Truth in advertising might sound like an oxymoron. After all, most advertisements are meant to give consumers something to aspire to, and are rarely truthful. But, one designer wants to change that. Clif Dickens created honestslogans.com, and it’s become a viral success.
For two years, Dickens has been gently mocking brands by pointing out how their products are actually used and what consumers really think of them. He alters logos to reflect what the brands are really trying to do, changing slogans and taglines to be more straightforward. For example, Dickens changed Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan to “Just Buy It.” And, he changed Gatorade’s branding to reflect that people with hangovers drink it probably more than athletes.
Dickens created honestslogans.com to confront companies about the “puffery” they put out there in advertisements. “The whole idea is that everyone knows that [the puffery] isn’t true. The whole idea is stripping all this down, cut the BS and ‘Here’s what I really think about this.’”
Because we all know that the marketing slogans companies create aren’t true representations of the products/services, it’s no wonder that Honest Slogans has become a viral sensation. Tumblr and reddit users have spread the word. The graphics have been featured on BuzzFeed and Business Insider, and Dickens received a guest blogging spot on The Huffington Post. He was also featured on The Today Show in Australia. His Pepsi slogan, “Is Pepsi Okay?” appeared in a modified form on the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live.
Dickens thinks that the site’s viral success proves that the Internet, especially social media, has transferred the power to consumers and away from brands.
How Honest Slogans Got Its Start
Dickens was in a restaurant in 2011 and ordered a Coca Cola. The waitress responded, “We don’t have Coke. Is Pepsi okay?” Dickens loved her response (we’ve all heard it before), and it inspired him to register honestslogans.tumblr.com. His first post was a tongue-in-cheek rebranding of Pepsi.
He then went on to post 24 images to Honest Slogans, taking aim at brands from Best Buy to MTV. It took two years, but the site eventually went viral.
When Dickens started, the site was just a side project. He wanted a creative way to show off his graphic design skills to prospective employers. He was working as a freelancer and a full-time graphic designer at the custom t-shirt company BlueCotton.
How It Went Viral
Dickens posted to Honest Slogans 17 times in 2012, and only a few times in the beginning of 2013. Then, in October 2013, he started taking the site more seriously. He purchased the domain honestslogans.com and redirected the Tumblr site to the new domain. He promoted the site on reddit. He added the honestslogans.com watermark to a Hot Pocket post from December 2011 and uploaded the graphic to Imgur. Then, he posted the Imgur link to reddit, where it was upvoted over 2,000 times in one day. The post eventually reached the top spot on the “funny” subreddit and then made it to the front page of reddit itself, garnering 425,000 pageviews in one day.
On Honest Slogans, the Imgur post has more than 12,000 Tumblr “notes.” Typical Honest Slogans posts have several hundred notes.
While he does attribute some of the Hot Pockets’ post’s success to his promotion of it, he also thinks people associate it with the popular Jim Gaffigan standup bit. He also thinks that people just like honesty.
“People like when a company can poke fun at themselves,” Dickens said. “Advertising controls everyone’s world; what’s to say we just can’t be honest about what we think of them?” Dickens hasn’t received any responses from the brands he’s made fun of, but of course, he’s open to helping them out.
While we don’t think all of his slogans would go over well with consumers, we do agree that honesty and authenticity resonates with today’s consumer. Taco Bell and Arby’s have embraced authenticity and aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves, and other brands are following suit.
But, even if these slogans won’t be on real ads anytime soon, they’re still incredibly fun to look at! Here are a few of our favorite Honest Slogans.