November 5, 2013

Recruitment Slogans: How to Create Great Ones

Having had a slogan I created chosen as the theme for the upcoming 2014 Qingdao International Horticultural Exposition in China—a world expo expected to draw about 12,000,000 visitors—I got cocky recently and decided to have a whack at another ecologically-themed slogan, this time in the arena of GMOs.

[Note: the video, linked above, is an eye-popping peek into modern China, as well as at the expo.]

Just as my expo slogan, “From the earth, for the Earth” makes its point in a literally down-to-earth way, my contribution to the call for mandatory GMO labeling is equally rhythmic simplicity itself: “Not on your label?—Then, not on my table!”

Emboldened to take things a step further and wondering what would really work in the area of recruiting and employment, I’ve decided to undertake evaluation and creation of slogans for recruiters.

A Sloganeering Algorithm and Bisociation

My take on sloganeering is that the process can proceed in several ways, the most important being, I believe, these:

1.    Establish your campaign goals and elements first, clearly and explicitly—including any pre-existing icons, e.g., mascots or logos.

2.   Free associate, allowing ideas to “pop” into your head.

3.   Combine these.

For example, take one slogan goal or campaign element and free associate around that. Repeat the process with other goals or elements. Then attempt to integrate them, e.g., by what writer Arthur Koestler, in his Act of Creation dubbed “bisociation”, which involves blending two or more things that are conceptually or emotionally quite distinct, if not apparently altogether incompatible.

That’s what I did with my expo slogan. I thought about “earth”, as the obvious association with “horticulture”; then, shifting to the ecological goals and implications of the expo, “Earth”, of course, popped up—as a perfect bisociation of two homophonic [pronounced the same] yet otherwise distinct concepts, viz., “earth” as soil with “Earth” as planet, capitalizing on the size tension between small plot of earth and huge planet. Done.

Now, apply these methods to recruitment sloganeering. Let’s work with a hypothetical case, to illustrate how this works—say, a scientific calculator company, an example I just pulled out of the air, seemingly randomly, just to ensure that I didn’t preselect an easy recruitment domain. As I am writing this, at this moment, I have no ideas whatsoever about or interest in a slogan for scientific calculator company recruitment, since these are not hot-button devices for me.

First of all, it should be noted that a really good slogan will be one that can do cross-selling double-duty: Not only recruit staff, but also sell calculators. So, as my first step, I will make that a campaign goal: creation of a two-tier, double-duty slogan that will appeal to prospective employees and customers alike. I take that to be an interesting challenge.

Next, I note not only the goals, functions and elements of the recruitment and marketing campaigns, but also the corresponding aspects of the calculator itself. Then, I am going to look for common elements among ALL of these, preferably elements that are somehow identical in one respect, yet utterly incongruous in another—much as “earth” and “Earth” are, namely, identical in sound, distinct in concept and scale.

Now, the details. I’ll list—spontaneously, right now, in real time—what I take to be the goals, functions and elements of a calculator, and do that first, because I want the slogan to be industry specific, i.e., scientific calculator company-focused. If I were to do it the other way and start with some generic idea about cross-marketing of recruitment and sales, the “template” would be too abstract, not zeroed in on this industry. So, now I intuitively and instantly create a base list of calculator details on a free-association basis:

1.   Replacement of mental demands with simpler manual tasks

2.    Portable brain power

3.    Valuable back-up for and check on human calculations

4.    Super-human capabilities, e.g., instantly make complex calculations beyond human abilities

5.    Cost-effectiveness, i.e., high benefit/cost ratio

6.    Extreme reliability and validity

That’s enough.

Next key decision: Should I start with the sales angle, or, instead, with the recruitment angle? This is a critical question, the answer to which is determined by whether the main priority is recruitment or sales. Since my principal focus is recruitment, I will develop a calculator-based recruitment paradigm for the slogan.

This will allow easier access to mentally stored content and associations that can connect calculators and recruiting, probably because of lowered thresholds of synaptic firing along those circuits. To further circumscribe the associations, I am adding a controlling condition, namely, that the associations secondarily resonate with sales, recruitment being primary.

Tackling these in the order in which they are presented above, here’s my first and 100% spontaneous go, in the form of an element-specific slogan for each item in the list:

1.   Bringing together hands-on calculators and brains-on people” [This covers both recruiting and sales promotion, by appealing to the egos of both prospective employees and prospective customers.The bisociation resides in the two distinct senses of “on”, viz., “on” in the sense of “upon the surface of” and “on” as the antonym of “switched off”.]

2.   The power interface of your mobile brain and our portable machines” [Here there is a subtle bisociation of the distinct concepts of socioeconomic mobility of employees and customers and the physical mobility/portability of the calculators.]

3.   Our mission: to have the best tech help at hand and in hand” [“Hand” gets bisociated through “at hand”—which resonates as employees, machines and support at hand combined with “in hand”, clearly referencing the hand-held devices.]

4.   If you want to calculate benefits, use our SXR-4734—and schedule an interview.” [This is a slogan for cross-selling to job applicants, as opposed to independent pitches to prospective candidates and customers. The operative bisociation in this instance resides in the ambiguity of “calculate” as a mental process vs. a digital device-based process. The model number is fictitious.]

5.   Reliability—We promise what we demand” [This can work in both arenas—hiring and sales, because “reliability” is bisociated as “machine reliability” and “personnel liability”, thereby providing reassurances to customers and serving notice or offering inspiration to job applicants.]


Now, it’s your turn.

*Second image: 2014 Qingdao International Horticultural Exposition theme video screen shot

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Michael Moffa, writer for, is a former editor and writer with China Daily News, Hong Kong edition and Editor-in-chief, Business Insight Japan Magazine, Tokyo; he has also been a columnist with one of Japan’s national newspapers, The Daily Yomiuri, and a university lecturer (critical thinking and philosophy).