Tagline talk

Posted on Jun 16, 2011

We gave a t-t-t-talk on taglines recently.

We began by having everybody in the audience stand up, think about their own organization’s tagline (aka strapline, endline, button, claim, etc.*) and hear this series of questions. If it applied to them, they sat down:

Do you not have one, or use it inconsistently?

Does it include the word “quality”?

Does it include the word “solutions”?

Does it include any reference to how long you’ve been in business?

Is it more about you than your prospects? (A lot sat down after that one…)

Is it less than totally true?

The result was about 2% still standing, and we could begin to address the needs of the 98%.

The evidence (admittedly, a small sample) seems to indicate that the odds are about 49 to 1 that your business/non-profit/university/presidential candidate/guerrilla band has a suboptimal tagline. Would you still be standing? If not, seek professional help. Operators are standing by. We also have a White Paper on this topic.

*The term varies around the globe, and this was an international crowd.

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6 Comments

  1. Martin Jelsema
    June 17, 2011

    Well done! I’ve adopted the old Y2Marketing test for effective taglines. It’s simply this: Is your reaction upon hearing or reading a tagline, “Well, I should hope so”? If so, begin again. So often taglines turn out to be platitudes, and platitudes are not effective in differentiating your business from your competition.

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  2. D Champness
    June 20, 2011

    A good tag line is one that a) captures the essence of the brand and differentiates it from competitors b) is intuitive to the company culture enabling the personnel to deliver on the promise c) rings true in the market and is perceived as something of value. Take two companies like Nokia and Vodafone that are communicating with the same target audiences (albeit with two different offerings). Nokia’s tagline is ‘Connecting people’ and Vodafone’s ‘Power to you’. Both tag lines are pretty innocuous until you consider what they do for the brand. Nokia’s tag line is a bit dated and harps back to the era 10 years or so ago when mobile telephony was really taking off and consumers were excited about getting connected. Now everyone’s connected in more ways than one and Nokia’s market share is in decline because Nokia’s tag line (I prefer brand promise) no longer resonates with consumers. Today it’s much much more than just getting connected and more about how you are connected and how you can interact with other people, companies and services. Vodafone on the other hand has created a distinct brand positioning in the very crowded service provider market by engaging with its customers through high profile events like sport, music and culture – giving its customers the opportunity to go to events that they might otherwise not be able to. ‘Power to you’ then takes on real meaning and value to consumers providing them with an extra reason to switch providers and choose Vodafone. In summary, it’s not the words in the tagline but what those words are made to mean to the consumer.

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  3. Bob
    June 20, 2011

    Good example.

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  4. Sandra Sellani
    June 22, 2011

    Great comments. I spoke at an event a few months ago on taglines. Someone came up to me afterwards and said that taglines are a thing of the past and they weren’t going to use them at their organization. I was stunned. That’s like saying headlines are a thing of the past – if we can’t summarize our value in seconds, we’ve lost our audience. Glad to see that you are underscoring the power of brevity in branding.

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  5. Bob
    June 22, 2011

    That’s amazing.
    Then again, I was talking to the managing partner of a major Chicago law firm, and he told me his firm was taking no action “because this branding fad will be over soon.”

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  6. Anna Schibrowsky
    July 12, 2011

    @ Sandra I can see where the person you spoke with is coming from. There is a kind of cheesy, retro quality to many of the taglines out there – the forced kind that prompted most of Bob’s audience to sit down. In 1983, David Ogilvy wrote, “some clients feel short-changed if you don’t give them a jingle.” Today, some clients are determined to get a tagline, even if it’s a bad fit. We need to lay the mandatory tagline to rest, along with the must-have jingle and the obligatory costumed mascot.

    That’s not to decry branding, brevity or great taglines. I laughed at the idea of a “branding fad.” If you’re not controlling your brand, who is? Your competitors? Grabbing attention fast is important, but a great headline or elevator pitch beats a lackluster tagline. If you can’t say something memorable, don’t say anything.

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