Slogan Smackdown: Managed Services, Managed Better

slogan SmackdownEver wonder if your slogan or tag line was doing what it was supposed to do?

Well, living in New York City, I see somewhere in the order of millions of slogans a year, some great, some funny, a few are memorable, but, all too often, business slogans are completely ineffective (often bordering on downright awful).

Rather than complain about this, I figured, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to not only learn about crafting killer slogans, but have a little fun and help some small business owners at the same time by jointing coming up with much better ones for them. Think of it as our service to the small business community.

Here’s how it’ll work:

  • On a regular basis, I’ll post a new slogan that I’ve seen around the city
  • I am not going to reveal the company, service or product right away
  • You guys get to try to guess the business, based solely on the slogan
  • After a brief but torturous round of guessing (a day or so), I’ll reveal the business in the comments
  • Then we’ll tap the rest of the comments to come up with some better slogans.
  • And, no, its all about fun and service to the entrepreneurial community, so nobody gets paid

We’ll try this format out, see how it works, then tweak it as needed.

That said, I am thrilled to introduce our first Slogan Smackdown.

Today’s slogan was seen on the side of a delivery truck on the Upper West Side of New York City, that’s your only hint. It read …

“Managed Services, Managed Better”

Okay, your first challenge – guess the company or type of company, without looking it up anywhere. No cheating and trying to look it up in Google — guess based on whether you can tell what it means.

Share your guess in the comments below.

In a day or so, I’ll reveal the company and type of business in the comments, speak to why it fails as a slogan, then it’s up to us to crowdsource the slogan and come up with something better for them.

So, go ahead, guess away…

* * * * *

Jonathan Fields, hedge-fund lawyer turned lifestyle entrepreneurAbout the Author: Jonathan Fields is a former hedge-fund lawyer turned serial lifestyle entrepreneur, copywriter, Internet and direct marketer, speaker and writer. You can find him blogging on entrepreneurship and lifestyles at Awake At The Wheel, crafting high-impact copy for clients at Vibe Creative or training people to become entrepreneurs and career renegades at Career Renegade. His next book, also called Career Renegade, is due out from Random House/Broadway Books In January 2009.

34 Comments ▼

Jonathan Fields


Jonathan Fields

34 Reactions

  1. First of all, this is my first reply here, although I’ve been reading the SBT blogs for over 6 months now. So a warm “hello” from a “media man” from Romania.

    Now, onto the slogan. Based on my tech experience, the first thing that popped into mind was a Telecom service provider, especially a hosting company offering Dedicated Managed Servers. (which is called even today “Managed Services” in the industry).

    If I guessed correctly the company that uses this slogan than I have to agree with you, not quite what would you you expect from Interbrand to deliver.

  2. Aramark.

    My beef with the slogan – waaaay too vague. Doesn’t refer to their services other than they’re “managed.” And “better” is relative… and verges on specious in reference to Aramark.

  3. Man, that was fast, you guys are good!

    @ Keith – you got it — the company is Aramark. Next time, I’ll have to go with a more obscure operation to make it more challenging (and less Googlable ;-) )

    Now, here’s the interesting thing, without looking it up, even knowing the company name, do you know:

    - what the company does?
    - what makes it different?
    - why you would choose it over some competitor?

    Take a guess…

  4. Jonathan,

    There is no way to get people *not* to use Google. Especially if you tell them to :)

    On the other hand, I would’ve have expected Interbrand (the company in charge of the identity process of Aramark) to come up with something much better.

    The only explanation why the slogan didn’t come out quite right is that it was a small account.

  5. This is a cool idea to analyze slogans. From a customer standpoint, the only thing I get from their slogan is that they “manage”. What & why, I have no idea. Not good for someone who is not familiar with the company and their services. It definitely wouldn’t even entice me to find out what they are about. Easily forgettable.

  6. I think certain slogans aren’t necessarily meant to convince total strangers to use said product or service. Some slogans, perhaps this one, are part of a broader campain targeted at people already familiar with the company, but that they want to push over the edge into using their services. It think it pays to take some time to figure out the purpose of the slogan and recognize that all slogans are not created for the same purpose.

  7. Great discussion starter, Jonathan.

    Welcome, Lorand! Yes, my first inclination was to consider this slogan to be for a tech company. Managed services sounded like managed hosting to me.

    Broad general slogans and tag lines like this one, remind me of corporate strategic planning sessions. We’d spend half the day word-smithing our Mission Statement.

    And like all things created by a committee, it would end up like Wonder bread — fluffy and bland, with little substance. It would be a Mission Statement that could have described 1000s of other companies:

    “We will be known for delighting our customers and serving selected markets with the highest quality products, yada yada yada….”

    After spending half the day tweaking the Mission Statement and becoming utterly frustrated with the words, we’d then try to cram the entire rest of the strategic planning process into the remaining half of the day. And realize that we couldn’t be all things to all people, anyway, and were much better off being specific.

    In the end, we’d go back where we started, dealing with our original Mission Statement. We’d realize it was closer to the mark than all the “improvements” we made to it by broadening the language.

    – Anita

  8. I think the slogan of the company is two fold. One to support the brand campaign and what the company does and second to create a sense of meaning and purpose for the staff who work there. Much like the motto of your school.

    Take a look at the slogan for China during the Olympics, it has inspired the entire nation and all those involved. One World One Dream has proven to be a big hit. We should aim at the same target when choosing our slogan for even a small company. Not an easy task but some seem to get it right, others just suck at it.

  9. You know, call me crazy but when it comes to slogans . . . they should be so very basic. Meaning that, you’re attempting to reach your market and hopefully even tap into some consumers that may not have been necessarily “in the market.” And when these companies are attempting to do that, they shouldn’t use industry lingo or industry referral terms and phrases to do so. They may speak in this manner on a daily basis in the office but many people out there don’t understand what that means. That may not be the case here but honestly, the word “managed” reminds me of an office – of the needs of an office – business. . . . certainly not food. It’s so basic, it’s so simple – yet the main industry keyword here is being overlooked and omitted. Why so vague? What’s the secret? What’s the industry that the service provides for? All they are basically informing me of is that they manage something – and manage it better. Frankly, who cares? We all manage on a daily basis and I’m sure that many of us think they do it better than others :-) They’re not telling me ANYTHING nor have they sparked enough interest for me to care to investigate their “secret service” anyway.

    That phrase “managed services” just reeks of a business or office environment to me – not the food or entertainment industry. It’s a generic phrase that’s incredibly vague and could be applied just about anywhere.

    Now . . . be simple, be basic and add the word “food” – and the entire phrase changes. “Managed food services” is a much more direct message and the addition of that one specific keyword here immediately reveals the industry. Don’t keep it a secret – tell us what you do. If you manage food services, then tell us.

  10. @ Anita – great point. one of the big questions to ask is whether the slogan could be easily used for any number of other businesses. If the answer is yes, that’s not a good sign. A slogan needs to communicate the essence of a brand and simultaneously differentiate it from its competitors.

    @ Bruce – yes, the slogan is much more about communicating with the public than with the inside team. That’s more the job of a mission statement. Though, as Anita mentioned, I am not a big fan of most mission statements, because they suffer from the same trappings of most slogans…they’re fungible. If you easily swap your slogan or mission statement to another business, even in another industry, it just doesn’t have that much value as a tool to convey “what’s so good about you.”

    You make a great point, too, about the China Olympics slogan. Some slogans are meant to always be used in conjunction with the bigger brand ID, name or logo. So, the slogan for the olympics works because it’s used in conjunction with the “China Olympcs” brand ID pretty much all the time. Plus, they have the added benefit of billions of dollars and worldwide coverage to help associate the two.

    With Aramark, though, the slogan and the brand are often not used together, and the slogan alone can’t fill the void. Honestly, even used together, they still ffail as an effective branding package, because “Aramark” also doesn’t say anything about what the company is or does.

    @ Chris – you’re hitting on one of the first lessons I learned as a marketing copywriter. Write like you speak, BE HUMAN. People buy people as much as they buy products or services, probably more. So, be simple, descriptive and straight forward.

    Great discussion everyone, let’s keep it going and begin to move into Phase 2 – Come up with a better slogan/brand.

    So, let’s all see what we can come up with in the comments that follow…

  11. Managed always makes me think of Managed Care, Health Care, etc.

  12. I don’t know the company, but at a guess it has something to do with transport services.

    The slogan used is one that the company says when it hasn’t identified a true differentiated benefit and can’t make a superiority claim over competitors. That said I think that is trying to say it manages the services better than competitor and thefore will manage the jobs better which could be… smoother, quicker, more effeciently etc.

  13. I thought of health care.

    I tend to agree that descriptive (who, what, why, how) slogans have the potential to be effective more quickly. Obviously there are exceptions such as Nike’s “Just do it” which are effective (or at least give the appearance of being immediately effective) for different reasons. Finding the right balance between being descriptive and memorable is not easy, otherwise everyone would get it right!

    I enjoyed the game. :)

  14. Although I don’t think that the Aramark slogan is great, I think in the context of who Aramark is marketing to, it is not as bad as the consensus in the comments seems to be. Although lots of people will eat an Aramark hotdog at a baseball game or walk through an Aramark cafeteria line in the hospital basement, Aramark is not marketing to those thousands of people. They are a captive audience once Aramark gets the contract to provide food service.

    Aramark is marketing to the facilities manager at the baseball stadium or the hospital director who select the company to manage the food service facilities. To those target customers, I believe “Managed Services. Managed Better.” does drive home a message.

  15. Hi Jonathan,

    Great way to start a discussion. Anyway, without googling it and without reading the previous comments in this post I honestly couldn’t figure out what type of company it is because their slogan is so generic. I mean, there are a lot of service providers that are ought to manage their services wisely to give customer satisfaction.

    Well, you just awakened me and a lot other aspiring entrepreneurs in choosing carefully whatever slogan is for our business. Thanks for the game!

  16. I agree with you, Mary Grace Ignacio. Considering the fact there are a lot of service providers, the slogan is way too broad. I believe the effectiveness of a business slogan comes in two factors: Specific and Memorable. Business is like a trip. If you knew where you are going and what you are after then eventually you know what to do to achieve it. It comes with being specific. And just like every trip again, it has to be memorable that our target customers could not just help but come back for more! Right?

  17. @David

    Great point. It really depends on who your target audience is, and in this case, the slogan works well for the intended customers, facilities managers.

  18. Great discussion, gang!

    Here’s how Aramark describes themselves to Google, “An international company specializing in food services for stadiums, arenas, campuses, businesses, and schools.” They also do a bit of uniform service, but that’s not their real bread and butter.

    @ David & Matt – great observation, you definitely want to make sure your slogan resonates with those you are trying to reach out to. Even if the main target here was facility managers, though, does this slogan tell them what they do and why they are better or different than anyone else?

    It still very (a) non-descript (doesn’t tell you what the company actually does, even for the target market), (b) unmemorable (which is important for a slogan), (c) non-sensory (does not create any level of visual, auditory or kinesthetic experience) and (d) it lacks any genuine differentiation.

    One of the most popular slogan “fails” (and it actually goes way beyond slogans) is just saying “we’re better than everyone else.” Claiming you’re better is not a point of differentiation because “everyone” claims they are better than their competition.

    Slogans are not a requirement for business. But, if you are going to have one, you might as well craft it to do a bit of heavy lifting, telling and selling for you.

  19. Well – I honestly had no clue — good thing @ Kieth got it. I absolutely cannot stand pithy slogans. I think the only people who can afford to do that are marketing/ad powerhouses like Nike that already have an established brand.

    What is this with great minds – I just read: http://sloganstudio.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/connecting-the-dots/ this article that blasts the play on words slogans that don’t really communicate real customer value.

    I think a slogan should tell me why I should choose you. My two favorites are “When it absolutely positively has to be there” and “30 minutes or less – or it’s free” You could argue that these are offers or positioning statements as well. But I get what they offer me and why I should choose them instead of something else.

  20. “Managed Services, Managed Better.”
    I’m not going to pull any punches; that is the most inane slogan-by-committee I’ve heard in a long time. It’s the sort of slogan one ends up with in a room full of executives with different agendas. Aramark is a large company with its hands in many different areas, and this slogan is an attempt to appease everybody.

    “Services” means nothing. 80% of the pathetic U.S. economy is “services,” as we run around selling one another Big Macs and life insurance. I suppose the fact that these “services” – whatever they may be – are “managed” is better than having them wildly out-of-control. But I’m not rushing out to buy.

    “Better”? BETTER? Better than what? Better than all those other out-of-control Big Mac sellers? Huh?

    Terrible slogan.

  21. Aramark paid for that??!?!?! or was the slogan a promotional giveaway, or a freebie, i hope?

  22. Okay everyone, so we’ve all had some fun and hopefully learned a small bit about some of the considerations that go into crafting a slogan.

    And, it’s oh so easy to shred someone else’s work. But, I am not a fan of criticizing without also offering solutions or even solving a problem or challenge.

    So, my question is, if Aramark came to you and said, “dude/dudette (you just know that’s how they speak), give us a slogan, what might you offer up?

    Knowing very little about them (and spending less than five minutes), I’ll start with a few rough concepts, then you guys join in…

    Aramark – Outsourced meals, management and uniforms, from stadiums to state rooms.
    Aramark – Food service, facility management & uniforms on a worldwide scale
    Aramark – Serving meals to millions every year, let us do the heavy lifting

    Yeah, yeah, not perfect by any means, they’re just here to get your juices flowing and think about being more descriptive and adding an element of differentiation.

    Now it’s your turn to (a) poke fun at my little ditties, then (b) come up with something else, anything else that you think solves at least one of the flaws in Aramark’s current concept.

    And, if you’re thinking, “please, I get paid big money to do this,” well, er, um…so do I. But, this is for fun and education, not for money. It’s for us, not them.

    So, go ahead and have at it…if you dare! ;-)

  23. Jonathan, it’s funny, but those three “not perfect” examples you threw together all seem much better than the one they’re using now. Goes to show you that a room full of people “brainstorming” sometimes leads you to watered down results.

  24. Oooh, I’m late in the discussion and so much has transpired since the original post.

    First – before I read the bit about the slogan being on the truck…managed services spoke to me of managed care and health services. But it didn’t make sense for it to be on a truck. So then I thought of telephone services. Food never entered my mind and trust me, food frequently enters my mind.

    Jonathon, I like pieces of your suggestions, perhaps change the last one to “serving meals to millions without all the heavy lifting.” Wait, no that has the wrong person lifting. Hmmmm, not as easy as it sounds.

    To be honest when you revealed it was food service my first thought was “Managing Hunger One Function At a Time.”

    Stop laughing.

  25. Jonathan, I like your first suggestion. Here’s a variation on it. How about:

    Aramark – Managing food service and uniforms, from stadiums to state rooms.

    I’m not too big a fan of the word “managing” — just couldn’t think of anything better.

    – Anita

  26. Fun new feature! The slogan could describe the business of the company in about 5 words. Our company, Blue Chip Café & Business Center, had played around with a bunch of different slogans, but here is one that could be a bit sticky: “Biz & Buzz in a Cup.” The inspiration for the business comes from the historical coffee-houses in London and other places.

  27. “Aramark – Food Service, Facility Management & Uniforms That Always Hit The Mark.”

    “Aramark – Unmatched Hospitality, Facility & Uniform Services Since 1936″

    I could go on…

    I agree, their current slogan is non descript….

  28. The slogan is a little vague, but I bet it’s Keyword dense lol.

    Shame they couldn’t manage to fit some sense into their 4 precious words :(

  29. My late $0.02:

    Slogans and other creative iterations always manage to unleash the Creativity in every one of us – which is fun (as we can see above). Nevertheless, the only way to judge a slogan is within the context of what the company wants to communicate and to whom. This is the frame. The hot core of a slogan is nevertheless a consumer insights — something that will touch and make the target audience (not everybody) vibrate. If Aramark is talking to folks who work in Facility Management, how many people from the ones who evaluated the slogan actually work in this industry?

    The reason why slogans like the ones mentioned by Ivana — “When it absolutely positively has to be there” and “30 minutes or less – or it’s free” are memorable is because they speak to a certain audience (not to everybody), convey a message these audience truly cares about (the insight), in a way and with a frequency that make these slogans stand out for this audience.

    Cheers.

  30. This is hilarious because I just did a search to try and translate this particular slogan. I couldn’t understand it, so I thought I’d check out the company’s Website. It’s the slogan for ARAMARK Canada Ltd. Here’s their self-proclaimed description: ARAMARK is Canada’s leading provider of managed services; providing food, beverage, cleaning & support services to a wide range of clients in healthcare, education & business environments. And here’s the Website: http://www.aramark.ca. If you think the slogan is meaningless, now try translating it!

  31. I believe the Aramark name was incepted in 1994. The slogan and the name Aramark along with the company logo were designed by the same individual, who received a 7-figure sum (about a million or 2, max) for creating the name.

    The company used to be called A.R.A. Services which used to stand for something like automated retailers of america (I think) because their business was vending originally. Their logo is a star person which was supposed to stand for the employees, if my memory serves me correctly. To the person who said there was a promotion, you are somewhat correct. There is a company newsletter that, at least, used to be called “The Mark,” and was created by the employee’s family after a promotion, they got a trip to Hawaii.

    After all of the suggestions I’ve seen, “Managed Services, Managed Better” really does market only to a specific group of decision makers. Do not think this decision was a light one, as the company is almost obsessed with its public image. Even the color of the logo is known as Aramark Red. I’ve seen Aramark trucks get stopped by employees for not being clean enough. Do not think this happened in jest.

    Don’t forget that company names can be trend-worthy, especially if they are the ones setting the trend. This logo was created when stealth bombers looked like winged vampires, it was the early-mid 90s, Clinton was in office.

    Aramark does a vast range of things, to argue their slogan is too vague is almost moot, because it kinda has to be…

  32. I really enjoyed reading the thoughts on Aramarks Slogan or Slogans thanks for a good read

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