Campus News

Professor’s research pinpoints three keys to slogan likability

New work published by a UGA researcher helps explain why consumers gravitate toward “Got milk?” rather than “I’m lovin’ it.”

Slogans convey information about products and brands in pithy, bite-sized bits designed to be memorable and functional. Yet slogans offer companies another opportunity: to demonstrate likability. While marketers have long understood the inner workings of memorable slogans, research on slogan likability is just emerging.

“When you look at it from a brand manager’s perspective, they want three things to happen: They want people to remember the slogan. Recall is important. They want people to like the slogan, because if people like the slogan they’re likely to like the brand. And they also want there to be a nice fit between the brand and the slogan,” said Piyush Kumar, a professor of marketing at the UGA Terry College of Business and co-author of the study. “Between the first and the second, there seems to be a discrepancy between what makes people remember slogans and what makes them like slogans.”

For years, advertisers have relied on rules of thumb when crafting slogans: keep it short, add a jingle, make it rhyme, etc. But these standards don’t always influence likability.

In fact, the research shows that out of 14 possible characteristics of slogans, only three count when trying to determine likability: creativity of phrasing, clarity of message and inclusion of a benefit. The other factors, such as including a brand name and the consumers’ familiarity with the product and/or the brand, matter very little in terms of likability.

The research was the first large-scale study on customers’ responses to slogans of brands that already exist in the marketplace. More than 500 people were asked to recall as many slogans as they could. The top 150 slogans were selected and shown in small sets to a large sample of respondents who were asked to indicate how much they liked each one of them. A new model of slogan likeability was then used to assess which of 14 common slogan characteristics determined why people liked some slogans more than others.

“From a cognitive point of view, if there is a clear message from the brand, people tend to like it,” Kumar said. “And if it’s being said creatively, people tend to like it as well. So both sides of the picture seem to matter.”

Because slogans are one of the three components of brand identity, alongside brand name and logo, the new findings have significant implications for brand managers and slogan designers.