7 Famous Slogans of 20th Century

All world renowned companies that create fantastic products will have advertising campaigns that “wow”. The truth is consumers who are bombarded by information from everywhere, cannot remember all the advertisements and their content. It took me a long time to associate the pink shades-wearing, drum-beating Bunny with Eveready Energizer battery. I always confused it with Duracell. So what if Advertising Age listed the pink bunny as amongst the Top 10 Advertising Icons of the 20th century. It doesn’t work for me. Slogans do a better job in brand recall.

When I walk away from an advertisement, it should have successfully made me remember the brand promise with a conscious or unconscious inclination to take some future action. Otherwise, the advertisers are simply throwing their millions away. More often than not, the advertising slogan played a big part. Organically, a slogan is a statement of – promise, benefits, values, merit and solutions; about the product/service that the company is proud to uphold everywhere and anywhere. The purpose of an advertising slogan is therefore to leave a key brand message in the mind of its target market. You probably cannot remember all of the images, jingles, and content of the Coca-Cola advertisements. But, you retained the notion that Coca-Cola is the only real cola� existing on planet Earth. It’s the power of a successful advertising slogan at work.

A successful advertising slogan is endearingly memorable, becomes a worldwide icon and remains an all-time favorite, because it embraces more than one of the following powerful elements:

  • Brand is easily recalled
  • Key promise is easily understood and recognized
  • Differentiation with other competitors is profound
  • Exudes positive feeling thus impacting the consumer’s mindset that this is it
  • Brand personality is reflected in those short, few words
  • Originality, which impresses upon the consumer that the brand is a market leader
  • Simple to remember, simple to repeat
  • Here are 7 all-time favorite slogans that have weathered time and market tests, plus most of them have an interesting story to tell.

    Good to The Last Drop (1907)

    Maxwell CoffeeIn 1907, coffee merchant Joel Owsley Cheek learnt of President Roosevelt’s fondness for coffee. He set up a booth to display his special blend at a county fair at Nashville, Tennessee,to which Roosevelt will be visiting. Suffice to say, when Roosevelt walked by, he was offered one steaming cup. Legend has it that President Roosevelt turned to his entourage and declared the coffee was “good to the last drop”. This gives life to the Maxwell House brand and the slogan. Exactly 100 years on, the slogan lives on, delivering aroma, satisfaction and its brand’s promise to delighted consumers.

    A Diamond is Forever (1948)

    A Diamond is ForeverAdvertising Age lauded this slogan the Top 10 Slogans of the 20th Century. It is indeed one of the world’s most recognizable slogans. Written by Frances Gerety of N W Ayer in 1948 for De Beers Consolidated, he successfully conveyed the message that the diamond is synonymous with eternity and therefore, the definitive and ideal jewel to use to seal our endless love. Nowadays, people use the line everyday, quite oblivious that it originated from an advertising campaign.

    We’re No. 2. We Try Harder (1962)

    Developed by Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1962, this is considered by many advertising gurus as one of the greatest advertising slogans of the 20th century. The slogan captured the very essence of the Avis’ corporate belief, aspiration and culture. Avis demonstrated its commitment that they will work harder to prove to their clients that they are worth a try. Wouldn’t you like to support a determined underdog all out to satisfy your needs and wants? I would. Not surprisingly, the campaign successfully brought the company back into the black after many years in the red.

    Let Your Fingers Do The Walking (1962)

    Let Your Finger do the WalkingDeveloped by Geers Gross in 1962 for the business directory, Yellow Pages, this grand old dame of a slogan is still not retiring. In fact, a 2004 survey by Opinion Research Corporation concluded that 55% of the people still use Yellow Pages – both online and off – to seek out local merchants, compared to 12% who used Internet search. A classic slogan that’s still valid today. Relax at home to search through the Yellow Pages for what you want at your convenience. Don’t you prefer that to walking around, under the scotching sun?

    It’s the Real Thing (1969)

    It's the real thingThis is another hot slogan but, surprisingly, and not just in advertising circles. Human rightists were using the exact words when campaigning against the supposed brutality of Coca Cola against union workers since the late 1980s. Since Coca Cola’s inception in 1886, it has launched no less than 45 memorable advertising slogans. Still, “It’s the Real Thing” remains the hot favorite, and deservingly so. Not only does it fulfill the criteria listed above, the slogan insinuates that the other colas are mere “wannabes”, copycats at best. Don’t you prefer to be seen with the genuine one, rather than be seen with others?

    When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight (1982)

    Developed by Ally & Gargano in 1982, this slogan is no longer in use by FedEx Corporation but it is still been revered as one of the best. It is certainly a class above the recent “The World on Time”, which is vague and ambiguous. The 1982 classic was simply written, easily understood, totally appreciated by anyone desperately trying to rush out a parcel. FedEX set a gold standard in the courier industry which made its competitors play catch up. As a consumer, I sure like the 100%, certainty, guarantee and commitment in that short 9-word sentence, don’t you?

    Got Milk? (1993)

    Got Milk BeckhamCreated by Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993 to push cow’s milk sales, “Got Milk?”has evolved to be one of the strongest brand� in the US advertising history. Not only was the campaign credited with pumping up milk sales nationwide after a 20-year slump, it has turned a simple advertising campaign into an American icon. Do you know there is even an official “Got Milk?” website? Well, wouldn’t you like to have two words that capture the deepest essence of your entire business?

    A carefully crafted advertising slogan speaks volumes of the product’s brand values and promises, successfully. If a logo is a visual short-cut to the brand identity and persona, than the slogan must be the copy short-cut. William Shakespeare said, “When words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain”. It is exactly the same with a powerfully worded advertising slogan.

    (This article is also published at Helium)
    (Image source: “Maxewell Coffee” – AdClassix, “A diamond is forever” – The Advertising Archives), “It’s the Real Thing” – AdClassix)

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    25 Responses to 7 Famous Slogans of 20th Century

    1. msdanielle says:

      the got milk? ads have definitely had the most “copycat” ads in current times. i see “got…?” everywhere!

    2. vivienne says:

      Copycat companies will be labeled as “follow-me”, and therefore not be seen as market leaders.

    3. ben says:

      Hi Viviene,
      Thanks for your blog, I thoroughly enjoy reading them. They are very insightful. This is my first post here.

      I agree that slogans do work, but many companies fail to see the opportunity of reinforcing their brand promise. With regards to your top 7 slogans, I must say that the most successful companies are market leaders in their industry, ie, they’ve created a new brand category of their own. Being the first immensely contributes to a brand’s acceptance and success.

      Coca-cola: World’s first cola
      DeBeers: First international diamond manufacturer
      Yellowpages: First business directory
      FedEx: First overnight courier service
      Got milk?: First to suggest milk as a “cool” drink, using celebrity endorsements.

      Which brings me to Avis’ “We Try Harder” slogan. Avis was never first in the category of car rentals, which is why they had to use this slogan. It worked for a while, and the company was moderately successful. Hertz was the first, and until today, they remain the market leader in car rentals. Budget entered the market as the first budget car rental company and they have become way more profitable than Avis. Even Thrifty have overtaken Avis.

      My point is, although a company has a great slogan, a successful brand needs to be the first in their category or face the cold fact that they are a no.2 player in consumers’ minds.

      If you look at all the brands that have come up with are first in their category, most of them remain market leaders today. To be No.1 in a consumer’s mind is a very powerful thing indeed.

    4. vivienne says:

      Hi Ben

      Thanks for stopping by. It is very heartening that you like the blog.

      I do agree with you that advertising slogan, however clever it is, will not work if the company cannot perform to the satisfaction level of the clients. Branding should be seen as a reinforcement to product quality and customer service.

      I look forward to having more of your insightful comments soon. :)

    5. Ed Klein says:

      How do you best go about copywriting a slogan?
      Thanks.

    6. Hi Ed
      Thanks for the visit.

      We’ll look at the 1. brand promise (what is my promise to you, the customer), 2. brand deliverable (what can my product do to solve your problem?)and 3. brand philosophy (what is the overall belief system of the company).

      Fedex’s promise is it will deliver overnight no matter what. Dove delivers 1/4 moisturizing milk. Nike ask you to cast off your fear to just to it.

    7. Chris says:

      Successful products are direct results of good advertisements. When you think of a product or brand most of the time the jingle, slogan, or logo follows as well. I really enjoyed the analysis of popular slogans, I learned a lot about the history of popular advertisements today!

    8. Hi Chris
      Thanks :) Yes, jingles and icons are equally important. Perhaps I should write about them soon.

    9. Great blog – looks like you put alot of hard work researching that. I know because I did a similar one recently on 101 advertising slogans together with their ad agencies, clients and dates.

      I also threw in a story I’d heard about how an advertising agency got the British Rail account in the 1980′s to rescue their rather poor image, which was piece of creative genius in itself.

    10. My all time favorite is easily ‘WHERE’S THE BEEF!’

    11. I am amazing to the slogan of coca.

    12. Yes, Coca Cola’s slogan is worded amazingly simple but full of impact.

    13. thank you so much for sharing this information with us, it is pretty interesting.

    14. The “Got Milk?” slogan was the best one for me. It was a very strong campaign. It felt god knowing a lot of celebrities supported this campaign.

    15. Yes, still going strong to-date.

    16. Hi,
      I have enjoyed reading this article. I like the stories behind the slogans and the impressive slogan for me is “Its the real thing-coke” by coca cola.
      regards,

      Rabia

    17. Abbs says:

      These are awesome! I never knew most of these slogans were derived in these ways. They’ve become such a common thing that noone even knows their history. It’s good to see you ventured to answer these questions. I really appreciate you sharing this,

      Abbs

    18. Abbs says:

      I forgot to mention that the whole got milk thing was actually first in Argentina. I was there on vacation really long ago and it was huge there. Just thought I should point out the mistake.

      Thanks again,

      Abbs

      My website: Accounting Courses

    19. Hi Abbs
      Thanks – that’s something I got to check out. Didn’t know that.

    20. Ian Jones says:

      Rabia, Coca Cola’s slogan ‘It’s the real thing-coke’ is certainly hugely effective. However, clearly other factors must accompany a memorable tag line for an advertising campaign to be ultimately successful. Just think of the power of celebrity endorsements, and the hefty budgets that the advertising companies devote to them. Is the success of the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign solely attributable to its slogan, or more likely, is its power derived from the famous faces that appear in the adverts?

    21. Katie Lim says:

      Hi Vivienne,
      Are the top seven slogans of the 20th century a selection that you have put together yourself?
      Katie

    22. Hi Katie – I put up this list myself after reading the stories of how some of the logo came about. I took into consideration the longevity of the slogan, the relevancy of the line with the company, the product and the philosophy behind and of course, how well remembered these slogans are to the end-consumers. Hope you like the post.

    23. Troy Ounce says:

      I’m sitting here racking my brains to try to come up with some more but I think you have nailed the most famous ones. I can think of lots of “second-tier” slogans but these are the “super league”. What about Apple’s “Think Different”?

    24. Adam says:

      My favorite is “We’re No. 2. We Try Harder”

      It’s a great message. It shows they need to work harder to overtake #1.

      They should have better customer service than #1.

      They should keep striving to do better.

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