Great slogans can make a huge difference

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Most people don’t know freelance writer and boating enthusiast Brian Carey. As a business writer for Intuit, his articles and blogs cover a variety of topics. And, when I can vividly recall one of them 1-1/2 years later, it tells me his thoughts are worth considering today.

Specifically, I’m referring to his article “Lessons From the Greatest 20th-Century Ad Campaigns” in which he looks back at a 1999 list published by Advertising Age of the top ad campaigns of the 20th century.

While the list included 100 ads or slogans, Carey cited four of his favorites. To his list I’ve added a few of my own and all of them have great underlying strategies worth consideration by marine dealers when it comes to their company slogans used in ads, websites, signage, collateral materials and more.

A true favorite from the 1970s was McDonald’s “You Deserve a Break Today”: The campaign ran aggressively for four years and McDonald’s continued to refer to the slogan until 1982. Carey says what McDonald’s was “selling” was something that had universal appeal — escapism. For boating, fortunately some things never change. Escape is exactly what boat dealers are offering today. And perhaps people in our high-tech society need it even more now. So make sure that the idea of a boat as an escape machine is spelled out in some way on a dealer’s website and that the ads include some creative thinking.

How about the Avis slogan “We Try Harder?”: It didn’t shy away from the fact that its competitor Hertz was the biggest rental car company. It capitalized on it. The slogan, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder. Or else,” clearly implied better attention and service to customers. In boating, being the biggest doesn’t mean the best. Emphasizing the benefits of doing business with your dealership, that you’re the right size to excel in customer satisfaction. Incidentally, Avis went from losing $3.2 million one year to earning $1.2 million the next.

“Tastes Great, Less Filling” not only made Miller Lite a household name, but Carey claims it was so effective it became part of our collective consciousness. This slogan ran for an incredible 20 years, starting in 1973. The simple idea was to explain Miller Lite’s two most valuable qualities. A boat dealership can follow this lead. It worked so well for Miller Lite because it concisely described the two benefits. A memorable line that crisply identifies a dealership’s benefit(s) is the point.

One of Carey’s favorites (not necessarily one of mine) is Nike’s “Just Do It”. Launched in 1988, the point was to generate mass appeal for the company’s athletic shoes and it certainly did that. Nike’s market share increased from 18 percent to 43 percent. While the slogan became so widely recognized (just hearing it meant Nike), mass marketing isn’t for a marine dealer. But target marketing is, so dealers can look for ways to promote to a wider audience by, for example, blogging about boating, doing expert interviews, taking local media out on a boat for water-oriented news stories or running ads in a local print media, among others.

Who can forget “Good to the Last Drop?” We still find ourselves saying that today, though not necessarily about Maxwell House Coffee. This slogan came out back in 1959. But it’s still on every Maxell House package — it’s been that enduring. In a similar way for selling boats, selecting words that declare every experience (cup) will be fulfilling up to the last minute aboard — that every moment on the boat, regardless of activity, will be a pleasure — could send a defining message about the dealership and its products.

Finally, “This Bud’s For You” might be my favorite. How often do we hear it in one form or another? And no matter how it’s twisted (i.e. this car’s for you; this suit’s for you; this game’s for you, etc.) no one can deny they think of Budweiser. Now I’m not suggesting anyone adopt “The Boat’s For You.” It could be held that it infringes on Bud’s trademark. I recall using a slogan at one of my boat shows that said “The Greatest Show on Water.” I thought it clever — Ringling Bros. didn’t. They asked me to cease and desist using something so close to their trademark. I did. However, the point here is that a few well-chosen words can make a dealership slogan that will become widely recognized and last indefinitely.

Inspiration often comes from looking back at past successes. It can be well worth the time to do it when it comes to creating an identity for a boat dealership.

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