Slogans that Stick: Why “Three. Words. Rule.”

Best 3-Word Slogans

Real. Comfortable. Jeans.

Just do it!

I’m lovin’ it.

Simplicity has a role in marketing. It’s possibly the most important aspect of any message that a company wants to put out there. Some could make a good argument that being memorable is more important than being simple, but it’s a close call either way.

Let’s take a look at why a proper 3-word slogan can say and do more than just about any other type.

Frugal Complexity

WranglerThis is not the most important aspect of a proper 3-word slogan, but it’s my favorite. Being able to fit multiple meanings and representations into three words is a challenge worthy of discussion.

Wrangler has had several slogans over the years, most recently embracing the 3-word variation in different ways. Their “Real. Comfortable. Jeans.” campaign always stuck out for me because of the depth of meaning. As a statement, it had a basic message that people liked. On a deeper level, each individual word meant something to them and their target audience.

Wrangler is “real”. It’s a brand that may be somewhat hyped with Brett Favre and Clint Black sporting them, but it fit their target demographic that respects authenticity over fashion trends.

Wrangler jeans are “comfortable” (from what I’ve been told). Having the word standing alone in the center was appealing as a message, again targeted to the Wrangler-buying audience.

Wrangler sells “jeans”. Stating it as such, alone and at the end of the slogan, separated from everything else is a nice touch that aids in the simplicity of the message. They’re just jeans. They’re good jeans.

They’re jeans. Buy them.

More recently, Wrangler has gone for a little more complex variation of the 3-word slogan with a pair of messages targeting specific demographics of their market. The first one is basic – “Long Live Cowboys”. It’s at the heart of what they represent and allows them to have a perfect slogan to use in advertisements promoting their Retro line of jeans. You could expect to see this slogan on a sponsorship banner at the rodeo.

The second is more complex and fits a broader message. “Nothing Beats Wrangler” is used as the prelude to multiple messages. It’s used in catchphrases like “Nothing Beats Wrangler… Comfort” and “Nothing Beats Wrangler… Value”. The purest form as the simple 3-word slogan stands alone but allows for add-ons at the end to punctuate a message.

In three words, many messages can be brought to the minds of the targets. The right three words together can use those messages to drive more sales.

Easy Quotability

Obey Your ThirstIt’s hard to get three words wrong. In a social-media-driven world where people have a louder voice than ever before, using a proper 3-word slogan can help people spread the word for you.

Look at Betty Crocker. The brownies are great, but their slogans are so unquotable that I had to go to their website to look them up.

They have two that are currently running prominently on most of their advertising.

  • “Expertise from our kitchens and yours.”
  • “You and Betty Crocker can bake someone happy.”

These are antiquated. They require repetition to make them stick, and even when they do stick they aren’t very useful in putting a message out there. They’re clever plays on words that would have worked nicely for radio or television sponsorships in the 50s when their target audience was only exposed to 4 or 5 campaigns a day, but in the 21st century they take too long to say, too long to remember, and too long to understand.

Perhaps more importantly, they can’t be easily Tweeted or Facebooked. It’s sad to some, but having social-media-repeatable slogans multiplies a company’s potential exposure and allows for viral spread. Look at Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst.” Now, look it up on Twitter. People post it every day. Sometimes, they’re posting it every hour.

There are advocates out there for every brand. Take advantage of social media by giving people something that can be easily quoted.

Expandable Discussion Points

Cincinnati FordSometimes, it’s not just about putting out the right message. Positioned well, a 3-word slogan can get people asking about what it means. It stands out as a differentiator between you and your competitors and can spark conversation that leads into an overarching brand message discussion.

This is especially useful for growing, small- to medium-sized brands, particularly at a local level where direct interaction with customers is regular.

For Lebanon Ford, their goal was to separate themselves from other local Ford dealers. By using the “Connect. Engage. Drive.” slogan, they have built a localized brand that thrives on touching their customers in ways that others will not.

Evoking Emotions

Life is GoodIt’s written in some psychology book that I read in college that less is more when it comes to emotions. I love you. I hate you. You rock. You suck.

There is very little difference between two words and three words, but the emotion-evocation-scale drops dramatically on the fourth and fifth words. It’s a sad note to my age that the research cannot be found online easily (was I really in college before the internet?).

Look at the story of Life is good. They say so much with their brand and have built a minor empire with their products being sold in 4500 retail stores, all 50 US states, and 30 countries worldwide.

They evoked emotion. It’s that simple. They created a brand that allowed consumers to make a statement about their outlook on the world in 3 simple words. They company itself has an amazing story of success and charity surrounding it, but looking at the branding alone is enough to make the point here.

3-Words vs Long-Form Singular Messaging

Pigs“Pork. The other white meat.” It has a ring to it and says what needs to be said. It’s memorable.

One might say that this 5-word slogan does everything that it needs to do. People quote it. They understand it. They probably think it every time they’re in the grocery store and they see the pork section.

The problem is that they don’t necessarily act upon it. Why? Because the message is inherently flawed by trying to promote a concept that doesn’t stick. By being “the other white meat,” they’re trying to position it as a healthier alternative to beef and a break from the monotony of chicken. They’re squeezing so much into the message but it simply doesn’t ring true. People do not consider pork a white meat despite the long-running campaign. They do not consider it healthy. They still buy plenty of chicken.

Pork has a failed slogan.

What would work better? There are a lot of good options, but I would be willing to bet if they went simple and put out a message that people would enjoy, that they would post on social media when they just got done eating some good pork, and that would ring true with what they’re wanting to say, they would increase sales. This isn’t a pitch for the pork industry to hire us as their ad firm. This one’s a gift.

Pork Tastes Better.

It doesn’t matter if people agree now. A slogan like that would, over time, have people starting to believe it. As simple as it is, if they would adopt it and promote it, more bacon would be sold, ham sandwiches would grow in popularity, and the McRib would have to be sold year-round by 2013.

As a side-effect, cardiologists would be in higher demand.

* * *

Read more analysis on this social media blog or learn more about automotive SEO.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post, JD. I agree with you 100% that short and sweet slogans are more “sticky” and can serve as great branding tactics.
    However, if 3 words are not enough to send the main brand message, then perhaps using 4 or 5 words can help. Still, I would strive for 3 words first and even if it took weeks of brainstorming.
    We are broadening the scope of our services and revamping our website to reflect the new developments. I will keep your advice in mind and I will keep you posted when our killer 3-word slogan sees the light.
    Thank you for this healthy dose of inspiration :).

  2. says

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  3. says

    Simple is best! Why do you think Apple is so successful?! People don’t have time in the modern age to figure out witty advertising – they want it straight and to the point!

  4. Samantha says

    Great post! I agree completely in that a company’s slogan should be short and sweet if they want it to stick in people’s minds. As you’ve stated, three word slogans really do the job right as they are both full of impact and memorable. Having a strong slogan can in many cases be the difference between drawing in a customer or not. Slogans have the power to attract customers and bring them to your business, so it’s important to make them simple yet memorable. Thanks for sharing!

  5. DC says

    Is there a best practice for completing the slogan with punctuation such as a period or exclamation mark? I frankly find a period can be a bit mentally distracting but do see many slogans with end punctuation…often a period.

  6. says

    There’s a funny science to the way 3 words come together and stay in our memory. Great refresher and thought this was well written. Thanks JD. It’s well covered in Talk Less, Say More by Connie Dieken. Picked up the audiobook for drive time and enjoyed it, funny enough the sub heading is 3 Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen, which I think tries to hit on the 3 rule but strays off a bit.

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