Joyce Bosc

COMMENTARY

Corporate slogans tell us plenty about today's market

You can tell a lot about a government contractor’s market positioning from their slogan. And that’s how it’s supposed to work. Slogans and taglines are meant to convey the company’s brand to customers and the market. The good ones communicate – at an emotional level – the company’s unique personality and presence. They are memorable and inspiring. The best ones stand the test of time.

Every year, Washington Technology publishes its Top 100ranking of the largest government contractors in the federal market. And since 2007, Boscobel has tracked those companies’ slogans and taglines to discover branding trends, what has changed and what hasn’t for the top-tier government contractors in the industry.

Here are five things we learned this year:

Use of Slogans is on the Upswing

Companies have been using slogans for well over a century, though their use has come in and out of favor depending on marketing trends of the times. For example, as digital media and marketing became more prevalent in recent years, many companies experimented with a series of shorter-term (one-year) advertising and marketing campaigns to tout their positions.

In fact:

  • In 2018, only 68 of the Top 100 actively used a slogan or tagline.
  • This year, that number increased to 86 – an18 percent increase in two years.
  • Over the past five years, 91 companies used a slogan at least once.

GovCons are Mission-Driven. (And they provide innovative solutions).

Since most government agencies describe themselves as mission focused, it makes sense that “mission” is the word that appears the most often (seven times) in the Top 100 slogans.

Other top words:

  • Innovation: used by six companies
  • Solutions: also used by six companies
  • Future: used four times

More and More, Less is More

The sweet spot for slogan length used to be six to eight words, but we’re seeing more three-, four- and five-word slogans in recent years. In our 24/7 digital culture, where we are all bombarded with multiple competing messages at all times, our attention spans are shorter than ever. Every word, each character counts.

No surprise, then, that of the 86 companies on the 2020 Top 100 list that have a tagline or slogan, 81 percent rely on just five or fewer words to get their point across:

  • 20 companies have slogans with five words
  • 21 use four words
  • 20 use just three words
  • 8 have two-word slogans, and
  • Only one company, IBM, has a one-word slogan: THINK

Sometimes, Things Change

It’s not unusual for companies to refresh their brand – their logos, color palettes, messaging platforms, and/or slogans or taglines. Company changes such as moving into a new market, a merger or acquisition or a shift in vision could prompt such an update.

Sixty-three of this year’s Top 100 Contractors were also on the list five years ago. Thirty-eight of those, or 60 percent, changed their slogan at least once in that time.

The biggest change in that time was Lockheed Martin. After decades of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars – or more – invested in its “We never forget who we’re working for®” tagline, the company very quietly changed its tagline. In the fall of 2018, Lockheed Martin started using, “Your mission is ours.®” Yes, that’s right. As if we didn’t already know it, Lockheed Martin is mission-focused, too.

Some Slogans Have Staying Power

What’s truly remarkable is when a tagline or slogan continues to work, year after year. From at least 2015 to 2020, eleven companies took an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to their slogans, including these:

  • Redefining Ingenuity (SAIC)
  • Experience the commitment® (CGI)
  • We serve today for a better tomorrow.™ (DynCorp)
  • Complex World, Clear Solutions™ (Tetra Tech)
  • Bold thinking to improve people’s lives (Abt Associates)

Then there’s CACI International. The company’s “Ever Vigilant” tagline has been in use since 2003! It still works because it is succinct, it’s memorable and “vigilance” successfully positions the company’s national security work as serious and vital.

A successful slogan demonstrates how a company’s products or solutions can truly improve the experiences of their potential government customers. 2020 Top 100 Government Contractor Slogans.

About the Author

Joyce Bosc (jbosc@boscobel.com) is president and chief executive officer of the public relations firm, Boscobel Marketing Communications.

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