Something that even some of the biggest and most sophisticated advertisers and marketers often forget is that a slogan is, on some level, a promise. Many slogans are making promises to customers, and if what is promised cannot be delivered, the business’s reputation will be damaged.

A classic example of this was the old Walmart tagline “Always the low price. Always.” The problem with this is that it is not possible for any retailer, even a giant chain like Walmart, to always deliver the lowest prices. Competitors can and will undercut you. There is no way anybody can know what anything is selling for at any given time.

Another problem with this is that there are many price factors behind a retailer’s control: transportation costs, the price of raw materials, labor costs, taxes, etc. At some point, the price would fall so low that the chain could not live up to its promise. If a competitor found a way to offer a price Walmart could not match, it would either have to take losses or change its tagline. The discount giant eventually dropped that slogan.

A Slogan that Led to Disaster

Starting in 1973, the Domino’s Pizza chain began claiming that it would deliver pizzas within 30 minutes or they would be free. The problem with this was that to comply with the implied promise, Domino’s drivers had to drive recklessly and dangerously. In 1992, an Indiana woman was killed by a Domino’s driver, and her family won a $2.8 million lawsuit against the company. In 1993, a woman who was injured by a Domino’s driver was awarded $80 million by a jury.

Not surprisingly, Domino’s dropped the guarantee and slogans related to it. The company could not live up to its promises, and worse, was damaging its reputation and losing money by doing so.

Promises and Slogan

The reason why many catchphrases are virtually meaningless is that the companies behind them are trying not to make any sort of promise. A cute, funny or memorable statement that makes no promises will get an advertiser’s name out there without making any obligations or promises to customers. Walmart switched from “Always the low price. Always” to “Save money, live better.” That wording made no specific promises to customers.

Some of the best catchphrases of all time make no real promises to customers. McDonald’s classic “You deserve a break today” is a prime example of this. It is simple and easy to remember, but it makes no promise. The company will have to spend no money to deliver what it promises, and its employees will not have to do anything to live up to it.