Copyranter: On terrible taglines

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 10 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 20-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.

The Great American Tagline was already brain dead when Nike pulled the plug three years ago by insanely killing “Just Do It” as its universal worldwide brand statement.

This is what Nike’s “vice president of digital sport,” Stefan Olander, said at the time about why it decided to scrap the one of the most successful and most profitable taglines in advertising history: “People now demand us not to say, ‘Just do it.’ They say, ‘Help me just do it,’” ‘Enable me to just do it.’”

NIKE: WE’LL HELP YOU JUST DO IT. Aw. Here’s your Nike brand baby blankie Gen Y, don’t stub a toesie climbing into your cribs.

Companies no longer do the hard work of building campaigns around a great tagline anymore because — digital gurus tell us — fast-moving ever-changing brands need to be flexible. Which is a total bullshit reason. It’s because everybody involved is now as lazy as your average mega agency executive creative director; speed of turnaround does not equal hard work.

But the tagline itself is not quite dead. Many big brands still tie off their ads with statements — meaningless, idiotic statements. Here’re just a few of the worst:

Brands telling us slack-jawed consumers what ‘matters’


Mazda opts for, not selling Mazda, but selling the process of “driving.” Let’s say you need to get to work. Let’s say you also own/lease a car. Let’s say your job is seven miles away. Your options are: 1. Walk 2. Call a cab 3, Drive your car 4. Hitchhike 5. Bike (if you also own bike). The best option for many people is 3, thus proving Mazda’s tagline.

Verizon’s tagline is fresh out of the Wieden & Kennedy idea factory. Raise you hand if you agree that “better matters.” Good consumer! Now watch one of the puzzlingly stupid ads from the new campaign.

SEE? BIGGER DOOR = BETTER. It’s a physics lesson for preschoolers — the wireless purchase deciders in most modern householders. How about “better” customer service, you idiots? Can you hear me now?

Related two-word tagline terribleness: Time Warner Cable commands you joyless robotic screen watchers to ENJOY BETTER.

Inside a Nissan corporate conference room, circa 2012


Head of Engineering: They’re innovative.
CMO: They’re exciting!
Head of Engineering: INNOVATIVE!
CEO: (turning to TBWA executive creative director): Little help?
TBWA ECD (scribbling furiously): Uh, Exciting Innovation…Innovated Excitement…Excite-ovated…uh…Incite Something…Innovation That Excites?

Remember Subaru’s tagline in the 1970s? “Inexpensive. And Built To Stay That Way.” That was a good car slogan, one of the last good car slogans. Volvo’s “Drive Safely” also comes to mind. And that’s pretty much it.

We are the vodka for exceptionally unremarkable people.


The strategy here by the Diageo brand is to make every person on planet earth feel special for drinking Smirnoff. Or, another reading of this contradictory line is that the brand is perfect for absolutely nobody. The only sure thing about the slogan is that it makes one’s head hurt.

This is a great tagline for all the spree killers of the last 20+ years.


That’s it, just stop caring/trying altogether. Alternately, “Because Fuck You.”

NOTE: McDonald’s perpetually annoying “I’m Lovin’ It” and Coke’s bullshit “Open Happiness” also, of course, belong here. As does every stupidly arrogant iPhone tagline.

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