Brands fighting to survive in an ever-changing world isn’t for the faint of heart. Getting customers and employees to rally around the brand’s purpose, promise, or vision is paramount if you want to win the war. In today’s noisy and cluttered world, having a battle cry of what your brand stands for can be a critical part of your tactical plan. A battle cry invokes patriotic and tribal sentiment, arousing an esprit de corps to elevate any brand above the competition. It can give employees a reason why they should come to work every day and care—at the same time, reinforcing the “why” the customers believe in your brand in the first place.
Throughout history, the battlefields cry intimidate and scare the hell out of the competition. It had to be loud, simple, and effective. The words ‘motto’ and ‘slogan’ came from the battle cry concept. So, as marketing and branding have evolved, the definition of a slogan, tagline, motto, and anthem have become blurred and synonyms with each other. New to the arsenal is the #hashtag.
My goal here isn’t to try to define each term, as they are interchangeable. Instead, my goal is to demonstrate how to effectively use a battle cry for different purposes to help a brand become triumphant.
Historically, these pithy cries were used to sign off a print ad, television, or radio commercial as the final brand message. In some cases, they were incorporated in the sonic/audio signature. However, as brands move away from the traditional advertising-centric marketing towards an interactive digital environment, the question must be asked are these mnemonic statements necessary? Today what is essential to the customer is for brands to be there in their lives when they want the brand on their terms. Thus, it’s less about what the brand says and more about what the brand does.
However, rallying customers and employees to a single idea, action, or thought is still relevant. Especially when consumers are starved of time. These pithy cries can be compelling even in a digital world where we are continually distracted. In many cases, these statements must be directly applicable and memorable to have any possible traction. Not dissimilar to a hashtag that has gone viral. In this fast and always-on society with the explosion of acronyms, we have stripped away the long-winded blather towards concise, powerful words loaded with meaning like MeToo, BLM, Brexit, and IceBucketChallenge. Now, hashtags have become an extension of the brand battle cry. Or, in some instances, the battle cry.
However, some brands, such as Starbucks, Whole Foods, Lululemon, and Nordstrom, have survived on the battlefield without ever shouting a battle cry. But more and more brands are turning to hashtags as taglines, such as Audi’s #DriveProgress, Kit Kat’s #haveabreak, or the epic #LikeAGirl campaign launched by Always feminine products in supporting the development of adolescent girl’s self-confidence. Here are six different ways to use a battle cry to help win the war.
1. Brand Pitch
Slogans as a sales pitch are an excellent way to create action from the customer. In many cases, these pitches are short-term campaign initiatives (at least that’s the intent). These pitches are focused on a potential customer, generally tied to a unique product characteristic or benefit with some urgency. Some of these messages naturally fit as a hashtag or end up as a musical jingle that can get stuck in our heads. Here are some examples of successful pitches.
2. Brand Promise
If a brand pitch becomes tremendously successful and captures the consumer’s psyche, it could become a long-term brand promise. A brand promise is a sales pitch that can endure time by consistently delivering on the promise. Successful brands have employees who strive to accomplish the brand promise every day for their customers. In essence, it becomes their battle cry. Here are some brand promises that have lived the test of time (in some cases for many decades).
3. Brand Vision
A brand vision cry is more profound and aspirational than a brand pitch or promise. Sometimes, this motto reminds the employees that a brand isn’t static as the performance bar constantly raises. These statements are developed closer to the C-suite, where the company’s vision is set. While these are more ambitious and forward-thinking, they are still relevant for customers today with the future in scope. Here are some examples of a brand vision that doesn’t change very often.
4. Brand Credentials
Sometimes brands need to spell out who they are and what they stand for, especially new brands with non-descriptive names and no awareness. Brand names that use a person’s name are an excellent example of requiring a descriptor until it becomes a legend. Then, the tagline becomes the subhead to explaining what the brand is or does. Generally, the industry or specialty is mentioned, including law, accounting, insurance, real estate, followed by a unique benefit. Otherwise, you can go pure descriptors like lawyers, advisors, consults, accountants, agents, etc. Here are some great examples of building a brand personality while still communicating who the brand is.
5. Brand Cult
The ultimate is when the brand has a defined tribe or cult-like following related to an esoteric anthem that acts as a password. It’s less about a call of action but more about how the brand will make loyal customers feel. It’s almost an affirmation of what makes the brand simpatico with its loyal followers—reaffirming the feelings and attitudes that the brand followers attribute to their brand experience. This is genuinely a battle cry that feels right for any customer to yell from a mountain top.
6. Brand Tags
In a mobile world of always ON, many brands use hashtags to entice consumer engagement in liking and sharing with promotional incentives. About 30 years ago, the first hash symbol appeared on the internet to help label groups and topics. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Stowe Boyd used the first hashtag in a blog post. Then in 2009, Twitter adopted the hashtag to help users search for specific organic topics, subjects, and/or groups.
Since then, hashtags have defined trends, movements, events, activities, people, or whatever you want to express as a handle. But hashtags can also be fun, humorous, and just plain silly. As a result, every social media channel has embraced the hashtag. Brands, politicians, influencers, reporters, like-minded tribes, celebrities, activists, and more have used the hashtag as their battle cry to create a platform, community, or infamy. Not surprisingly, many brands’ battle cries have turned into a hashtag or vice versa creating a physical and measurable community.
Our branding consumption has turned into a world of appetizers. We can only stomach bite-size pieces as we face over 5,000 branding messages a day. To survive this buffet of headlines, videos, commercials, social content, and hashtags, we gravitate to the sample pack. Brand battle cries have become a staple in this new world of overindulgence or part of a survival plan. Can a tagline, hashtag, slogan, motto, anthem, or battle cry make your brand famous? Maybe. It will depend on why and how you use it. If it is relevant and speaks to the end-user, it has the potential to build a unique bond forever.
Before a brand goes out on a battlefield, make sure it has all the latest weaponry to not only survive but thrive. A battle cry can be part of the arsenal to make an emotional connection or create an action of urgency. As brand communications evolve using images, pictures, videos, sound, animatic, emojis, and memes, the battle cry becomes more relevant in finding a place in the consumer’s busy mind. Words are powerful. Victorious battle cries must be simple, unique, memorable, likable, passionate, short, and sweet.
While the power of words continues to create lasting change, new tribes, and unique bonds, visual communications continue to grow in strength. Images, pictures, videos, infographics, GIFs, and animatics continue to increase in popularity thanks to social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Tik Tok. As a result, long-winded verbiage is dying, and the succinct battle cry is paramount to help win the war.