31 Jan 2010 9:59 pm   //   Filed under: No right to be good, TV commericals

The best tagline in advertising

Michelin. Because so much is riding on your tires.

That slogan has been drilled into our brains repeatedly since 1985, when ad agency DDB created it. It’s poetry in a tire commercial. Why is it so good? Six reasons.

1. It takes a totally boring product and invents an emotional benefit. What’s riding on your tires? First, the safety of you and your passengers. Secondarily, your job, your social life, and any other reason you need reliable transportation.

2. It’s good writing. The slogan is concise and easy to understand. It has a rhythm that naturally emphasizes the important words so much.

3. It contains a pun that isn’t a groaner.

4. It lends itself to charming commercials involving adorable babies.

5. It’s perfectly suited for the product it’s selling. Tires are mysterious. We only buy them every couple of years, and a layman can’t tell the difference between a good tire and a cheap one. But if you convince us, through repetition of a catchy slogan, that your brand-name tires are better than the cheapo brand, we just might buy them.

6. It contains an implied threat. “If you don’t buy our tires, your children will die and you will live out the rest of your days wracked with guilt, you pathetic cheapskate.” Said with a smile!

Now, here’s the crazy thing. Michelin doesn’t even use this tagline any more. They haven’t for years.

The company’s current slogan is “A better way forward.” Not only is it totally unmemorable, it could represent anything. It’s just a shade away from Toyota (“Moving forward”), or the Wisconsin state motto (“Forward”). Presumably, the new slogan is meant to signify that the company is about more than tires, and to make its products appeal to customers beyond just families with children.

Thing is, I’m a single adult with no kids and no car. I have no interest in tires. But I can’t get “so much is riding on your tires” out of my head. I have a positive opinion of the Michelin company based almost entirely on that old slogan. (OK, and its much-celebrated travel guides.)

It’s a hard thing to get right. But when it’s right, advertising works.