The brand line surgery

The new Stella Artois slogan ‘Be legacy’ is the latest example of a trend for hashtag-driven brand lines that make no sense. But there is a way to fix them.

Many brands have straplines that make no sense. This is not a new observation.

The habit of turning nouns into adjectives or vice versa is long-established. Sky has spent years telling us to believe in a comparative adjective. BUPA gave copywriters a heart attack in 2011 by promising to help us ‘find healthy’. And Adidas announced ‘Impossible is nothing’ in 2004 – grammatically as meaningful as ‘Improbable is trousers’.

To be fair, there’s a valid reason for brand lines to be ungrammatical. Their job is to disrupt language and therefore become jagged and memorable – look at ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’.

But if all slogans are disrupting language in exactly the same way, by nouning verbs and verbing nouns, you know a certain groupthink has set in. And that’s the opposite of disruptive – it’s mindlessly conventional.

A fetish for hashtags is largely to blame, driving brands to try to capture ‘big’ thoughts in a few characters, and usually saying nothing as a result – all in the semi-mystical belief that it will inspire customers to join in a conversation.

Things have come to a head with the new Stella Artois brand line – ‘Be legacy’ – a line that ignores the legacy of a brand that used to have one of the most distinctive slogans around in ‘Reassuringly expensive’.

Fortunately, there is a quick fix for all this. The most high-profile cases of formulaically weird brand lines (listed above) can be put right with some straightforward cutting and pasting. The efficiency of this approach is that it is not necessary to write any new lines or use any extra words. Just swap the words between the brands and everyone gets a better outcome.

Trainline
So Trainline gets a line that makes sense.

Expedia
Similarly, this line makes me more interested in Expedia.

Sky
Sky cuts to the chase in a way that I suspect would appeal to its owner.

Rightmove
Rightmove continues to overclaim, but at least this is a sensible and cheerful instruction for people moving house.

BUPA
BUPA emphasises the positive outcome and puts the focus on the customer.

Adidas
This is still a clichéd sentiment, but putting it in weird English doesn’t stop it being a clichéd sentiment, however much you’d like it to. (This is part of the thinking with a lot of these straplines – it’s about making a boring thought sound new.)

Charmin
I like this. It sets an appropriately charming tone for the brand. No need to go into the details of what the toilet roll brand does – just enjoy it.

Stella
Admittedly, this one is still bollocks. But it kind of makes sense – the legacy being something integral to the product itself. Sort of.

CocaCola
This sounds slightly menacing, but you could make a nice anthemic jingle out of it.

Lenovo
And finally Lenovo gets nothing. I don’t know what Lenovo stands for, and I doubt they do either. So maybe just embrace that. No brand really owns that nihilistic territory.

As I say, all of this only involves swapping existing words between the brands in question, so it is easy to implement. Signage and other collateral can be sliced up and rearranged without any extra print costs. At the very least, this is a sensible holding strategy while people think of new lines.

Alternatively, people on Twitter have already ‘joined the conversation’ by suggesting variations on Stella’s ‘Be Legacy’. So far, they include ‘Be legless’, ‘Be er’ and ‘Be at wife’.

Nick Asbury is a writer for branding and design and one half of creative partnership, Asbury & Asbury. This post originally appeared at asburyandasbury.typepad.com

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