Sunday, September 21, 2008

Legos, Eggos, & Our Slogan Ethos…

The famous “L’Eggo my Eggo” has been Eggo’s only slogan since 1965. Through the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s it became a permanent addition to the colloquial lexicon of us all. Even if we don’t like the waffles, we’ve all said “L’Eggo my Eggo” in reference to something at some point in time. By 2005, it had propelled Kellogg’s Eggo frozen waffle brand to 65% market share. It is an example of how these platitudes with attitudes grab the products they represent and slingshot them into orbit like tiny satellites around our minds. They linger like voices in our heads, telling us to reach for one canned soup over another; scrub with this soap or that soap; spritz or spray on one cologne instead of another so women will act like buffoons trying to get a swatch of our clothing; or they convince us, against all logic, that our asses really do feel fresher with some particular toilet paper or other…

It seems everything has a catch phrase these days, one that attempts to burrow its way into our collective, social psyche. Pulling on us to believe its cryptic subtext and buy its message, or at least the product it claims to represent. Companies attach these slogans to their products so we will identify those products with their chosen phrase. But it is usually just a heaping helping of more corporate bullshit. So the result is that very few of these slogans honestly describe the product or the company they’re attached to.

Almost everything has one; restaurants, airlines, automakers, and banks; tool makers, toys, clothiers, and clothing lines; shoe makers, shoes; stores, and malls; furniture, electronics, appliances, and groceries; beers, bars, sodas, and office supplies; colleges, universities, pharmaceuticals, and blue chip stocks… The list goes on, and on, and on. But how many of us really stop to think about these slogans and what they tell us about what they purport to represent?

Let me take you on a journey down memory lane. Let me challenge you to recall the products and companies represented by these specious and sophistic sobriquets… and if you really want to get my point don’t go looking them all up before you torture yourself – do it as a last resort. Give yourself at least a day to wallow in the pain… Plus, it’ll be fun to roam around the house or office mumbling mottos and slogans under your breath as you try to jog the ole noggin, no?

So, how good are you? Can you name the company or product associated with each slogan? Lets begin with some easy ones to warm up the gray matter:

“Breakfast of Champions”
“Fly the Friendly Skies”
“Drivers Wanted”
“Oh What a Feeling!”
“Soup is Good Food”
“Good to the Last Drop”
“A Diamond is Forever.”
“The Quicker Picker Upper”
“We Answer to a Higher Authority”
“American By Birth. Rebel By Choice.”

Do you ever wonder why you can’t remember which side of your car the gas cap is on even though you’ve arguably seen it far more often than these slogans; yet these phrases, these unctuous little nuggets get lodged in our heads like squatters? You would never forget Secret’s “Strong Enough For a Man, But Made For a Woman,” but I bet you have forgotten to actually put on the deodorant, haven’t you? How do these slogans work on us so effectively? It’s not like they are all wonderfully phrased; or that they all roll off the tongue with the legato of poetry. Actually, some of them are downright awkward – I think awkward is exactly what Quiznos’ may have been shooting for with “M’m, m’m, m’m, m’m, m’m…toasty.” – good lord…

Now that you’re all warmed up from the neck up and feeling smart and saucy, try these on for size – a little tougher but not impossible:

“The One and Only”
“Leave the Driving to Us”
“You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers”
“99.44% Pure”
“Ring Around the Collar”
“We’ll Pick You Up”
“You are Now Free to Move About the Country”
”Never Let’em See you Sweat”
“Look Ma, No Cavities”
“Perfect”
“Just Imagine…”

You may have noticed that this second list has a very different feel to it. In the first list you might have found it easy to identify the product and company. In the second list you might have gotten an industry, but drew a blank as to which company or product. Interesting, huh? I thought so too… That last one in the second list means a lot to me. I grew up with it and I believe it embodies two of the should-be-rules of advertising: honesty and accuracy. Aren’t they something we should demand as consumers? Ok, so maybe some honesty is incidental, or at least accidental, but hey, it’s honesty – even if it is borne from deception… “Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux” comes to mind.

Here’s a list of slogans we all recognize, but will torture us until we look them up. They hang in our minds – familiar, but lacking specificity:

“Kid tested, Mother Approved”
“How do you eat yours?”
“You’ve come a long way baby!”
“Better Living Through Chemistry”
“Born from Jets”
“It’s All Inside”
“Thank you for your support”
“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”
“Quality in Everything We do”
“Good Taste is Easy to Recognize.”

It’s the tip-of-the-tongue nature of these slogans that make them work. They sit on our subconscious in stasis until we see the product on the shelf. Then, the slogan shoots into our conscious mind and we feel a rush of familiarity. Advertisers call it “confirmation and reaffirmation” – technical for “warm and fuzzy.” With this in mind, I challenge you with one last list. This one is for the older crowd and those who really want a challenge naming the products and companies they represent. See if you can cull them from your subconscious…

“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”
“When You’ve got it, Flaunt it”
“Always a Bridesmaid, but Never a Bride”
“Stronger Than Dirt”
“I Can’t believe I ate the whole thing”
“Does She, or Doesn’t She?”
“The Mark of a Man”
“Mama Mia, thatsa spicy meatball”
“We Will Sell No Wine Before Its Time”
“The Quality Goes In Before the Name Goes On”
“Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together.”

However well you did recalling the slogans in this post, the next time you find yourself humming one of these gems in a jingle, think about how corporate America has climbed inside your head – driven by their subliminal love of your money. Regardless of how paltry you think these slogans are, they do shape us in ways in which we are often unaware. How many products do we not sample due to advertising slogans – of others? Those products that may have become regular purchases or even favorites but are doomed into obsolescence because their slogan is less meretricious and brummagem than the competition’s slogan?

Personally, I think the American Dairy Association said it best when they told us to “Behold the power of Cheese!” – behold the cheese indeed!

5 comments:

  1. I actually remember a lot of these..I am particularly found of " We'll pick you up" as I am sure Sam will be too (haha). Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for challenging my slogan skills.

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  2. ha,ha... quality in everything we do. I know that one very well. On every stupid T-shirt, pen, pad of paper that I pick up. Thanks for the laugh!

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  3. Oh my gosh. My head hurts already. I'm not such a TV watcher now, but I watched more when I was younger. Well, memory fades with age, and no my brain hurts. Lol. More than the topic, I enjoyed the quality of the writing here. You really have a great style.

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  4. In recalling the slogans, one is 'product placing' in a sense :).

    A 'meme' effect comes to mind too.

    Interesting post, but I resisted recalling the products!

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