Words can hold a lot of power, and they might even hold the power to make a brand successful or not, a new study published on May 15 found.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found what makes brand slogans effective.
The study found that slogans that are easier to process, while may be more likable, are easier to forget.
Ultimately, the researchers identified five linguistic properties as being the key to having a successful slogan: length, brand name, word frequency, perceptual distinctiveness and abstractness.
What makes an effective slogan?
While previous research has stressed the importance of marketing a slogan that is creative and captures the purpose of the brand, this study found that people prefer shorter slogans that don’t include the brand’s name and that used ordinary common language.
While people generally disliked longer slogans that included the brand’s name and more unusual words, they were more memorable.
How did the researchers explore slogan effectiveness?
The researchers conducted a variety of experiments using 820 different brands. Firstly, they asked 1000 students to rate how much they liked or disliked a subset of each brand’s slogans.
In the second experiment, the researchers asked the students which brands and slogans they remembered. The students had not been forewarned about this component of the study.
In another study, the researchers tried to improve upon existing brand slogans by altering the lowest-rated ones from experiment 1. Following this, experiments 1 and 2 were repeated with the altered slogans on 243 students. Again, the students preferred the shorter and simpler slogans, but remembered the longer wordier slogans better.
In the final experiment, the researchers used eye-tracking software. This allowed the researchers to measure how long participants took to read different brand slogans. In this experiment, researchers found that the participants would spend longer looking at ads with disfluent words but were 28% more likely to click ads with fluent slogans.
Why shorter isn’t always better
The researchers theorized that consumers spend less time processing shorter slogans, which made them more forgettable. However, they were more likely to click on ads with shorter slogans.
“Brands spend a lot of time and money creating and communicating slogans that consumers will like and remember. Our research identifies specific properties of words that can make a slogan better liked or better remembered, but importantly, the properties that make a slogan more likable also make it less memorable, and vice versa,” said one of the authors Professor Zachary Estes.
“To be memorable, slogans should be relatively long, include the brand name, and use rare and concrete words. For instance, BMW could make its slogan easier to remember by changing it from ‘The ultimate driving machine’ to ‘BMW is the peak driving machine’, but that would also make it harder to like. In fact, our research can be viewed as the ultimate slogan machine, and we hope that it will help marketers choose the best words for their brand.”