How I Saved Singapore Airlines
[from making a BIG mistake]
Singapore Airlines tells us it’s ”A great way to fly” with “the service even other airlines talk about.”
Both slogans, along with the Singapore Girl who graces every ad, go right back to the airline’s beginning.
But back around 1980, “the service even other airlines talk about” disappeared from their ads.
So I wrote a column for Media & Marketing magazine (Hong Kong’s equivalent of AdWeek) saying, in essence, that dropping that slogan was probably the dumbest thing Singapore Airlines had ever done.
Well, from my personal experience, SQ (the code for Singapore Airlines) is “A great way to fly.” But then, any airline could say that about itself—though if airlines like United or Areoflot used they’d be giving standup comedians an instant arsenal of new jokes.
But you don’t need ten fingers to count the number of airlines with the service even other airlines might talk about.
What’s more, in the decades Singapore Airlines has been using that slogan, no other airline CEO (or baggage handler, for that matter) has popped up and said: “That’s BS!”
Implying, by default, that other airlines do talk about SQ’s service.
And if SQ did not force its immediate competitors (British Airways and Qantas on SQ’s initial bread and butter, London-to-Sydney “kangaroo” route) to improve their service, what did?
To cut a long story short, not long after my column appeared “. . . with the service even other airlines talk about” was back in Singapore Airlines’ ads. And has been there ever since.
And—like Singapore Airlines itself—since no one has ever denied that my column had nothing to do with that revival, I’ll take the credit for saving Singapore Airlines from making a big mistake.
How To Make Your Slogan As Powerful As Singapore Airlines’
A great slogan (or ad headline) —
- must telegraph your USP
- must ring true
- must be validated by the customer’s experience, and
- must be unique to your product
“Unique” simply means: If you come up with a slogan any of your competitors could use just as easily as you, it’s not unique. Junk it.
Service isn’t SQ’s only strong point. It has a good safety record, a modern fleet, some unique flights (like Singapore-New York non-stop) and, often, lower fares.
But that’s not what you talk about when you get off the plane.
Either you feel good because the service was good. Or, as I thought once after getting off a trans-Pacific flight: “The last thing I want to is get on another United plane!”
In school and law courts they call it copying or plagiarism. In the real world it’s called “Market Research.”
See what other powerful slogans are out there and play with them. For example, adapting SQ’s slogan . . .
. . . for an investment newsletter:
“ . . .with the track record even other investment gurus talk about.”
But you’d better be a Warren Buffett, George Soros or Carl Icahn if you’re going to use that one (and if you were, why would you publish an investment newsletter?).
. . . for an Italian restaurant:
“ . . . with the pasta even Milanese chefs drool over.”
Customers better be stuffed but still drooling for more when they leave this restaurant.
. . . for a wholesale grocer:
“ . . . where 5-star hotels and restaurants get 5-star ingredients.”
You get the idea?
One word of warning: a lot of well-known slogans are, frankly, duh! Take Just Do It. You know it’s Nike’s, but that only because they’ve spent millions of dollars plastering it everywhere.
Just do what? Buy Nike shoes? Go jogging? Take a nap? Hard to say.
What does it tell you about Nike’s USP?
Sure, if you have got millions of dollars to spend you can take that route by all means.
But if you want a slogan or headline that grabs people by the short and curlies with just one glance, find ones that grab you that way and use them (creatively!) as inspiration.