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Using a Slogan to Pick Up Readers

Posted on Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 10:47 AM

Developing an effective slogan that will reel in your target audience.

By William Dunkerley

A magazine publisher once told me about his plans for audience expansion. "I just need a catchy slogan," he explained. His expectation was that an attractive slogan would promote his brand and bring in many more subscribers.

I had to explain that, in all candor, the idea that all he needed was a clever slogan was quite naive. In my experience slogans don't sell subscriptions; strategies do. That's not to say a slogan can't play a role in an effective strategy. But before writing a clever slogan, it's important to decide upon a clever marketing strategy. That's what will sell subscriptions. The slogan should be a reflection of that marketing strategy.

The Psychology behind Slogans

An article titled "The Psychology of a Smart Slogan" published by Corporate-Eye.com gives an interesting insight into slogans. It explains that "a slogan is a phrase intended to capture the essence of the ideas connected to an organization. It is a short yet powerful way to present product features and benefits using only a few punchy words. The idea is for the slogan to make the consumers feel good when they read it. Slogans may seem to be nothing more than just another marketing approach; in actuality, however, a strong undercurrent of subconscious activity belies this seeming simplicity."

The article asserts that "slogans work (or don't work) due to 'priming.'" What is meant by "priming"? Psychology Today provides a technical definition: "Priming is a nonconscious form of human memory concerned with perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. For example, a person who sees the word 'yellow' will be slightly faster to recognize the word 'banana.' This happens because yellow and banana are closely associated in memory. Additionally, priming can also refer to a technique in psychology used to train a person's memory in both positive and negative ways."

Two Sample Slogans, Two Sample Strategies

With that all said, your slogan needs to be appropriate for the strategy that you seek to implement. To illustrate this, let's consider slogans used by two automobile manufacturers. The first car is the BMW, an upscale German auto that is very popular in the US.

The high-end BMW.

The other is the Škoda. Most STRAT readers will probably never have heard of it. This car was manufactured for decades in Czechoslovakia in a government-owned factory. It was a low-end, rear-engine car of questionable reliability that had a bad reputation.

The old low-end Škoda.

Later, in the Czech Republic, manufacturing was eventually privatized and a new, modern Škoda model was introduced. One could see the quality improvements just by looking at the car.

What slogans have been used by these disparate auto brands?

BMW has made good use of the slogan, "BMW, The Ultimate Driving Machine."

Škoda, to introduce its new model, successfully used the slogan, "It's a Škoda. Honest!"

These are two good slogans based on two good strategies.

Just to prove how well those slogans are wedded to their respective strategies, try reversing them: "It's a BMW. Honest!" This slogan seems to make no sense and would only confuse consumers. "Škoda, The Ultimate Driving Machine" would have sounded like somebody's idea of a joke.

Target Audience Strategy

So strategy is important. But what strategy should you use to gain more subscribers? To do this effectively, you really must know something about the kind of people you are trying to attract. What interests them? What are their needs for information?

Many publications seek to attract virtually anybody as a reader -- or, perhaps, to find more readers who resemble the characteristics of current readers. Such approaches may lead you astray, however.

The goal of any magazine that seeks to be profitable through advertising sales should be to attract readers who are qualified to become customers of your advertisers. The principal qualification is that they have the interest or need and the financial resources to buy what is advertised.

Your subscription marketing, therefore, should be targeted at that segment, your target audience. In developing a strategy and slogan, your first step should be to carefully identify the best target audience for your promotional efforts.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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