Great slogans imply standards that have to be achieved if the slogan is to work

Mo Drake the creator of the “Beanz Meanz Heinz” slogan has died at the age of 92.

The key thing with a slogan is credibility. It mustn’t just be catchy, it must be capable of being seen to be true. “Beanz Meanz Heinz” did that. It confirmed what was entirely credible – that Heinz took the humble baked bean away from commodity status and made it special. And when you do that your customers will pay a premium price, or enough of them will be make it worthwhile.

In my Shell career I worked with a slogan that for me is up there with the best – “You can be sure of Shell”. My memory fades a bit but I think the slogan originated on posters in the 1920s. Post war Ogilvy and Mather, during David Ogilvy’s time, refined it and made it ubiquitous . For the slogan to have worked it had to be seen to be true. Not one word is wasted. “You” says that we serve our customer or partner (etc.). So it’s not about us but about your needs. “Can be” is assertive and certain. No ifs and buts. “Sure of” says rely upon. Again confident and unequivocal. “Shell” is the brand name – and there’s only one Shell.

Internally “You can be sure of Shell” was a challenging target. If something we were doing brought the certainty into question the slogan was a vital check. If for whatever reason Shell could not be relied upon (it happened!) then that had to be rectified or the slogan became a lie.

For Heinz they had to source the best beans and deliver them in a superior way. Taste tests had to give Heinz the edge. Otherwise Heinz would no longer mean Beans. The own label brands would drag them down to their level and price would be the only discriminator.

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