Some of the most successful slogans are the honest ones. A tagline that deceives or misleads can attract customers in the short term, but drive them away in the long term. It can also make life very difficult for the business that employs it.

Not Living Up To Your Slogans can be Deadly

A classic example of a dishonest tagline that came back to haunt the person who used it was President George H.W. Bush. In 1988, while running for President, Bush famously said: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” In 1990, Bush agreed to raise a number of federal taxes as part of a budget agreement with Congress. In 1992, Bush lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton.

He was hurt in part by his own slogan being used against him. Even though he technically did not create any new taxes, Bush signed off on a tax increase. The voters viewed Bush’s actions as imposing new taxes. He was hurt by a phrase that he could not live up to.

Some catchphrases don’t need the passage of time to be ineffective.  A great example of this would be Charlie Sheen’s slogan “Winning.”  What made that phrase so famous was how off-base it seemed.  The entire nation knew that Sheen was strung out, losing in his career and unable to manage a single positive relationship with ex-wives and multiple girlfriends.

Honesty Pays

A tagline either has to promise nothing or promise something that you can deliver. A classic McDonald’s slogan from 1971-1980 was “You deserve a break today.” This was a very successful slogan because it was offering something that the burger chain could easily deliver. Anybody can stop in McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat and a chance to break away from the hustle and bustle. The catchphrase was so successful, the burger giant revived it as “Have you had your break today?” in 1995.

McDonald’s taglines have been successful because they generally focus on an emotion or what the chain can actually do for its customers. They don’t make promises that the folks behind the counter cannot deliver.

A very negative impact from dishonest, misleading or misguided slogans is word of mouth. Disgruntled customers will be the first to use a slogan to demonstrate how hypocritical a company is. That can quickly undermine all your other marketing efforts.

Make sure that your slogan is honest and actually reflects what your business or product is. More importantly, make sure that it is promising customers something that you can actually deliver. A little honesty in slogan writing can save you a lot of grief and make life easier for everybody.