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Monday, October 13, 2014



Let’s get something straight at the outset: when we say “Campaign Line” we are talking about what some marketers call the “tagline,” “slogan,” or in some countries “strap line.” But we have always preferred to call this same component of a communication campaign the “Key Copy Words”—key because, of all the words a brand says in its communication idea, these are the most important ones…the ones above all others that we marketers want to stick in the customer’s or consumer’s mind (and sometimes, heart).


Further to the point, we have always believed that Key Copy Words must accomplish a number of key tasks in order to be as productive as possible: They must:


1.   Deliver the benefits –the ones consciously chosen by the Brand and Agency Team and specified in the Creative or Communication Brief;

2.  Transform that strategic language from the Brief into compelling, memorable “customer/consumer-speak”;

3.  Harmonize and fit beautifully with the Core Dramatization component of the Campaign Idea (that is, the words and pictures go together);

4.  Link with the Brand—some would even say that the Brand name should be included in the Key Copy Words;

5.  Call to action—after all, the first and most important objective of any communication investment is to drive a behavior…in order to then ultimately drive sales.


So important are the Key Copy Words that they should also serve as an instant bell-weather of potential campaign ideas when first presented by our agency colleagues. In other words, just by focusing initially on this set of key words that accompanies each idea, we marketers can get a helpful first impression of the strength of the overall idea. That’s why so many of us have been taught from early marketing experiences to start any communication idea assessment by “looking or listening” for the brand’s benefits in each set of Key Copy Words. We say looking or listening because benefit communication need not be literal—often the benefits are driven home or even implied by the clever turn of the creative phrase. But, for sure, if upon first presentation of a campaign idea one struggles to see or hear the brand’s strategic benefits (as specified in the Brief), some alarm bells ought to be going off in one’s brain: “This idea may be off strategy—or at a minimum, is going to need some work.”


One of the ways we like to improve our skills at assessing Key Copy Words is by simply reviewing a good many of the best-known ones over the years. You can easily google for “Best Ad Slogans of All-Time” or “Best Ad Campaigns” and quickly find any number of favorite lists. In doing this recently we were struck by something—something we hadn’t noticed in previous searches…namely, how rarely Key Copy Words are in the form of a question. Check it out for yourself. You’ll likely see lists with, say, the “Top 100 Ad Slogans of All-Time”; but if you count the number of those one hundred that are in the form of a question, you’ll typically find fewer than ten. You could say that such a finding is not all that surprising because marketers want their brands to make a statement, be direct, be clear, be positive…and, well, asking a question usually makes doing these things harder. Questions merely suggest something to the communication target, but we want to specify something to them—something that we want them to remember!


Still, if you think about that fifth thing that Key Copy Words must do—call to action, incite a behavior--there’s a lot to be said for asking the right question. First of all, a well-crafted question can instill a sense of FUD, or Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt in the target’s mind. Not a bad way to go when a brand is trying to encourage customers or consumers to think differently about a brand, or even about a category. Second, good questions can sometimes better lead to the desired behavior: after all, a question requires a response. Naturally, whenever a campaign idea goes with a set of Key Copy Words in the form of a question, it’s a good idea to follow the best practices of good lawyers: always know the answer you expect before you ask the question!   Finally, answering a question—particularly one that a customer or consumer has not been asked or even thought about much before—can be a satisfying thing: we all like to think we know answers to questions, and when we do we feel smart.


The point of all this is not to say that we need more questions in our communication Key Copy Words. Rather, the point is we and our creative teams ought to consider whether a well-wrought question might help us better achieve our behavioral objective. Whichever form our slogans, taglines, strap lines or Key Copy Words take, we really need them to accomplish those five key things mentioned up-front. But in fairness, since we see so few “best-ever” Key Copy Words in the form of a question, for this week’s Boats & Helicopters we have assembled our take of the “Top 10 KCW Questions of All-Time” (let us know if we’ve missed one).




1. “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everyone did?” (Dial Soap, 1953 to mid-1990’s. Yes, we know, that’s 2 questions in one set of KCW’s—one aimed at current users, the other inviting new users to join in.)


2. “Does she…or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” (Miss Clairol, 1956—okay, a question + a statement, but a set of KCW’s that accelerated category and Brand Clairol growth.)


3. “Is it true blondes have more fun?” (Lady Clairol, circa 1960)


4. “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” (Buick, 1966)


5. “Where’s the beef?” (Wendy’s, 1980—perhaps the most memorable question in decades…Clara Peller’s man-voice making fun of McDonald’s and Burger Kings “BIG” sandwiches—Big Mac and Whopper—with mostly condiments inside the buns.)


6. “got milk? (California Milk Processor’s Board, 1993—who doesn’t know this question exhorting consumers to make sure they always have plenty of milk on hand…and KCW’s for a commodity, not even a brand!)


7. “Ate you in good hands?” (All State Insurance, 2004. Actually, the brand began using “You’re in good hands with All State” in 1950; their Key Copy Words transformed into this question only ten years ago…likely to instill some of that FUD regarding those “other, can you really trust them?” insurers.)


8. “Hungry? Why wait?” (Snickers, 2006. Again, two questions but ones clearly owned by and directly linked to the brand: no confection brand owns hunger satisfaction like Snickers does.)


9.  Gatorade: Is it in you?” (Gatorade, 2006. What a clever way to deliver both the functional benefit of energy replenishment and the emotional benefit of feeling like a winner!)


10.“What’s in your wallet?” (CapitalOne, 2005. Similar to All State’s question, this one asks consumers to consider—or to reconsider—if they have the best brand in their hands.)


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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