Gearside Design

The Best Self-Perpetuating Slogans

While the idea of “going viral” most commonly refers to videos online, it’s been around since the dawn of advertising. Self-perpetuation, or commonly known as word-of-mouth, is the strongest form of advertising, and the only form that can’t simply be bought or sold. The psychology behind this pushes the industry for innovation and creativity as it only awards the very best. Campaigns like Wieden+Kennedy’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” for Old Spice in 2010, and Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign in 1997 by McCann Erickson have both had their share of free publicity- from viral video sharing and jokes/email chains respectively. Websites like Youtube are vehicles for self-perpetuation, but videos aren’t the only things that can “grow legs”.

Slogans are a Pavlovian wet dream; conditioning people to connect a product through brief audible stimulus. A tightly coordinated phrase that is tied to a brand, and then repeated so often that the phrase will illicit visuals and subconscious promotion of that brand. Slogans, or taglines, are used very much like a logo, but where they propel that a logo can not is through verbal communication. The very best slogans are the ones that either hijack an everyday phrase into representing a brand, or creating a new phrase that becomes one people use in everyday communication.

At the very least, a great slogan must be both memorable and simple. There have been some incredibly creative slogans that fit these criteria. A personal favorite for raw creativity is Bud Light’s “Grab Some Buds”. It is effective with it’s double meaning, succinctness, and represents a fun atmosphere in only three words. While this is my favorite slogan, it does not fit my description for self-perpetuation; very rarely would people say the phrase in everyday conversation. Bud Light, however, has another slogan that does.

The three kings of self-perpetuating slogans.


Nike – “Just Do It”

While it may not slip into conversations as much as some of the others, it took a phrase that was rarely used and boosted it into one of the most well-known slogans in history. places this slogan as the fifth best of all time. The trademark was created in 1988 by the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy (the ones behind other great campaigns like Old Spice, mentioned above). The slogan alone is attributed to a 25% share increase for the company in the following decade and to this day remains recognizable to the brand.

NY Lottery – “Hey, you never know.”

To those who live in New York- how many times have you caught yourself saying this phrase? To those who live elsewhere, have you ever noticed yourself saying it too? The New York Lottery has come up with dozens of slogans, but none as effective as this one. The advertising agency DDB New York came up with the slogan and was put into use in 1991. Since then the Lotto has had it’s share of successful ad campaigns like its use of the Barenaked Ladies song “If I Had $1,000,000” which was effective due to it’s ability to get stuck in peoples’ heads, but their best tagline still represents the brand just as successfully as it did decades ago.

McDonald’s – “I’m lovin’ it”

The true champion of the viral slogan. This phrase is spoken daily by people who have been bombarded by the phrase or by others who have never originally heard it from McDonald’s campaign. Created by McDonald’s own agency in Unterhaching, Germany, Heye & Partner (who is a member of the DDB Worldwide Communications Group, Inc., who were behind the NY Lottery’s “Hey, you never know.” trademark). Launched in 2003, “I’m lovin’ it” was their first worldwide campaign and was translated into over 15 languages. While in 2008, McDonald’s began promoting a new slogan, “I’m lovin’ it” still places subconscious images of red with yellow arches when it slips into everyday conversation.

A few honorable mentions of slogans that are close, but haven’t quite reached the pinnacle as the above include Burger King’s “Have it your way” (originally from the 1970s), L’Oréal’s “Because your’re worth it” (from the 2000s), and Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be” (started in the late 1980s). While being incredible taglines, they are so close, and sometimes even come up in everyday conversation, but just aren’t in the same level of usage as the others.

I hope that super creative slogans are still the primary motive of agencies, and “viral-ity” seen as a bonus, because while they don’t have the spreading power of those above, they are still very effective trademarks, and that’s why taglines like FedEx’s 2009 slogan, “The world on time”, and Bud Light’s 2010 campaign of “Grab some Buds” will always be my favorites.

What are your favorite advertising slogans?