By David Kiley Quick -- what's Miller Beer's ad slogan? How about Kmart's (KMRT)? And Buick's (GM)? If you don't know, you won't advance in Jeopardy! when the category is "advertising." But you won't be alone. In an annual survey conducted by Atlanta-based marketing-consulting firm Emergence, just a measly 1% of those surveyed matched those familiar brands with their slogans. (Want to test your slogan-savvy? Take our quiz).
Insurance companies Allstate (ALL) ("You're in Good Hands") and State Farm ("Like a Good Neighbor") had the most recognizable slogans, with 87% and 70% recognition, respectively. Not bad for an industry that has never been accused of being "cutting edge" or veterans of "guerilla" marketing.
Jeanie Caggiano, executive creative director at Leo Burnett, the ad agency handling Allstate, says she can't remember anyone suggesting that the 48-year-old slogan be changed. In fact, it's part of the company's logo. "Closest we have come is to turn it into a question by ending ads with 'Are You in Good Hands?'" she says. "It's part of the American lexicon, and that makes great advertising."
"CRUMBLE INTO DUST." Soft-drink, fast-food, and beer brands rely heavily on advertising to shift market share and drive traffic to stores. Yet Wendy's (WEN) scored zero recognition after more than two years of advertising "It's Better Here." Coke's (KO) 18-month-old "Real" effort scored just 5%. On the other hand, McDonald's (MCD), which launched "I'm Lovin' It" in early 2003, scored a better than respectable 33%.
What separates a good ad slogan from a poor one? David Droga, worldwide executive creative director for French ad agency Publicis, says slogans work best when they reflect "not only the soul of the brand, but the company itself and its reason for being in business." Contemporary catch-phrases, he says, "just crumble into dust."
Michelob Ultra may fall into that trap, lining itself up with the here-today-perhaps-gone-tomorrow fixation on carbs as it pitches "Lose The Carbs. Not The Taste." Just 6% of respondents matched up that slogan with Michelob (BUD). Among Droga's own network of clients, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) earns high marks for its "Invent" tagline -- the word Madison Avenue prefers over slogan -- and Heineken for "It's all about the beer."
WILL COKE STAY "REAL"? Wal-Mart's "Always low prices. Always" was recognized by 67% of survey respondents, a terrific score aided by the sheer volume of people who shop at Wal-Mart (WMT). Clearly, ubiquity helps any slogan have staying power.
Coke, looking to come up with an "iconic" ad campaign this month out of a competition among its worldwide ad agencies, is open to scrapping "Real" as its slogan, though the odds are that the word "Real" would somehow be salvaged in a new slogan given the enormous equity in Coke's having advertised "It's The Real Thing" from 1970-75. Anything with "Real" would be better than Coke's original and flat slogan, coined in 1886 -- "Drink Coca-Cola."
Many marketing experts say advertisers have become too quick to ditch slogans, for reasons that often have little to do with sales. Often, a new sales chief or marketing director simply feels the need to put his or her own stamp on the job for the two or three years that they have the job.
AD KILLERS. "It's only a matter of time before Corporate America wakes up and realizes that what it's doing simply isn't working," says Kelly O'Keefe, chairman and CEO of Emergence. "Companies continue to shell out big bucks for catchy slogans, yet for the second year in a row, this survey shows that consumers aren't getting the message."
The survey had little good news for advertisers. Nearly 75% of respondents said TV commercials bother them. No wonder consumers are embracing ad-killing technologies like TiVo (TIVO) and pop-up blockers.
Can you match the brands with the slogan?
1. Capital One
A. The Only Card You Need
B. Right Where You Want Us
C. What's In Your Wallet?
A. Obey Your Thirst
B. Refreshment Every Day
C. What's Your Pleasure?
A.The Beer To Have When Your Having More Than One
B. It's All About The Beer
C. As Good As It Gets
A. Innovation Is Our Pursuit
B. We Bring Good Things To Life
C. Ideas Around The World
5. Taco Bell
A. Think Outside The Bun
B. You Just Can't Get Enough
C. Beans Go Good With Everything At TB
A. When Winning Is Everything
B. For The Athlete In You
C. Is It In You?
A. You Dreamed It. Now Drive It
B. An American Revolution
C. America's Heartbeat
B. Wassup Today?
C. This Is Refreshment
A. Inspiration Comes Standard
B. That Thing Got A Hemi?
C. The American Classic
A. You Need What We've Got
B. That Was Easy
C. Working For You
11. Dr. Pepper
A. Be You
B. Be Serious
C. Are You a Pepper?
A. Your One Stop Family Shop
B. Good Life. Great Price
C. Everything You Need. Always.
Correct Answers. 1. C, ; 2. A; 3 B; 4. B; 5. A; 6. C; 7. B; 8. A; 9. A; 10. B; 11. A; 12. B
EMERGENCE'S SLOGAN SURVEY
Five hundred consumers were asked to see if they could correctly match a slogan with the right brand.
Here are the results:
Company Tag Line %Correct
Allstate You're in good hands 87%
State Farm Like a good neighbor 70%
Wal-Mart Always low price. Always. 67%
GE Imagination At Work. 5%
Sprite Obey your thirst 35%
Taco Bell Think outside the bun 34%
McDonald's I'm Lovin It 33%
Capital One What's in your wallet? 27%
Gatorade Is it in you? 19%
Chevrolet An American Revolution 17%
J.C. Penney It's all inside 15%
Nissan Shift 12%
Toyota Get the feeling 11%
Budweiser True 10%
Hardee's Where the food's the star 6%
Sierra Mist Yeah, it's kinda like that 6%
Coca-Cola Real 5%
Dr. Pepper Be you 5%
GE Imagination at work 5%
Heineken It's all about the beer 4%
Michelob Ultra Lose the carbs. Not the taste. 4%
Sears Good life. Great price. 4%
Chrysler Inspiration comes standard 3%
Corona Miles away from ordinary 3%
Arby's What are you eating today? 2%
Miller Good call 1%
Buick The spirit of American style 1%
Kmart Right here, right now. 1%
Staples That was easy 0%*
Wendy's It's better here 0%*
Editor's note: It's tough to understand why GE ever changed slogans. It's old tagline, "We Bring Good Things To Life" was recognized by 39% of respondents. It's current slogan "Imagination at Work." was pitched since 2002, is backed by about $70 million in ad spending per year, but scored just 5% recognition. Kiley is BusinessWeek's Marketing editor in New York