More than words: A psycholinguistic perspective on the properties of effective brand slogans

Brady Hodges, Caleb Warren, Zachary Estes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Slogans help define a brand's identity and strengthen its positioning. Firms across the world spend millions of dollars each year creating and communicating slogans, such as "The Ultimate Driving Machine," "What's in your Wallet?," and "Like a Good Neighbor⋯" (Edwards 2011). Surprisingly, despite the ubiquity of slogans in today's marketplace, there is little consensus on what makes for a "good" slogan. (Bradley and Meeds 2002; Dass, Kohli, Kumar, and Thomas 2014; Kohli, Leuthesser, and Suri 2007; Kohli, Thomas, and Suri 2013; Lagerwerf 2002). We attempt to improve understanding of what makes slogans effective by drawing on the rich literature in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. Specifically, we draw on evidence that the lexical, semantic, and emotional properties of individual words influence both memory and perceptions (Cortese, Khanna, and Hacker 2010; Kensinger and Corkin 2003). Whereas previous studies have focused largely on exploring the effectiveness of slogans at the composite level, we investigate what constitutes an effective slogan by examining the linguistic characteristics of each of the discrete words in the slogan. This approach has the unique potential to advance the literature by unearthing key insights into the distinctive word properties of the most effective slogans, offer practical advice into optimal word-choice strategies, and deliver some actionable tools for a manager's slogan design toolbox. Effective slogans should increase brand awareness and strengthen brand attitude (Keller 1993). Because memory for marketing communications influences brand awareness, we investigate how the lin-guistic properties of a slogan's words influence slogan recognition. Additionally, because the extent to which consumers like a marketing communication directly and indirectly influences brand attitudes (MacKenzie, Lutz, and Belch 1986; Mtchell and Olson 1991), we further investigate how consumers' liking of slogans is influenced by the linguistic properties of a slogan's words. These constitute our dependent variables in the analysis (i.e., slogan recognition and slogan liking) for which we postulate and test seven hypotheses concerning the influence of eight distinct psycholinguistic variables. Citing dual process theory (Evans 2003), we hypothesize that the psycholinguistic properties of slogans that serve to increase processing fluency will increase liking, but simultaneously reduce recognition, and vice versa. This would have significant managerial implications for slogan design. More specifically, slogans employing words that require more effortful system 2 processing should be more easily recognized, but at the expense of reduced liking. The reverse should be true for slogans dense in words that facilitate a more fluent system 1 processing. The underlying nature of this dual-process account serves as the key theoretical basis for each of the following hypotheses. Hypothesis 1a,b: (a) Slogans with a greater number of words will be recognized more, (b) but liked less. Hypothesis 2 a,b: (a) Slogans dense in high-frequency words will be recognized less, (b) but liked more. Hypothesis 3a,b: (a) Slogans dense in orthographically dissimilar words will be recognized less, (b) but liked more. Hypothesis 4a,b: (a)Slogans dense in concrete words will be recognized more, (b) but liked less. Hypothesis 5a,b: (a) Slogans dense in words acquired at a young age will be recognized less, (b) but liked more. Hypothesis 6a,b: (a) Slogans with the brand name included will be recognized more, (b) but liked less. Hypothesis 7a,b: (a) Slogans dense in positively valenced and arousing words will be recognized more, (b) and liked more.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-479
Number of pages2
JournalAdvances in Consumer Research
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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