Marketing Slogans are for Lovers

The development and use of a great Marketing slogan is a long lost art. And a key to effectively building your brand equity. Yet, I see so many weak slogans these days that seeing or hearing a really great one has a way of reminding you of the astonishing power of a simple idea, well articulated.

One of the things I remember most about driving to and from the Darden School at UVA back in the early 80’s is, strangely enough, the state’s marketing slogan: “Virginia is for lovers.” Growing up in east Tennessee, I would frequently see cars buzzing up and down I-40 and I-81 with the provocative slogan emblazoned on their back bumpers. I’m sure you too have seen or heard the line, and no doubt, have never forgotten it.

Virginia is for Lovers Marketing Slogan

Virginia is for Lovers Marketing Slogan

Created 40 years ago this year, it’s a great example of a marketing slogan that really works.  For more examples of great advertising and slogans, check out the monthly Ads of the World winners. Strangely enough, “Virginia is for Lovers” wasn’t the original slogan–the more clunky (and much less powerful) “Virginia is for history lovers” gradually evolved into the final line. Driven primarily by bumper sticker advertising–who can forget the white font and red heart–it embodies several things that are common to all great slogans.

First, it has a clear target–lovers. What a truly original way of personalizing a state for everyone. Whoever wrote the line was a genius, because the line isn’t primarily about the place, it’s about who we want to be. It’s aspirational. Who isn’t, or doesn’t want to be, a “lover?” This marketing slogan speaks to everyone.

Second, there’s a clear benefit:  If Virginia is for lovers, it’s for people who are, or want to be, in love. Who wouldn’t want this ? And importantly, anyone who has spent time in the state knows that Virginia does, in fact, have a dreamy feel to the place. So, it’s entirely plausible: Virginia really is for lovers.

Third, the slogan is provocative. New Jersey is the “Garden State.” Ohio is “So much to discover.” A state for lovers is in a category and space all its own. It has stopping power. It makes you stop and think.

Lastly, it’s memorable. How many of us, if asked, wouldn’t know the state’s marketing slogan ? Try this test at home: “_______ is for lovers.” Amazingly, most of the “marketing” that I recall for Virginia is from automobile bumper stickers. Who needs new media when you have a great idea ?

There’s something else that’s important here–durability and longevity. Check out the list of U.S. state marketing slogans. Notice how most states have multiple ideas that change over time? Notice how Virginia only has one? I have to give a lot of credit to Virginia for sticking with it. Marketers spend every waking minute thinking about their brand, their value proposition, and how it’s being articulated and communicated in their marketing plans. They swim in their own marketing ideas and often forget that their brand is nothing more than a millisecond of thought in the mind of the average consumer. And thus, they tend to tire of a good idea way before consumers do.

So the folks in Virginia should be applauded. They have a great marketing slogan that communicates their state benefit in a compelling, provocative and memorable way. And they haven’t walked away from it. But don’t just take my word for it. In the year the slogan was introduced, Virginia travelers spent only $800 million vs. $14+ billion in 2004. 

Why can’t all Marketers be as inventive, disciplined and impactful ? Great marketing slogans are for lovers.


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