06 May 2016

Be More Noun: The New Trick To Writing Trendy Slogans

Because Syntax Is So Last Year

When the copywriter for O2’s hugely successful ‘Be More Dog’ campaign first pitched the company’s new slogan I wonder how it was received by his or her assembled senior colleagues…  

“Don’t you mean ‘be more like a dog’?” an executive barks. 

“Or… ‘doggish’?”, a designer mumbles.

“No!” comes the bold riposte, “I mean, ‘Be. More. Dog.’”

“Ahhhhh….” the room choruses, re-evaluating everything they thought they knew about the world.

“Genius!” says the chief executive. 

Genius or not, it’s an interesting rhetorical idea. The effect of ‘Be More Dog’ is to force the word ‘dog’ – a clear-cut, textbook, no-nonsense noun – to behave exactly like an adjective. And therein lies the value, in its pleasing incongruity. It gets readers to perform the tiniest mental flip. And for copywriters, that’s like hitting the jackpot. Redefining a word creates dissonance and the impression that your company does things differently – few businesses wouldn’t want a piece of that.    

O2’s clever misappropriation of the word ‘dog’ – and I’m not saying it’s the first time this kind of thing has happened (Apple’s ‘Think Different’ was an earlier, subtler example) – seems to have prompted a recent movement of misusing words. In fact, deploying terms for their self-appointed purpose has become passé in some quarters – propose an adjective to describe the attribute of a noun to the hip copywriting houses of Shoreditch and you’ll be laughed out of town. I’m exaggerating, obviously. Or am I?

Like all the best ideas, there's a danger of it becoming stale and a bit naff through repetition. See for yourself by perusing these other notable examples.


May 2016: Ambrosia Deluxe Custard

A Taste of Happy

(Adjective acting as a noun) 

Because you can actually have a taste of happy now. No, not happiness, that’s proper bland. Happy tastes so much better.

March 2016: Stella Artois

Be Legacy

(Noun acting as an Adjective)

 Like a slightly pretentious ‘Be More Dog’ – losing the helpful qualifying word ‘more’, and employing the abstract noun, ‘Legacy’. Hopefully it improves after a few lagers.  

Jan 2016: Visit Wales

Find Your Epic

(Adjective acting as a noun)

 As words go, ‘epic’ is smashing it right now in the advertising world. But when a copywriter takes the word ‘epic’ and re-appropriates it as a noun, then watch out Rhyl, because Wales is winning! Probably.

September 2015: The Trainline

I Am Train.

(Noun acting as an adjective)

A very effective use of the principle, creating the sense of an almost spiritual unity with trains. Plus, ‘I Am A Train’ would just be stupid.

If you know of any other instances of this phenomenon in popular slogans, I'd be delighted to read about them in the comments section below.