ASB steps back to make its slogan one step ahead

‘Just do it’, ‘Sure to rise’ and ‘Finger lickin’ good’. Read over these slogans and you immediately know the brands behind them. Slogans, in any context, can immediately trigger brand recognition and all a company stands for.

ASB has recently reverted from its ‘Succeed on’ slogan back to its winning formula of ‘One step ahead’, used by the brand from 2000-2010 (there was a brief period inbetween where it went for ‘Creating Futures‘. General manager of marketing Shane Evans says the change came after the team took time to look into the brand’s position over the course of six months.

In the end, the decision was an obvious one, seeing as the slogan is still in the hearts and heads of their customers as well as staff. “Those three words kept popping up,” says Evans. “It’s still very much a part of who we are. It never really left us.”

However, this was not a decision taken lightly. The team researched other international brands, such as Avis and United Airlines, which have both blown the dust off previous slogans, with ‘We try harder’, which has served Avis for over 50 years, and the iconic ‘Fly the friendly skies’ for United Airlines.

“In 2016 the role of the brand has changed a lot,” says Evans. And with increasing access points to brands, slogans are no longer limited to ads and billboards. Banner ads in online advertising have created another home for slogans, however, they can become squished and too small to easily read.

‘One step ahead’ is not just about promoting how customers can get ahead with clever banking – it’s about affirming what people on both sides of the business believe. It’s a core organisational thought and galvanising idea that gives staff a clear sense of purpose to drive the bank’s future technology and innovation strategy.

Saatchi & Saatchi was involved throughout the slogan decision process and managing director Paul Wilson says the slogan reversal was purposeful. “As well as an external expression, it has been an internal motto that has guided and inspired their efforts for years,” he says. “It was a clear and conscious decision to bring back ‘One step ahead’ – because it best defines who ASB are and what they want to do for their customers.”

Managing director of TRA Andrew Lewis says the ASB slogan choice is “really brave” because not a lot of marketers are willing to unlock the past, but for ASB it makes sense. “‘One step ahead’ has a strong connection and still speaks relevance today.”

Slogans can contain rich emotional content, Lewis says, recalling Coco Pop’s ‘Tastes like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy’ slogan, and Saturday mornings watching cartoons wishing his parents would buy him the not-so-healthy cereal. Because of this, he says, slogans powerfully tap into emotions and memories over time.  

However, a slogan must also be a true representation of a brand to succeed. “I think they can be really important and part of the assets of a brand,” says Lewis. “It’s a powerful way of connecting a brand with an emotion, but it needs to be a cohesive story of what a brand is… In other cases it can be quite difficult to directly connect it.”

A lack of connection seems to be the cause for tension for the new catchphrase floated for Auckland. While the media’s focus on the slogan – and the price tag – was unfair as it was a whole rebranding project that has been in development for years, ‘The Place Desired by Many’ has stirred controversy. 

It’s just one of a string of creatively controversial city slogans. ‘Hamilton, more than you expect’ doesn’t really raise expectations, ‘Dunedin, it’s all right here’ settled for less (although it eventually settled on an ‘irony-free brand that doesn’t feature a slogan‘), ‘Foxton, the Fox Town’ wasn’t funny after a short while and ‘Right up my Hutt Valley’ was really pushing the creative limits. As Lewis suggests, some slogans “seem to aim for catchy-ness, not relevance” with interesting results.

For ASB and Saatchi & Saatchi, slogans serve a purpose for marketers and creative agencies. “Slogans or straplines help bring clarity and consistency to communications and give clear direction for agencies and marketing teams,” says Wilson. “But they are really only effective if they are rooted in a brand’s purpose. When it comes to ASB, theirs is much more than just a line, it’s a statement of intent.” 

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