emotional advertising into your message helps your audience make a personal connection with your business.
Think of the U.S. Marines’ slogan: “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” This motto makes you feel like the Marines are selective, elite, fierce, and honorable. It communicates precisely what the Marines stand for.
Here’s a list of common feelings elicited by famous brands and their ad campaigns to jump start your brainstorming:
Sample slogans and their associated emotions from famous brands
Step 4: Write down all of your slogan ideas and workshop them
The first planning stage is over! Pat yourselves on the back, take a deep breath, and get ready; now comes the hard part.
It’s time to tie together what you stand for and your feeling into a catchy, show-stopping slogan that will be remembered for years to come!
The point of this step is to come up with a bare-bones slogan and several iterations of slogan ideas that you can tweak in the next step.
Set aside at least 30 minutes for this, and have everyone share their slogan ideas. There are no bad ideas at this stage.
Step 5: A/B test your slogan until it’s right
Running an A/B test is simple once you’re down to a few slogan options. This is when you ask for help from your entire company, and possibly even outsiders such as current clients, email list recipients, or paid surveys respondents.
Ultimately, you’ll want to pick two choices and test them against each other to see which prevails. The idea here is that the superior or more engaging slogan will win.
You’ll present one slogan to 50% of your segment, and an alternative slogan to the other half. This method gives your target audience the chance to choose their favorite slogan in a semi-blind way, eliminating bias.
You might have to go through several rounds of testing to get your slogan right. Don’t panic; that’s normal!
Things to remember
- Be careful about length. Find a happy medium for slogan length. Long slogans are difficult to remember, and super short slogans are often insipid.
- Consider your slogan’s sustainability. Will the market environment be the same in a year? Five years? Fifty years? Make sure your tagline doesn’t incorporate anything that will be outdated in the future.
- Maintain consistency. Once you have your slogan, that’s it. It should become your small business’s mantra, advertising and marketing campaign keystone, and tagline. Make sure you don’t dilute your message by tacking on extra phrases or confusing consumers by cycling through multiple slogans in a short period.
Go forth, and conquer your slogan!
While creating a slogan might sound fairly easy, the process is deceptively difficult. Once you settle on a slogan, let it marinate for a few days. Does it still fit your business after a week or two? If so, you’re good to go. If not, go back to testing, or even the drawing board.
In a few years, you might realize that your business model has pivoted and you need to change your slogan. That’s OK, as long as it doesn’t happen a lot.
Slogans often evolve as companies grow, but the process should be a long one; it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) happen overnight.