The problem with a tagline that depends on an ad campaign to make sense.

Smaller businesses that can’t afford to support a sustained ad campaign need to be sure that their tagline doesn’t depend on such a campaign to invest the tagline with meaning.

Case and point: Buddig. For those who may not be familiar with this brand, Buddig is known primarily for it plastic bags of thinly sliced, pressed meat. It is a “value brand” and has been a main stay of people on limited budgets for decades, perhaps a notch or two up from Ramen noodles. In my mind it occupies a space shared by Hormel, Underwood, Velveeta, Banquet and the like.

Full disclosure: I worked on projects for Buddig for several years maybe 20 years ago. I wrote headlines for FSIs (free standing inserts—those slippery sheets that fall out of the Sunday paper with coupons on them). I was also enlisted to write them a tagline at one point, although the client dictated three of the words that had to be included in the tagline—quality, taste and value. This kind of tied my hands, as you might imagine. The best I could do with that fatal constraint was the tagline they finally bought and kept for a few years:

Budding. Where quality, taste and value all meat.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least I had snuck in two meanings of the phrase “all meat”, so that was something. Or so I told myself.

There was a moment in time when the client decided to revisit television advertising, something they had dabbled in off and on in the past, with unsatisfactory results.

Unfortunately, being a relatively small company, their budget for producing and running even just one TV spot was as lean as their meat.

I was essentially handed over this assignment, since Buddig’s agency of record had no experience in TV advertising and I was freelancing for them.

We decided to create a :15 spot to save a little on media costs. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the client to commit to a benefit, a point of difference or anything, really, about their product. I had nothing to hang the brand’s hat on. So I went for humor, which is always the best option in circumstances such as I faced.

The spot we produced consisted of a ping pong game between an actual ping pong player, and a bag of Buddig sliced beef. We filmed two ping pong players playing, then replaced via film magic, one of the players with a bag of Buddig meat, which was placed where the player’s paddle had been, so it appeared that the bag itself was smacking the ball around.

At the end of the spot, when the bag of Buddig meat slams a winning shot and the other player storms off exasperated, the announce chimes in with, “You just can’t beat Buddig sliced meats.”

It actually was a pretty funny little :15 spot. I’m told that the client ran the spot for six weeks during the summer and attributed a 25% increase in sales over the previous year to this commercial. Of course, in the face of such a dramatic success, the client did what so many companies do: They never aired the spot again (to my knowledge).

My point here is that Buddig didn’t really have an ad campaign going. Just FSIs and this one short-lived spot. So, their tagline had to stand on its own. It couldn’t depend on a campaign to breathe meaning into the line.

Recently, Buddig debuted a new tagline which you’ll find on their website, and, I assume on their FSI’s. It also appears on a curious one-off spot that I’ve seen in the movie theatre I frequent. This spot is actually promoting the Chicago Blackhawks for some reason, and features a cute little kid gingerly “walking” across the ice in ice skates while the Blackhawk’s anthem is playing. He almost makes it across the screen but then takes a spill. His dad comes to the rescue and walks him off screen. Very cute and all. No apparent connection with Buddig, until the logo comes up at the end of this spot, along with the tagline:

Budget: Make More Than a Sandwich.

I puzzled over this tagline off and on for quite some time, trying to figure out what they could possibly mean. I don’t have the stats to prove it, but I’m confident that 95% of the time that people consume Buddig products, it’s in a sandwich. So what could the “more” refer to in Make More Than a Sandwich.

Were they talking about making memories? That makes no sense.

What Buddig desperately needs to make sense of this tagline is an ad campaign in which we see people making “more than a sandwich” with Buddig products. In marketing parlance, if they want to expand the “usage occasions” for their products, they need to give us a hint what those would be.

On their website, they dabble in doing this, although they never really come out and say it. They have images of salads and a few dishes containing, presumably, some of their meats. But the website doesn’t do a very good job connecting the dots between these other things you can make using Buddig products. And the website is really the only vehicle or platform they have available to connect these dots.

The result is a tagline that is, in effect, a non sequitur. If you give it a moment’s thought, it makes no sense. You’d need to make up a whole speculative narrative about what they intend that line to mean, such as I’ve done above, in order to get any meaning out of it.

So let that be a lesson to all you relatively small businesses out there, with anemic to nonexistent advertising budgets. Spend that money on a really strong tagline that can do its work for the brand, without the aid of an ad campaign to render it intelligible.

 

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