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John Rose's Blog

About that tagline…

I have a love/hate relationship with taglines.

On the one hand, the summing up of a brand's proposition and/or personality in one elegant little phrase can make for a compelling marketing tool. Some famous companies have used taglines to completely define themselves in the marketplace. Nike's "Just do it" or Apple's "Think different" spring to mind. Finding just that right twist of phrase can be magic for a brand. That's the love side of my love/hate equation.

On the hate side...most taglines are created by Marketing Zombies and do absolutely nothing for their brand. In fact, I would say that more than a few "lines" have actually hurt the brand to which they have been "tagged". I'm not going to name names. But, you know the ones I'm talking about. The taglines that make incredible, outsized claims, are completely self-serving, absurdly boastful or use hackneyed expressions – usually featuring words like "best", "we" or "quality".

So what should a marketer do? Glad you asked.

First of all, let’s make a distinction between a tagline and a slogan. A tagline is a brand’s motto or raison d' être. It should summarize the qualities for which a brand stands and make the brand more memorable in the mind of the consumer. In most cases it should live as long as the brand. A slogan is a payoff to an ad or marketing campaign. Sometimes slogans become taglines and sometimes taglines are used as slogans. This is a bit of a game of semantics, but we marketers love our games.
Next, we should ask ourselves if we even need a tagline? Maybe the name of our brand says it all. Many brand names established since the advent of the Internet are far more descriptive than older brick & mortar brands. Brands like “Travelocity” kind of say it all in my opinion. A bit of sloganeering from time to time may be useful to steward and shape the brand through its lifespan, but the brand name itself is pretty powerful all on its own.

If the decision is made to develop a tagline, I think there are three cardinal rules the company and its agency should follow. They seem pretty obvious to me and, I’m sure to you, dear reader. But look around. Not everyone knows this stuff.

1. Make your tagline credible. Even if you are the fastest, lightest, smallest or biggest today, will you always be? Make sure your tagline is believable, will endure as long as your company or brand and is not simply boastful. No one likes a braggart. Leave out the word: “best”.

2. Make your tagline endearing. Though all taglines are self-serving, they need not be self-centered. Focus on the consumer, the brand promise and what this will do for him or her. It’s not all about you. Leave out the word: “we”.

3. Make your tagline original. This, of course, is the most challenging bit. But given the choice between appending a cliché to my brand of foregoing a tagline, I would choose au natural. At least…leave out the word: “quality”.