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Stylistic Features of the Advertising Slogan

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A slogan is a form of verbal logo. In a print ad, it usually appears just beneath or beside the brand name or logo. A slogan sums up what one stand for, one’s specialty, the benefit, and one’s marketing position, and one’s commitment. It is especially useful to reinforce one’s identity. A slogan can prove to be more powerful than a logo. People can remember and recite your slogan while they are unlikely to doodle your logo. It is more important for your slogan to clearly state what you are about than to be clever, but if you can accomplish both, all the better. Slogans have two basic purposes: to provide continuity to a series of ads in a campaign and to reduce an advertising message strategy to a brief, repeatable, and memorable positioning.

The slogan should be used everywhere. Think of it as being attached to one’s name like a shadow; put it on business cards, printed ads, personal brochures, signs, letters, in the yellow pages -everywhere one can put it.

The advertising slogan is always short and epigrammatic in nature. It helps to make the ad more impressive and memorable. (XUE Hangrong,2003:206)

So let’s take a look at the stylistic features of these fabulous slogans to see how it can achieve its aim.

1. At the graphetic level

1.1 Consistent use of initial capitalization.

   To achieve an emphatic effect, the ad slogan is just like a headline which uses initial capitalization to attract more attention or to stress every word it says to impress the reader.

For example,

Heinz: Beanz Meanz Heinz.

     Toyota: I Love What You Do For Me.

1.2 Sometimes full use of capitalization.

   Sometimes for the same reason as above, the ad slogan needs to emphasize every letter it uses or to make the ad slogan look trim and tidy.

    For example,



2. At the phonological level

2.1 Use of rhymes.

2.1.1 Rhymes with brand name

One of the best techniques for bringing in the brand name is to make the slogan rhyme with it. An ad slogan is better if it reflects the brand’s personality. By this kind of rhyming, the brand name is highlighted. The ad slogan is thus highly purposed. It can differentiate a slogan from others by the brand name and the special rhyming which is the identity of the slogan.

   Haig Scotch: Don't be vague. Ask for Haig.

   Quavers: The flavour of a Quaver is never known to waver.

2.1.2 Rhymes - brand name mention

A fall-back position is to use a rhyme and mention the brand name without it actually rhyming. It is not so effective, perhaps, because the brand name is not highlighted. The slogan is likely to lose its identity, because similar products can use the same ad slogan with a simple change of the product name.

   Viakal: It's the Viakal fizz that does the bizz!

   Jaguar : Grace, space, pace.

2.2 Use of alliteration.

   Alliteration can help the slogans achieve the strong beating rhythm needed to make it an repeatable sentence. By so doing, the sentences are more slogan-styled. They can be easily remembered by the audience. Alliteration can also achieve an emphatic effect of the meaning.

   Allied Irish Bank: Britain's best business bank.

Greyhound: Greyhound going great.

Fila: Functional... Fashionable... Formidable...

3. At the lexical level

3.1 Common uses of second person addressee “you”, “we”,”us”.

   The use of second person addressee “you” tends to shorten the distance between the product or the producer and consumers, as if the producer or the ad is speaking to you face to face, making sincere promises, honest recommendations. In so doing, the ad slogans stand a better chance to move the receiver or customers to action, because the receiver feels that he is being thought of and taken care of and he is the center point of the producers.

   For example,

   HYUNDAI: Always there for you.

   Nestle Milo: Bring out the champion in you.

   The use of first person addresser “we” and “us” is the most direct way to tell the receiver what the sponsor of an ad slogan stands for, his idea, his view, and his credit. It’s a little bit like a self-introduction to the potential customers to let them know you, recognize you, believe you and trust you.

   For example,

   Avis Rent A Car: We try harder.

Fed ex: We live to deliver.

3.2 Use of unqualified comparison.

   Admen have to abide by the code of commercial practice and stick to the rules of advertising. They should not advertise their product at the expense of others. So they resort to unqualified comparison to avoid defaming other products. (XUE Hangrong,2003:189) They can not say: “Brand X is better than brand Y.” Otherwise, unpleasant lawsuits will inevitably occur. They can say:

   For example,

  Coleman footgear: Better choice, better joys.

3.3 Use of “every” “always”, etc.

   These words are often used in ads to indicate the universal application of the product or to include as many potential customers as possible or to achieve the emphasis of the product’s utility or the company’s unswerving commitment.

   For example,

   Always Coca-Cola.

   Mitsubishi: Technically, everything is possible.

3.4 Use of “no”, “none”, etc.

   Negatives tend to be used very sparingly because the purpose of all ad slogans is to strengthen the positive side. But when negatives do occur, they are usually placed in an emphatic position to highlight the special the positive side.

   For example,

   Mercedes Benz: The pursuit for perfection has no finish line.

   M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand.

3.5 Use of coined words.

   Coined words are both new and memorable. Coined words are kind of smart words have a special meaning in the specified context. They can raise the interests of the ad slogan receivers, make them ponder upon the meaning and marvel at the smart idea of the admen. By so doing, they recognized the brand.

   Louis Vuitton: Epileather.

   Burton Menswear: Everywear.

   Gordon's & Tonic: Innervigoration.

4. At the syntactic level.

4.1 Use of short simple sentences.

   The slogan must be short and simple; it can not afford to be complicated and clumsy. Short simple sentences are easy to remember, while one main aim of an ad slogan is to be memorable and recited. So short and simple sentences serve advertising slogans right.

   For example,

   Sumsung Digitall-Everyone is invited.

   GE: We bring good things to life.

4.2 Use of everyday sentences.

   Every day sentences tend to be overly used in day life, but it can be very forceful when used in an ad slogan. These sentences travel very fast, because anyone can remember it without any effort. It can just hang upon people’s lips. It’s something popularized without much publicity.

   For example,

   Nike: Just do it

   Nestle: It’s the taste!

4.3 Use of phrases.

   Slogans are a kind of special writing form. They can almost do without subjects. Phrases may be better than if not as good as sentences. All kind of phrases can be put into use: noun phrase, verb phrase, preposition phrase, adjective phrase, etc. They are so concise and to the point that they are beyond our power to do any addition or subtraction.

   For example,

   Apple computer: think different

   Malaysia Airlines: Beyond expectation.

   Maxwell House: Good to the last drop.

4.4 Use of questions.

   In ad headlines questions are often used to attract attention by mentioning the matter that concerns the customers most. They help to arouse the curiosity of the customers and entice them to read on to find the solution to the problem. Many slogans (also called themeline or tagline) begin as successful headlines. (Arens, William F. & Bovee, Courtland L. 1994: p.289) So it is not surprising that the slogan can use questions too for the same purpose.

   For example,

   Ford: Have you driven a Ford lately?

   Volkswagen Polo: R u Polo?

4.5 Use of imperative sentences.

   In an ad, the slogan is the last few words said. Although it’s just a few words, the admen don’t let it go at that. They use every opportunity to exhort the potential customers to act, to buy and to consume. The slogan is their last battle field to get people moved. It is not surprising that they would use imperative sentences to make a slogan while this kind of sentence is the most direct way to achieve the ideal effect.

   For example,

   Express card: Don’t leave home without it.

   United Airlines: Life is a journey, travel it well.

4.6 Use of tense.

   Almost all the ad slogans use simple present tense to satisfy the customer’s desire to know the present state of the product he wants to buy. But there is another aspect of the simple present: its implication of universality and timelessness.

   For example,

   DeBeers: A diamond is forever.

   Rossini: Time always follows me

4.7 Creative use of idioms or proverbs

   Idioms and proverbs are familiar to most potential customers in a society and have no difficulty to be popularized. The creative use of the idioms and proverbs can give them new meaning while making them memorable and campainable.

   For example,

   Financial Times: No FT, no comment.

   IBM: I think, therefore IBM.

5. At the semantic level.

5.1 Semantic ambiguity

   Ad slogans have to conform to the code of commercial practice. Semantic ambiguity is needed to avoid any possible legal liability.

   For example,

   Philips: let’s make things better.

5.2 Use of puns

5.2.1 A really good pun can work miracles. However note the lack of brand identity in these otherwise excellent examples. Almost any competing brand could use these lines. Although they are good, they have no specific identity of their own.

   Moss Security: Alarmed? You should be.

   Pioneer: Everything you hear is true.

   Range Rover: It's how the smooth take the rough.

5.2.2 In these lines, the brand name appears, but as the solution or promise rather than part of the pun. These slogans with brand name in it can help the name be remembered while offer a two layered meaning to the slogan. The second layer of meaning can interest and impress the people with its smartness and its novelty.

   Kenco Really Rich Coffee: Get Rich quick.

   Finish Detergent: Brilliant cleaning starts with Finish.

5.2.3 Here the brand goes to work, as inextricably part of the pun.

   Citibank: Because the Citi never sleeps.

   Quavers Snacks: Do me a Quaver.


All the above-mentioned stylistic features of ad slogans are necessary to make them neat, simple, original, strategic, memorable and campainable. The slogans are also a kind of poetic language, which we should pay attention to.

After a study of 103 ad slogans of large to medium sized companies in recent years, I did a little summarizing. The reason why I choose large to medium sized companies is that good ad slogans always come form them and they can represent the trend in ad slogans.

Number of words in a slogan

Number of slogans counted





















From this chart we can see that three-worded slogan and four-worded slogan are the most favored in the creation of a slogan with 25 and 33 slogans for each type, and five or six worded slogans are also widely used. Two worded and eight worded slogans still occupy a share. But the number of other length slogans decreased dramatically. The longest ad slogan in study has 13 words which is a rare case, because it is too lengthy to be a slogan. And one worded slogan can not express fully the rich and multi-layered meaning that a slogan wants to convey. The eight worded slogans are preferred than the seven worded ones is because the former generally uses a parallel or contrasted structure, so for each small sentence of the structure the length is just four words which is the most preferred length. The average length of an ad slogan is 4.447 words. It is the trend for the slogan to be short, about 2 to 6 words long. This is just my general analysis of the results.

It is useful to conduct a more detailed study of the slogans; because more and more Chinese companies are going abroad to do their business and they need a good English slogan to establish their image in the world business arena. This study will also help the development of the Chinese ad slogans in China. Good ad slogans are forever.




[1]  XUE Hangrong. Introduction to English Styles[M].Xi’an:Xi’an Jiaotong University Press,2003

[2]  WU Zhiming,HU Zhiwei. Selection of English Advertisement Language[M].Beijing:Beijing University Press,1999.

[3]  YANG Rongqi,CHEN Yuhong. Appreciation of English Advertisement Style[M]. Wuhan:Huazhong Science and Technical University Press,1995.

[4]  Angela,Goddard.The language of Advertising[M]. London and New York: Routledge,1998.

[5]  Arens,W.& C.Bovée. Contemporary Advertisement[M]. Massachusetts:Irwin Incorporation,1994.

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