David Ogilvy, the Father of Advertising, preached to creatives, “Write great headlines and you’ll have successfully invested 80% of your money.” To add power or inspiration to their advertising headlines, many creatives have used iconic and famous quotes from well-regarded leaders, thinkers, disruptors, beloved actors, singers, or even film phrases or song lyrics.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”, Albert Einstein

Who can forget the famous Muhammad Ali quote, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in Gatorade’s ad, or the seduction behind Marilyn Monroe’s confession “What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course” used in the ad. Perhaps you have been inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” motto that was included in NBA’s campaign?

Incorporating movie lines in an ad’s tagline, like “Show me the money!” “Go ahead, make my day” or “May the Force be with you” can transform an otherwise bland message into an entertaining one, triggering familiarity and making a campaign just as memorable as the quote itself.


We often get asked about using famous quotes or catch phrases in marketing, advertising, and on products, and whether such quotes need to be cleared with the rights holders.

According to US copyright law, the legal rights to a quote belong to its original author or speaker as quotes are considered intellectual property. The rights owner can be an individual writer or speaker (or their estate, if they’re no longer alive), politician, celebrity, film or TV studio (film titles or dialogs), or music publisher (literal words of the song lyric). The only instance when permission is not required is when the origin of the quote cannot be confirmed or when it has passed into public domain.

Furthermore, when attributing a quote to its author, additional publicity rights to use the author’s name will apply and permission as well as quote verification should be sought.  Certain authors or their representatives will ask to review the context of use or what product the quote or its attribution promotes. Sensitive subjects and certain products may invoke strong objections from the rights owners as being outside of the author’s philosophy or beliefs. Such use of author’s name may imply the author’s endorsement of the product appearing in the ad or it could even denote a brand partnership.  Permission fees will usually apply, which, on some occasions, can be substantial. 


Powerful quotes can become great advertising headlines, helping to enhance notions or emotions that the acted script or story cannot convey alone. They can intrigue and command the audience’s attention long enough to convey a brand’s message and make a brand more inspirational, desired, interesting, and personal.

“When I believe in something I fight like hell for it”, Steve McQueen

The famed German actress, Marlene Dietrich, summarizes the above beautifully, “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.”  In the new age of social media, people like sharing inspirational content on their channels, let it be quotes, videos, or even inspiring ads. if the ad copy is done right, your consumers can become your brand ambassadors, liking the video, sharing it with their Facebook friends and engaging with the ad message.

Quoted words are powerful: they inspire, encourage, motivate, and persuade by tying a brand to a familiar saying or message. Quotes can carry brand’s values and commitment, demonstrate product innovation and desirability, and trigger buying behavior and loyalty by associating it with a familiar message. 

My favorite quote belongs to Albert Einstein “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This particular quote has been an inspiration behind the newest Salesforce artificial intelligence software, called Einstein, which is revolutionizing program predictability and analytics. Smart and inspirational words can help with establishing meaningful and personal connection with a brand. They can give a brand a strong and distinctive voice.