Why You Should Care About Your Campaign Slogan- And How to Make a Good One
What are campaign slogans, and do you really need one? Below you will find everything you need to know about a campaign slogan and how to write one that will motivate people to vote for you. Since a campaign slogan is all about whittling down your campaign message to a tiny slice, if you haven’t done so already, check out our blog on using the seven c’s method to develop your message.
For those of you that have already mapped out your campaign message, you’ve come to the right place. Learn the ins and outs of the world of campaign slogans and how to write one below.
What is a political campaign slogan?
A campaign slogan is a distilled version of your campaign theme that makes a clear contrast between you and your opponent. We tell our clients that their campaign slogans should be less than eight words. After all, it is your marketing tagline that will be used at campaign events and on direct mail, digital advertising, video, and social media. If you’re running for office, you need a short and catchy political tagline.
Examples of political slogans
You don’t have to run for President to learn something from the pros about messaging from their campaign slogans. Check out the progressive political slogans of past Democratic Presidential Primary candidates:
- Joe Biden: Build Back Better.
- Cory Booker: Together, America, We Will Rise.
- Elizabeth Warren: Persist; Dream Big, Fight Hard; Big, Structural, Change.
- Bernie Sanders: Not me. Us.
- Kamala Harris: For the People.
Campaign slogan vs. campaign message
A campaign slogan should not be created out of thin air. One mistake that many campaigns make is writing a political slogan without thinking about the campaign’s overall messaging. A typical mistake campaigns make when building slogans is to confuse the campaign message with the campaign slogan. At first glance, these two concepts might seem to be extremely similar, but each has a defined place in a political campaign strategy.
What is a campaign message?
We hear a lot about campaign slogans, but a campaign message is the unsung hero of a political campaign. It’s the theme you use to communicate with your target audience across all mediums and should help you create a clear contrast between you and your opponent on the issues you care about.
While your campaign message is not your campaign slogan, they should be related. Your campaign slogan is essentially an extension of your campaign message that reiterates the message that you want to convey to the public. You can have a great idea for a slogan, but it will only work if it connects to your larger campaign messaging.
For example, let’s use Kamala Harris as a case study.
Harris focused her campaign messaging on economic justice, raising teacher pay, combatting climate change, and criminal justice reform among many other issues.
Harris’ campaign slogan was ‘For the people.’
Not only did this slogan highlight the work that Harris had already done as a U.S. Senator and the attorney general of California around social, environmental, and economic justice, but it conveys the platform that she was running on—fighting for the people.
How do I write a campaign slogan?
A campaign slogan is a tool for persuasion and engagement, but it can't be written in a vacuum. Your slogan should be used as a method of displaying and promoting your campaign’s message. That’s why when you are writing your campaign slogan, it’s important to think about the following things:
Start with strategy first: Your catchy slogan must clearly fit into your campaign’s overall strategy. A slogan is only as good as the campaign strategy behind it. If it's creative, but not connected to what the campaign is saying, it will fall flat.
Create a contrast: You must clearly define the difference between you and your opponent(s). This is different than simply saying that your opponent is bad. It’s more subtle than that. You have to let voters know why you are the best person for the job. With the limited amount of attention that your communications will get, the more focused and contrastive your slogan is, the more impact it will have. Politics is a comparative business, and you have to define why you will be the best candidate for the job. Good campaign slogans can help with that.
Ask yourself these questions to ensure your campaign slogan includes contrast:
- Why should voters elect you and not your opponent(s)?
- Do you have direct experience dealing with an issue important to constituents (e.g. healthcare, the opioid epidemic, public education) that you can tap into?
- Have you lived in the community or region for a long period of time?
- What sets you apart from the other candidates in the race?
Keep it short: Your campaign slogan needs to capture the attention of your target audience in a clear and defined way.
A random list of words doesn't create a contrast and it does not tell voters why they should pick you over your opponent(s). For instance, “strength, conviction, caring” is not an effective slogan. In the past, meaningless word assortment (“courage—strength—compassion”) was a popular way for campaigns to create an easy slogan. Not only did this technique make little sense for the campaign, it made even less sense to voters.
We’ve worked with a diverse group of candidates and have seen massively long slogans with folks who refuse to choose a direction for their campaign. Our main advice is to take your time, choose your campaign message, and then create a slogan.
Use emotion and develop a connection: Using emotion helps your campaign connect with voters on a deeper level. But, as Democrats, we sometimes run away from it. Don't. Embrace it. Long story short, a slogan is not just a series of words; it needs to tap into what people are thinking and feeling and what they want a candidate to accomplish if elected.
Candidate Exercise: Now that we’ve shared the basics of writing a campaign slogan, let’s try a quick exercise. Try and write a slogan in 10 words or less that contrasts your campaign with your opponents’ campaign directly. This is a great way to boil down your message. To be clear, every campaign is different and there is certainly more than one way to build an effective message. But this exercise will give you a chance to condense your message into something that can be easily understood and remembered.
How much time does it take to come up with a campaign slogan?
At The Campaign Workshop, we have seen political slogans that overreach, fall short, and some that really hit the mark. We can’t stress enough that it’s important to sit down and think hard about your campaign message and campaign tagline. It’s not easy to distill your campaign into a few words, so make sure you allot time to brainstorm.
Consider getting your campaign staff involved and your friends and family who know you best. If you’ve hired political consultants, like us, it may also be worth getting them involved in the process as well. It’s always helpful to get feedback from those that support your run for office and can offer an outsider’s perspective on whether your campaign slogan is clear and concise, but also relatable.
A simple and effective way to do this is for everyone on your team to get together for a brainstorming session. Ahead of time, prepare questions, for instance:
- What do I want my campaign to be synonymous with?
- What do I want my opponent’s campaign to be synonymous with?
- What are words that I think are overused in the political space, and I want to avoid?
- What will set me apart from others in this race?
- Is this language accessible or too “wonky”?
- Does this language sound genuine?
During this brainstorming meeting, have someone (we highly recommend that you the candidate are not tasked with this job) jot down every item that folks blurt out, either on a giant white-erase board or Google doc if meeting virtually. Invite your team to share any and all thoughts- the more the better. Honest opinions from your group will serve as a model of what other voters may think, so their feedback is valuable. What you want are instinct reactions to these questions as well as thoughts that may come with time, so make this a living document and return to it a couple of days later if need be. Once all the answers are placed, look for themes. Perhaps your team was able to shed light on your strengths in a way you hadn’t previously considered, or maybe they are just really good at coming up with synonyms for words that otherwise seem boring or overused.
Coming up with a slogan can be a fun process and serve as a chance to be creative while also sticking to the fundamental values of your campaign message. Take your time and make sure you land on one that will meet your needs for the entire duration of the campaign- after all, you will be using it potentially daily!
Have campaign slogan questions? Contact us.