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An investigation into the style of the english language used in advertising slogans issued by some world - famous airlines

1.1 Rationale
Nowadays, in a developed world, thousands of new products and services are introduced
each day, which makes advertising become a real art - the art of informing and persuading
customers. Slogans can be considered the heart of advertisements wherever they appear.
Slogans are the most important and condensed messages advertisers would like to send to
their customers. Sharp and intelligent slogans can help advertisers leave unforgettable
impressions on their potential customers’ minds. However, creating a successful slogan is
never an easy task. The use of just a few words in a slogan proves to be harder than it
appears. It requires a sophisticated linguistic insight of phonology, lexicology, syntax as well
as semantics and pragmatics. Hence, the study on some successful slogans promises a lot of
interesting facts in the art of using language among advertisers.
On the other hand, what can be called a successful slogan is still a question. The answer
depends on the area of products and services the slogan is used for, the country or
geographical regions it is used in and maybe the population of its target customers.
Therefore, choosing one kind of products or services to study the slogans used in it should
bring more thorough and detailed results of aspects of language exploited.
The advertising slogans of some world-famous airlines are chosen to investigate in this study
for two main reasons. First of all, when the airlines can be called famous, they must be
successful in many aspects. They may provide services of elegant quality. Or they may have

a long history of building their own prestige and class. But one thing that can be ensured is
their successful advertising campaigns in which slogans play a vital part. The investigation
into those slogans will hopefully reveal interesting features in language used in slogans in
general and airline slogans in particular. Second, world-famous airlines have a wide scope of
activities with customers coming from all over the world and. Thus, the language they use
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must be of common values and highly appreciated by many customers. There is no case of
“accident slogans” which cause failure in advertising campaigns due to differences in
cultural values and perceptions.
1.2Aims and Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is to investigate the phonological, lexical, semantic and syntactic
features of airline advertising slogans. Basing on this, the study is hopefully aimed at
drawing out some hints for Vietnamese advertisers, especially in airline services, which may
help to improve their effectiveness and professionality.
1.3 Scope of the Study
• All the slogans investigated in this study are taken from the advertisements of world-
famous airlines, which include national airlines and the biggest ones of some developed
• In this study, syntactic, semantic, phonological, and lexical features of the slogans are
extensively discussed.
1.4Significance of the Study
The values of the study lie in both theoretical and practical aspects. Theoretically, the study
helps to find out linguistic features used in airlines slogans in particular and in our social life
in general. Practically, it helps to find out the effectiveness of those linguistic features when
applying to the act of advertising and hopefully suggests some ways of achieving great
impression on customers’ minds through the art of using words by advertisers.
1.5 Design of the study
The study consists of five chapters. Chapter 1, entitled “INTRODUCTION”, outlines the
background of the study. In this chapter, a brief account of relevant information is provided
about the rationale, aims, scopes, method, and design of the study.
Chapter 2, with the title “LITERATURE REVIEW”, can be considered a slight overview of
some previous researches on the same subject both in English and Vietnamese. At the same
time, it gives a theoretical background to this study with theoretical preliminaries directly
related to the investigation of English employed in airlines’ advertising slogans, namely
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discourse, context, genre, register as well as the definitions of advertising and advertising
Chapter 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY – refers to the researching approach of the study
and the method to collect and analyze the collected data to help the author achieve the best
results in the study.

Chapter 4 is called MAIN FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS, in which the author summarizes
her findings in the characteristics of the English language used in airlines’ advertising slogans
and also her conclusions on the percentage of slogans employing those characteristics.
The last chapter is Chapter 5 – CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS, which provides the
recapitulations, implications of the study to the creating process of advertising slogans in
general and airlines’ slogans in particular, and suggestions for further studies.
The study ends with the “BIBLIOGRAPHY”.
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2.1 Review of Previous Researches
Advertising activities in Vietnam can be considered young and inexperienced compared to
the long-built industry of advertising in the USA and European countries. This economic and
social fact has led to the difference in the quantity of researches on this field in Vietnam and
other countries.
As a result, there are quite a few researches which have been carried out in every aspect of
the same matter in English, many of which cover the features of advertising language. Some
famous titles that can be mentioned here are “English in advertising: A linguistic study of
advertising in Great Britain” by Geoffrey N.Leech (1996), “Advertising as communication”
by Gillian Dyer (1982), “English for sale: A study of the language of advertising” by Lars
Hermeren (1999), or “The discourse of advertising” by Guy Cook (2001). There are also
some researches which only focus on some certain features in advertising language. Typical
examples are “Selling America: Puns, language and adverting” by Michel Monnot (1982),
“Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising” by Char Forceville (1998). There are also some
contrastive studies which compare the advertising language in English and that in other
languages, e.g. “Advertising language: A pragmatic approach to advertisements in Britain
and Japan” by Keiko Tanaka (1994).
In Vietnam, some notable researches on the language of advertising include two PhD theses
done by Mai Xuan Huy (2001) on “Các đặc điểm của ngôn ngữ quảng cáo dưới ánh sáng
của lý thuyết giao tiếp” (Features of advertising language in the light of communicative
theory) and Ton Nu My Nhat (2005) in which she carried out a contrastive discourse
analysis of travel advertisements based on the theory of Functional Grammar.
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Besides, there are many articles on the matter of advertising language which are collected by
Nguyen Kien Truong in 2004 in a book called “Quảng cáo và ngôn ngữ quảng cáo:
(Advertising and the language of advertising).
Also, there are some MA theses carried out at institutional level. For example, in Vietnam
National University, Hanoi College of Foreign Languages, a thesis on advertising language
used in trade was studied by Hoang Thi Thuy in 2005 and another on “Presupposition and
Implicature in English and Vietnamese Advertising Slogans” by Tran Thien Tu in 2007.
All those books, articles and studies have revealed typical and very interesting features of
advertising language in general and slogans in particular.
2.2 Theoretical preliminaries as instruments employed for conducting the research
2.2.1 Discourse
Different linguists hold different points of view on what discourse is. Crystal (1992:25)
considers discourse as a continuous stretch of language larger than a sentence, often
contributing a coherent unit such as sermon, argument, joke or narrative. To Halliday and
Hasan (1985:3), discourse is functional language. This fact suggests that linguists need more
debates and discussion before an agreeable definition of discourse is made.
However, the following definition of discourse suggested by Guy Cook (1989:7) seems to
provide relatively sufficient information so that we can shape a clear image of discourse in
our minds:
“Discourse may be composed of one or more well-formed grammatical sentences – and
indeed it often is – but it does not have to be. It can have grammatical “mistakes” in it, and
often does.”
“Discourse can be anything from a grunt or single expletive, through short conversations
and scribbled notes right up to Tolstoy’s novel, WAR AND PEACE, or a lengthy legal case.
What matters is not its conformity to rules, but the fact that it communicates and is
recognized by its receivers as coherent.”
Basing on this definition, advertisements and advertising slogans are undeniably discourses
because they do communicate and they are recognized by their potential customers to be
coherent. This is because advertisements themselves are messages from manufacturers or
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service providers to their customers and slogans are those messages in the most concise
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2.2.2 Discourse Analysis Context
Guy Cook (1989:39) considered context as “knowledge of the world outside language”
which helps us to understand and use it to interpret the messages both in spoken and written
form. According to Nunan (1993: 10), “context refers to the situation giving rise to the
discourse and within which discourse is embedded”. From the two ways of defining context,
it can be concluded that context is something that we need to understand the discourse and
there is no discourse without context. Role of context in discourse analysis
Discourse analysis studies language in use: both written texts of all kinds and spoken data
from informal to formal speech and it also studies the language phenomena above the
sentence level that are influenced by contexts, social phenomena, social relationships as well
as cultural factors.
Hymes (1962) sees contexts as a limit of the range of possible interpretations, and on the
other hand, a supporter of the intended interpretation. He states as follows:
“The use of linguistic form identifies a range of meanings. A context can support a range of
meanings. When a form is used in a context, it eliminates the meanings possible to that
context other than those the form can signal; the context eliminates from consideration the
meanings possible in the form other than those the context can support. ”
(Hymes, 1962 quoted in Brown and Yules, 1983:38)
Hymes (1962) focuses on the features of context in which it is thought to be relevant to the
reading and interpretation of discourse. These features are mentioned by him:
1. Addresser and addressee
2. Audience
3. Topic
4. Setting
5. Channel
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6. Code
7. Message-form
8. Event
9. Key
10. Purpose Register
Different linguists give different concepts of register. Here are some of them:
“Register may be defined as the variety of a language used in particular situational
context”. (Halliday 1985:12)
Michael (1991:478) sees register from a different point of view. With him, “register reflects
the degree of technical specification in the language of economics, banking and finance,
international business, advertising, medicine, information technology and so forth.
Discourse register reflects the degree of formality of particular text by using a characteristic
set of lexical and grammatical features”.
Besides, Galperin (1977:319) suggests that , “a functional style of language is a system of
interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication”.
From different definitions of register above, it can be seen that registers of functional styles
are linguistic variations linked to specific occupations, professions, topics and so on to serve
a specific aim in communication.
2.2.3 Genre
The word “genre” comes from the French (originally Latin) word for “kind” or “class”. It
has been used in rhetoric, literary theory, media theory and linguistics to refer to a distinctive
type of text (a text in any mode). Since classical times literary works have been classified
under genres (poetry, prose, drama, etc.) with sub-genres, e.g. tragedy and comedy as sub-
genres of drama, and modern media routinely categorized into genres (e.g. film-trailers, or
TV programs – sitcom, game shows, etc.)
In the realm of language, linguists have put forward quite a few concepts of genre. Among
them, the following ones seem the most detailed and convincing.
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“A genre is a socially sanctioned type of communicative event, either spoken-like a sermon,
a joke, a lecture – or printed, like a press report, a novel, or a political manifesto”
(Kramsch, 1998:62)
“Genres are how things get done, when language is used to accomplish them. They range
them from literary to far from literary forms: poems, narratives, expositions, lectures,
seminars, recipes, manuals, appointment making, service encounters, news broadcast and so
on. The term “genre” is used here to embrace each of the linguistically realized activity
types which comprise so much of our culture”. (Martin, 1985:250)
It can be easily seen that linguists, though contradicting in their concepts of others, seem to
reach a relative agreement here as it can be concluded by Bhatia (1993 as cited in Holland
and Lewis 2000: 76), “genre is recognizable and mutually understood by the number of
professional or academic community in which it regularly occurs.”
2.2.4 Grice’s maxims
Grice (1975), in his book, makes an attempt to develop the inferential model into an
adequate explanatory account of communication. He suggests that communication is
governed by a cooperative principle and maxims of conversation.
Grice’s fundamental idea is that the communicators are trying to meet certain standards in
their conversation. From knowledge of these standards, observation of the communicator’s
behavior, and the context, it is possible to infer the communicator’s specific intention.
“Our talk exchanges…are characteristically, to some degree at least, cooperative efforts;
and each participant recognizes in them, to some extent, a common purpose or set of
purposes, or at least a mutually accepted direction…at each stage, some possible
conversational moves would be excluded as conversationally unsuitable.
We might then formulate a rough general principle which participants will be expected to
observe, namely: Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at
which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are
engaged.” (Grice, 1975:45)
This general principle, which was called “the cooperative principle”, is expected to be
followed by all speakers. Furthermore, the standards for conducting cooperative
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communication were claimed by Grice to be of several different types. Grice called these
standards maxims and grouped them under categories:
1. Make your contribution as informative as required (for the current purpose of the
2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required (Grice 1975: 45).
Supermaxim: Try to make your contribution one that is true.
1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
1. Be relevant.
and Manner,
1. Avoid obscurity of expression.
2. Avoid ambiguity.
3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
4. Be orderly.
2.2.5 Communication
It cannot be denied that communication plays a vital role in human life. Life could not
continue and thrive without people’s communication. In his work, Fiske (1990:51) defines
communication as social interaction through messages. It can be inferred that
communication appears in social contexts among people with messages to be transferred.
Here, he emphasizes that the messages are not only information but also relationship
between the speakers and the hearers. However, this definition seems too broad and blurred
in meaning.
According to Bovee and Thill (2000:57), communication can occur in various forms, written
or spoken, verbal or nonverbal, to show a process of sending and receiving messages. This
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concept has much to share with the definition given by Saundra Hybels and Richard L.
Weaver (1992:7) which says “communication is any process in which people share
information, ideas, and feelings. That process involves not only spoken or written word, but
also the body language, personal mannerism and style, the surroundings – anybody that
adds meanings to a message.” As seen from this definition, communication itself is an on-
going process with a lot of factors that help. Basing on particular situations, communicators
will choose to make use of some factors that are most useful and available in such cases to
make their messages understood.
Therefore, it can be concluded that communication process is made up of various elements in
which there are participants, messages, channels, feedback, noise and setting:
• Participants: the sender and receiver of the messages in both interpersonal and non-
interpersonal communication.
• Messages: including meanings, signs, symbols, encoding and decoding and form or
• Channels: the ways messages are sent.
• Feedback: the response of the receiver to the sender and vice-versa.
• Noise: it is interference that gets in the way of sharing meaning. There are 3 forms of
 External noises: They are sights, sounds and other stimuli that draw people’s
attention away from intended meaning.
 Internal noises: They are thoughts and feelings that interfere with meaning.
 Semantic noises: They are those that alternate meanings arisen certain symbols that
inhibit meaning. Also, meanings are dependent on your own experience, other people
may sometimes decode a word or phrase differently from the way you intended.
• Setting: It is the place where the communication occurs. This is an important factor and
has great influences on communication.
2.2.6 Advertising as a form of communication
Bui Thi Bich Thuy Page 11 Advertising
American Marketing Association (AMA) defines advertising as “the non-personal
communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about
products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media.”
It is due to its generalization that this definition is chosen by AMA. First of all, advertising is
non-personal communication in comparison with interpersonal communication in which
both speakers and hearers are there to interact with each other. Advertising is not aimed at
any individual, or by any individual. It’s a non-personal transmission of information aiming
at the public or a certain group of people. Because of the non-personal features of
advertising, the dissemination and operation of it should be restricted by the law of a
country, the moral standards and people’s psychology. The information, methods, media,
and other components of advertising should follow the advertising laws, policies and rules,
and should be under the supervision of the public. All of these components are mutual
features and essential elements of every advertisement.
Secondly, it is because of the money advertisers have to pay for their messages that the
language used in advertisements is always well-chosen and really meaningful. It can be said
that advertising language is a style of immediate impact and rapid persuasion. This must be
the result of many processes of writing, rewriting, testing, modifying and so forth.
Churchill, Jr. and Peter (1998: 142) confirm the above concept with their definition:
“Advertising is noted as any announcement or persuasive message placed in the mass media
in paid or donated time or space by an identified individual, company, or organization to
serve a number of audience about products and persuade or remind them of buying, to
convey information about the organization itself or issues important to the organization in
order to create or enhance perception of the quality or reliability of a product, thus
encouraging customer loyalty and repeat purchases”.
Therefore, advertising is, in its nature, a type of communication between advertisers and
customers. This process of getting advertising messages transferred is diagrammed in a
really appropriate way in the model that follows.
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(Hoang, T. & Nguyen, V.T. 2000)
It is clearly stated in the model that in advertising, the intended message never comes to the
receiver in a direct way. It is always decoded, which makes the message sound implicit.
There are two reasons for this implicitness of advertising messages. Firstly, as advertisers
have to pay for their advertising information, their messages must be decoded so that they
can convey as much as possible to the customers with the minimum number of words.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is strongly believed by copywriters that human beings
have an inborn ability to infer as it is noted by Geis (1982:46) that “Human beings are
‘inferencing’ creatures, trained to read into what is said as much as is consistent with the
literal meaning of what is said and the context in which it is said. ” Advertising Functions
It has been agreed by many market researchers that an advertisement should have four
functions, which can be generalized by four words: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
(1) Attention - a good advertisement should attract the consumer to direct their attention to
the product of it. To achieve this, advertisers always try to make their advertisements special
in some ways, even stupid and awkward. This is because striking things remain longer in
human minds than normal ones.
(2) Interest - the introduction and publicity of an advertisement should arouse consumers’
great interest. The interest may be caused by an eye-catching image, a pleasant jingle, a
funny advertising plot or a surprising slogan. When they are interested in the product
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Satisfy the
advertised, they will learn more about it. From this, the confidence in the product will be
gradually achieved.
(3) Desire - the publicity of advertising should stimulate consumers’ desire to buy the
product, and make them realize that this product is just what they want. Previously, most
advertisements aimed at promoting their products’ merits, which is called product-oriented.
However, there has been a shift of focus from product-oriented to audience-oriented, which
is primarily concerned with the needs and wants, the hopes and fears of the target audience.
(4) Action - the advertising makes consumers to response to the advertising information and
evokes them to take the action of purchasing. It is here that the topmost task of advertising is
fulfilled. Types of Advertising
The features of different kinds of advertisements should be taken into account if advertisers
want their messages to be effectively transferred to their customers. Different target audience
or product types require different methods of advertising from advertisers.
Different criteria can be used to classify advertisements. Geographically, there are local,
national and international advertisements. In terms of advertising medium, there are print
and electronic ones. Besides, as for their purposes, advertisements can be classified into
commercial and non-commercial categories. The former category includes Consumer
Advertising, Business Advertising, and Service Advertising. The latter can be called Public
Interest Advertising.
Consumer Advertising
Most television, radio, newspaper and magazine advertisements are consumer
advertisements. The consumer advertising includes alcoholic ads, cigarette ads, drink ads,
food ads, wear ads, cosmetic ads, automobile ads, home electric appliance ads, and other
products which are used and purchased by ordinary people. To this kind of advertisements,
most people have developed a kind of ambivalent psychology. On one hand, they are bored
with the endless advertisements hiding in the newspapers and magazines, clamoring on the
radio, or dazzling on the TV. On the other hand, they still need the information to guide their
purchasing. Therefore, to attract the consumers’ attention is the most important task for an
advertising copywriter.
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Business Advertising
Business advertising is often said to be invisible, because unless one is actively involved in
some business, he is unlikely to see it. The majority of consumer advertising appears in mass
consumer media. Business advertising, on the other hand, tends to be concentrated in
specialized business publications or a professional journal, in direct-mail pieces mailed to
business establishments, or in trade shows held for specific areas of business. Until recently,
business advertising was rarely seen in the mass media.
Service Advertising
Service advertising is actually part of consumer advertising and business advertising, since
consumer goods and industrial goods both include relevant service. However, due to its
intangible feature, service is advertised in a more imaginable way. Hence wording service
advertising is somewhat different from product advertising. Service advertising appears in
both mass consumer media and specialized business publication according to its different
target audience - consumer or people in business.
Public Interest Advertising
The general objective of public interest advertising is to inform, persuade, or remind people
about the particular idea, cause, or philosophy being advertised. This kind of advertising is
often used by non-business institutions, such as schools, hospitals and charitable
organizations. We also see advertising by associations or government organizations. Much
government advertising announces the availability of such valuable government services as
consumer assistance, welfare aid, or career guidance. Many state governments use
advertising to attract new businesses, tourists, or workers to aid their economy.
Because of the fact that public interest advertising is nonprofit, the words it uses are much
more different from the other 3 kinds of advertising. Its purpose is not to urge readers to
spend their money, but to disseminate a kind of concept or advocate a social ethic. Advertising Components
According to the definition of the advertising, most of the advertisements should have the
following components:
(1). Advertiser
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The advertiser is the sender of information and all the advertising activities should be
consistent with the purpose and willingness of the advertiser. The advertiser should be a
recognizable group, including corporation, enterprise, government, organization and
(2). Advertising Fee
The advertising fees are paid by the advertiser no matter it’s operated by itself or other
agency. Because advertising is a kind of marketing action, an advertiser has to pay for its
(3). Advertising Information
Advertising information is the principal contents an advertisement wants to disseminate.
Advertising is a series of planning actions, so the information of advertising should be aimed
at the certain target market and consumers, and should avoid aimlessness. The dissemination
of information should be accurate, definite, recognizable and moderate in length.
(4). Advertising Media
Media are the means of the dissemination of advertising, including newspaper, magazine,
broadcast, TV program, billboard and mail. The newspaper, magazine, broadcast and TV are
called the four main media of advertising. Moreover, any kind of objects or tools can be a
medium for the advertisement, such as airplane, train, bus, building, neon light, movie,
package, exhibition, and etc. Different kinds of media have different features, disseminating
area, target audience and speed.
Within the advertisement itself, the components are headline, body copy, slogan,
illustrations and colors, trademark, and brand name. These elements are named as visual
elements. Another kind of elements - audio elements are advertising commentary,
advertising music and advertising sounds. In these elements, headline, body copy and slogan
are the most important elements in an advertisement. In this study, I would like to pay more
attention to slogans, which carry the features of being explicit, refined and inflammatory. Features of Advertising Language
The language of advertising has been described as a “functional dialect” (Smith, 1982:190).
Holmes (2005:8) explains this term as “the product of a process whereby language is
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chosen and used for a particular purpose (hence, ‘functional’, and consequently becomes a
variety (hence, ‘dialect’) of its own because it becomes associated with this particular
The definition has stated that the language of advertising is somehow different from normal
language. Although advertisers always aim at being as close as possible to their customers,
the most striking difference between the two kinds of languages is that advertising language
is always well-planned in advance, and rarely random.
To achieve the functions of drawing the attention, building the interest and stimulating the
desire to buy the products among customers, the language used in advertising should be
impressive, credible and stimulated. Schrank (1996) points out some techniques commonly
used by advertisers in creating informative and persuasive advertisements.
The first technique employed is “the weasel claim”. Weasel words or claims are the words
used to say something, but actually they say the opposite or nothing at all. Common weasel
words are help, virtually, act, work, refresh, fight, tackle, strengthen, etc.
“”Leaves dishes virtually spotless” – …
The next technique introduced is “the unfinished claim” in which advertisers claim that their
products are better and have more of something but never finish their comparison.
“Fashion and more” – Triumph underwear
Another technique used by advertisers is called “We are different and unique”. The products
advertised here are claimed to be the best and special in some aspects.
Like.no.other – Sony
Think different – Apple computer
Some advertisers make their advertisements special by not stating anything special at all.
This technique is called “water is wet” in which the true and obvious characteristics of the
products are pointed out.
TV you can watch – Nick-at-Nite
In the technique called “So what claim”, an advantage of the product over other products of
the same type is stated.
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Television for women – Lifetime Television
A lot of meaningless words will be found in the advertisements using the technique called
“the vague claim” which encourages customers stretch out their imagination and ability of
inferring things.
If it’s one, it’s in – Radio Times
To make their messages sound credible and more persuasive, some advertisers use a
technique called “scientific or statistical claim” in which facts and figures are fully provided.
99 44/100% Pure – Ivory Soap
There is a fact that not all the time products are praised, sometimes it is the consumers. This
technique is called “Compliment the consumer”.
Nobody does it like you – Hoover Vacuum Cleaner
Using “Rhetorical question” is the last technique introduced by Schrank (1996). The
answers about the products’ merits will surely announced by the consumers themselves.
Want a better Internet? – AOL
2.2.6 Advertising Slogan as a part of an Advertisement Definition of a Slogan
The word slogan is derived from a Scottish Gaelic word sluagh-ghairm pronounced as
slogorm which used to mean battle-cry.
According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995), “a slogan is a short
easily-remembered phrase used by an advertiser, a politician, etc.”
Therefore, in general, a slogan is a memorable motto used in political, commercial, religious,
and other contexts as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose. In the particular case of
an advertising slogan, it is a verbal logo normally appearing just beneath or beside the brand
name or the logo of the product. A slogan is kind of a condensed message of the whole
advertisement which advertisers want their customers to remember most. It is the usual case
that slogans come to customers’ mind first when they think about the products.
In his book, Creative Advertising, Charles L. Whittier (1958: 11) says a slogan:
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