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Taglines that stick

May 5th, 2011 · 3 Comments · Branding, Copywriting, Passion

 

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I think most taglines used by businesses today are a cop out.  They feel good but promise nothing. A reader wrote and asked if I’d talk about the other side of the coin – what makes a tagline great?

Creating and using a strong tagline takes real courage.  A tagline that will last for decades is one that makes a bold statement or promise.

So what do you need to consider as you evaluate your own tagline?

A strong tagline makes someone take pause. It might be the person it’s directed at like – Just Do It.  Or it might be the employee who has to keep the promise – when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.

A memorable tagline should be a bit daunting.  That’s why it’s impressive.  If BMW has told us their cars were a nice ride, would you have remembered?  But who doesn’t want to drive the ultimate driving machine?  Talk about setting high expectations!

An enduring tagline is tied specifically to the product/service: Another element of a strong, test of time tagline is that we connect it to the company who owns it.  We don’t remember it just because it’s clever.  We remember who said it.  Take this little quiz. Who told us “you deserve a break today” or promised us “we try harder.”

This is where the generic taglines about “our people” and quality lose their steam.  Who doesn’t believe they provide good quality and that their people are dedicated to their jobs?

A memorable tagline tells a story: In a single sentence, we got the picture when Timex told us “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  We can only imagine what might happen if forgot the warning “don’t leave home without it.”

We learn through stories.  We teach lessons through stories.  And we buy and sell around stories.  It’s much easier for us to remember a story than straight facts.  Which is why a story telling tagline sticks.

A powerful tagline points out how the product/service is unique: Who doesn’t know the unique advantage of an M&M?  They “melt in your mouth, not in your hand,” right?  The Marine’s tagline reminds us that they’re very choosy about who they let into their club.  “The few.  The proud.  The Marines” lets us know that there’s exclusivity to their brand.

Everyone wants a strong tagline but most businesses are afraid to make a bold promise.  What happens if it doesn’t get there overnight?  Or if the watch breaks?

Good marketers understand that a tagline is not an absolute.  Sure, every once in awhile you’re going to miss the mark.  But how you handle it when you fall short is part of the brand promise too.

 

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Dean Freelance Copywriter

    Hi Drew, all useful tips.

    Don’t you think the modern name “tagline” trivialises what used to be called “slogan” or “endline”?

    I’ve written a post on the subject here: link to londoncopywriter.co.uk

    All the best, and keep up the great posts.

    Dean
    Dean Freelance Copywriter recently posted..Do you really need an endlineMy Profile

    • Drew McLellan

      Dean,

      I’m not sure that I believe the word slogan carries any more esteem than the word tagline. But…in both cases, I think the connotation falls short compared to brand promise or positioning statement. More important than the word is the intent. I think many businesses use taglines/slogans too casually and change them too often.

      What’s your take?

      Drew

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