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Your Brands’ Slogan May Be Killing Your Business


Brand names, logos, and slogans are integral parts of any company’s marketing message. All have the same aim: to make consumers react positively to a product or a business. One the key services at Thought-Tech focuses on positioning. At Thought-Tech we are passionate about the incredible value of a well crafted positioning statement. Positioning has its place at the individual product/service level, for categories or business units as well as overall company brand.

Slogans and logos are off shoots of positioning.

Research published in the Journal for Consumer Research in April 2011 shows, however, that many slogans backfire—for example, causing consumers to spend money when they’re told they can save, or vice versa.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “In five studies of several hundred undergraduates each, in which computers were used to simulate shopping behavior, we found that consumers typically follow the prompt of a brand name or a logo. After participants were exposed to brands associated with luxury (such as Tiffany and Neiman Marcus), they decided to spend 26 percent more, on average, than after they were exposed to neutral brands (such as Publix and Dillard’s). After they were exposed to brands associated with saving money (such as Dollar Store and Kmart), they decided to spend 37 percent less than after they were exposed to neutral brands. The brands had the intended “priming” effect.”

But when it came to slogans, the same participants exhibited the opposite of the desired behavior. After reading a slogan meant to incite spending (“Luxury, you deserve it”), they decided to spend 26 percent less than after reading a neutral slogan (“Time is what you make of it”). When a slogan invited them to save (“Dress for less”), they decided to spend—an additional 29 percent, on average. The slogans had a “reverse priming” effect.

In many cases, then, brands and slogans work at cross-purposes. For example, the name Walmart tends to induce thriftiness, but the company’s slogan (“Save money. Live better”) causes indulgence.

What makes slogans so different? The same research suggests that reverse priming occurs because consumers recognize that slogans deliberately attempt to persuade them, whereas (in their perception) brands do not. The recognition may not be conscious – consumers automatically resisted a slogan’s message.

Thought-Tech applies the principle of the 8 Word Positioning Statement to all of its work with clients. Considering how important your brands’ position is to marketing tools like slogans and logos it might be time to revisit your brand position.

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