Laws of Marketing

December 9, 2008

Use a Catch-phrase to Make Your Sales Catch Fire

By Geoffery Moore

Imagine a guy who tries to build a fire in his fireplace. He puts in newspaper, kindling, stacks the logs—but there’s no fire. Why? No spark.

Does this describe your marketing? You may have all the elements of a marketing campaign—ads, Web site, direct mail, etc.—but somehow it’s not catching fire. Maybe the only thing missing…is a spark.

Today’s law is: your advertising campaign needs a spark, a big idea, something that makes it catch on and catch fire in peoples’ minds.

Create a spark with a catch-phrase.

One way to create such a spark is with a catch-phrase. A catch-phrase sums up your selling message in a very few, catchy words that can be repeated everywhere and easily remembered. Remember these?

Verizon ran a very successful campaign which featured an employee going from place to place testing his cell phone reception, repeating:
Can you hear me now? Good?

The American Dairy Council had a huge success with their campaign based on a simple, often-imitated, two-word catch-phrase: Got milk?

Some phrases stick in the memory for years. Anyone who was around in the ‘70s probably remembers Pop, Pop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is—a brilliant catch-phrase that was worth millions to Alka Seltzer.

Such a catch-phrase—if it is effective—can spread like a grass fire through your target market. It can help you spark more interest and ignite more sales.
But not any phrase will do. Many catch-phrases I see are bland, boring, predictable and forgettable. They don’t get noticed or remembered. Other phrases are only clever word-plays. People don’t call you because you’re clever.

So what makes for an effective catch-phrase?

Glad plastic wrap has been using the phrase, Don’t get mad, get Glad, for over 20 years. Let’s look at some of the reasons why it works so well.

Conversational. Because it’s a fresh twist on a phrase we already know from everyday life (“Don’t get mad, get even�), it’s catchy and easy to remember.

Name recognition. The rhyme helps to stick the name of the product in people’s minds, so they’ll remember it when they are in the store.

Benefit. This phrase is not merely clever, it sells a benefit, the reason to choose Glad—so you can avoid the frustration of cheap plastic wraps that don’t stick. We relate to this story and understand the problem and the solution in five words: Don’t Get Mad, Get Glad.

I developed a similar catch-phrase for TLC Heating & Air Conditioning. On their trucks, in ads, and in other places, we featured the photo of a woman (who looked like a typical customer) saying:

This line is conversational; it’s a twist on a phrase we’re familiar with in everyday life (“That works for me!). It uses rhyme to stick the company name in peoples’ minds. And it sells the benefit: the idea that TLC will work hard for its customers, which they do.

If you’re advertising is not catching fire like it should, explore the possibility of developing a strong, memorable catch-phrase and incorporating it into your truck design and all your advertising. It’ll help you cut through the jungle.


LAWS OF THE MARKETING JUNGLE is written by Geoffery Moore, president of Geoffery Moore Marketing, which has created advertising both for big corporations on Madison Avenue and for dozens of smaller businesses and contractors. Geoffery is the author of Think Like a Customer to Market Like a Genius.

FREE MARKETING ADVICE. If you want to talk with Geoffery about how to make your advertising work harder, call him at 800-757-3049, email him a question at: or check out his Website:
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