Category Archives: Tagline Creation

Good Taglines are NOT Platitudes.

Whether you call them taglines, slogans, or positioning statements, they are almost mandatory for today’s brand. These five-to-eight-word phrases are supposed to differentiate your business, product or service from your competition. But just as often, they just state the obvious. Or even worse, they cause confusion.

Here’s one way to evaluate a tagline. After hearing or reading it, if your reaction is “Well, I should hope so!”, you’re hearing or seeing a platitude, not an effective tagline. Continue reading Good Taglines are NOT Platitudes.

Should your logo include your tagline?

My thought: emphatically, no.

That doesn’t mean the tagline can’t accompany your logo, and you can even make it look as if it’s a single element in selected cases.

But please reserve the right to separate them and use the logo as a stand-alone element where necessary. I blogged about the logo standing out when grouped with other logos – Does your logo stand out? It just won’t stand out if must carry along a tagline.

For my own company logo, I integrate logo and tagline where I have a full line devoted to the two elements, but elsewhere I separate them and usually only use the logo itself. Below are examples.

First, logo and tagline associated:

Then the logo alone:

Signature Strategies logo w/o tagline

So, logo and tagline are separate elements that can be integrated as appropriate. The thing is, be sure you have the flexibility to do either.

What makes a strong tagline?

Taglines may be the second most important branding element. Names are certainly first, but taglines can play an important role in conveying the brand message.

Most taglines, however, do not enhance the brand. They are afterthoughts. Names and logos and trade dress usually precede tagline. They are usually done by an ad agency as an element in an advertising campaign, and are advertising slogans rather than integral elements of the respective brands.

The difference between a tagline and a slogan

I’ve subjectively defined tagline and slogan as two different beasts with different objectives. The tagline carries the brand’s message and is part of the whole life-cycle of the brand itself. It is integral to the brand.

The slogan on the other hand, is a tactical “pay off” of an ad campaign. Its purpose is to help consumers remember the advertising message.

There will be a lot of people who disagree with me – they’ll suggest they are the same thing and that I’m just playing a semantic game. Okay, but I’ll stick with the definitions above because it makes explanations a little easier.

This difference between a tagline and a slogan for purposes of branding, then, is very simple. The tagline is a crystallization of a brand promise and is a strategic-based element. The slogan, is an advertising element just as a headline or illustration. In the case of a corporate identity ad program the tagline and the slogan can and should be the same.

But my experience concerning an agency-created tagline is that its life is just as long as the campaign it was created for, not for the life of the brand.

Positioning statement vs tagline

There may be some confusion about the difference between a positioning statement and a tagline as well. Again, this is my interpretation and opinion about them. Some will believe they’ve created a positioning statement with the finalization of a tagline. I don’t. For me they are two entirely different, though related, branding components.

The positioning statement is usually longer and more detailed than a tagline. It will quite often borrow from the mission statement, the value statement, the vision statement if it is a corporate brand. It is primarily an internal document but certainly not a confidential one. In fact, it is beneficial to espouse a positioning statement in the business lobby, in the annual report, as part of a proposal. It is an integral part of the brand platform, and drives the direction of the creative process when developing brand elements – name, tagline, logo, graphic standards, trade dress, brand messaging and packaging. It is possible for some positioning statements to be voiced as a tagline as well, but this will be a rare occurance.

So, the positioning statement precedes the development of brand elements and is usually a paragraph in length rather than a short phrase. The tagline crystallizes and furthers the brand story or promise and is usually connected to the name and logo as part of the company/product identification.

First things first: is a tagline needed?

Even though I’ve stated I believe the tagline to be the second most important branding element, often a brand may not even need a tagline. So the first question in the tagline development process: is there a need for a tagline in the branding element mix. A tagline may be superfluous. And on rare occasions, the name itself can function as name and tagline because the name communicates all there is to communicate in differentiating brand and suggesting a consumer benefit. So why guild the lily by making the same point using different words?

There are times, too, when a descriptive phrase is more appropriate. This is especially true with a product establishing a new category. In this case, you wish to “own” the category by being and remaining first in top of mind, for as long as the category exists. This description replaces the tagline as branding catalyst.

And finally, if you’re branding a feature or a brand extension, you’ll probably omit a tagline as being in conflict with the master brand and its tagline.

Criteria for a strong tagline

In my last post I pointed out three things to avoid when creating taglines, along with another two additional points about taglines. To reiterate, those five things, translated into evaluation criteria are:

Make an incredible (read unbelievable)claim (don’t)
Write a self-serving tagline (don’t)
Create a platitude (don’t)
Differentiate you from competitors (do)
Integrate with other brand elements smoothly (do)

To these five criteria I would add:

Make tagline instantly understandable. Many taglines are cute turns of words which you must think about in order for them to make an impact. (Here’s where a universal metaphor or meme can be quite powerful.)

Make the tagline enhance the main brand idea. If the tagline just restates the “big idea” already conveyed through name and/or logo, it is redundant. The tagline should support and extend the brand promise or theme, not just repeat it in different words.

Make the tagline communicate a major benefit of doing business with the company or of buying the product/service. (But be sure you’re creditable.)

It should appeal to the targeted audience. By that I mean use their language to convey the thing your product or service does for them specifically. It is sometimes advisable to call out the audience by name in the tagline.

Keep it short: seven significant words or less.

As an example, here is a pretty good tagline – it’s the one I use for my branding consultancy, Signature Strategies. Helping smaller companies profit from the power of branding.

If you’re looking for help with your tagline, or any and all parts of the branding process, why not contact me. Just click to go on over to Signature Strategies, or give me a call at 303-242-5975.

Three Tagline Traps You’ll Want to Avoid

It’s really easy to create – or approve – an incredulous, self-serving platitude as a tagline.

It’s done every day, even by people who should “no” better.

I’m not going to be naming names in this post, but even without my help you’ll conjure up examples from your own experiences; examples from companies big and small whose advertising and promotion you are exposed to on a daily basis.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve learned to filter them out of your consciousness after a while because you realize they’re meaningless.

Lots of taglines are adopted as part of the branding process because folks think they’re critical to their marketing efforts. Certainly a tagline can crystallize a brand promise and make it memorable, but just as often you get an incredulous, self-serving platitude. In those situations, the tagline distracts and detracts from the brand’s promise and image.

Anyway, here are three questions I raise whenever I need to evaluate a tagline.

Is the tagline creditable?

Quite often taglines make sweeping claims that are not, or cannot be, substantiated. They sound good on the surface, but are too far from reality to be believed. Okay, I couldn’t resist naming this name: Dunkin’ Donut’s “American Runs on Dunkin’ Donuts”. Really? And all this time I thought it was gasoline. The point is that the statement just isn’t creditable. It’s an ad slogan straight from the ad agency’s “creative” department. (As an aside, someday I’ll share what I think are the distinctions and functions of taglines vs slogans vs headlines. That may take several blog posts, in fact.) Now I do expect a tagline to have a little zest to it. And some humor or even a double entandre will help make the tagline memorable. But claims to be first when it’s patently not true, declarations of superiority when your brand is number three or four, statements of capability that no one possesses: these are tagline traps that need to be avoided if credibility is to be prized.

Is the tagline self-serving?

This type of tagline was probably written for a fast approval by an egocentric executive. Well, maybe not all of them, but I’m pretty sure a great number of the self-serving lines were third or fourth attempts to get an approval from in-bred managers. So the creators, in desperation, serve back what management would like to think the brand represents when “the market” knows better. These taglines will usually begin with “We”, and then go on to claim whatever this year’s “hot button” (is it still “being green”?) happens to be – or at least what management has spent the most money developing most recently. The question is: “Where does the consumer fit in?” Quite often what management considers important is of no relevance to the consumer and this is reflected in a lot of self-serving taglines.

Is the tagline a platitude?

According to my copy of The American Heritage Dictionary, a platitude is “a trite remark or statement”. And “trite” is defined as “overused and commonplace; lacking interest or originality”. Platitudes do not make good taglines. Yet you’ll find a lot of taglines in this category. The folks from Y2 Marketing had a sure-fire way of identifying platitudes. They said if upon hearing or reading a tagline your reaction was, “Well, I should hope so!”, you’re experiencing a platitude. We run into these kinds of taglines all the time: “We care about our customers”, “Quality is what we strive for”, “Our people know ______”.

Two more ways to evaluate taglines

Here are a couple more criteria you can use in judging taglines. First, does it differentiate our business from our competitors? If not, back to the drawing board – no explanation required. Second, does it reflect and summarize the one idea our brand wants to communicate? This second question goes back to the branding process and has to do with having all the branding elements integrated in lock-step. There should be no disconnects

So, these are the negative points to keep in mind whether you’re creating or approving a tagline. Now you know what I suggest you not do. Next post I’ll attempt to provide some positive approaches to writing taglines.

Brands that make you scoff – Subaru

I’ve been doing a series of blogs about brands that make me scoff – that is, brands that are incredulous.

Usually this incredibility comes from specific ad campaigns rather than from a brand platform. How do I know? Because they’re vacuous.

Strong brands are built upon core values. They’re differentiated from competitors based on attributes the brands actually possess. Thus, believability and credibility are inherent in the brands themselves.

But let the ad agency “creatives” begin writing taglines and headlines as they interpret that platform and the research that accompanies it and the ideas get skewed and exaggerated.

Take today’s example, for instance.

Subaru’s newest TV ads depict folks, one after another, “lovingly” caring for their Subarus. The payoff is this insipid tagline: “Love: It’s what makes Subaru a Subaru

It’s a distortion. I’m sure Subaru research says that a certain percentage of their customers say they “love” their Subarus. That’s fine. But from there to the idea that love makes Subarus is a giant step.

I’d also suggest that the slogan does not differentiate Subaru from its competitors, nor does it resonate with car buyers who may admit to loving their vehicles but don’t switch to another make because Subaru says their cars are made from love.

No, Subaru was sold a bill of goods. Their agency short-changed them.

It’s a campaign and a brand without substance.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Brands that make me scoff – Toyota Matrix

This series on brands that make me scoff is going to be easy.

Today I’m calling out Toyota and their bad Matrix model.

I’m using “bad” in its original context – I don’t mean it’s, you know, good.

So here’s their tagline: Get in Touch with Your Dark Side.

Just on the basis of this inane slogan I scoff. I shake my head. I roll my eyes.

Now I’m a Star Wars fan and I assume that’s the dark side they’re referring to. I’d say the Matrix has a dark side position only if R2D2 has defected.

Do you know the car? It’s a small, round under-powered economy car. I know, I rented one a couple of weeks ago and drive it into the mountains. Living in Colorado has its advantages. Now I grew up in Estes Park Colorado and I’ve driven that road in four cylinder cars since a had a Hillman Minx back in the early 1960’s. I never had any problems even on the steep inclines.Toyota Matrix

But this Matrix didn’t have enough power to pass a New Jersey tourist. In fact, one passed me. The shame of it.

The only dark side I experienced had to do with night falling before I got home.

The point is credibility. You could position this automobile in appealing ways that are true to the vehicle and the experience of driving it.

Dark side indeed.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Nonprofit taglines: no better than commercial slogans

Nancy Schwartz blogs about non-profit marketing issues at Getting Attention.

Right now she’s conducting a survey about the effectiveness of taglines in the non-profit sector. If you’re involved with a non-profit, you’re encouraged to take part. Just click on Non-profit tagline survey.

Nancy’s doing this study because, in her words, “Effective taglines complement an organization’s name, convey the unique value it delivers to its community and differentiates it from the competition,” she says. “But more often, nonprofit taglines are vague, ambiguous, over-reaching, too abstract or simply non-existent.”

Well, Nancy, non-profit taglines are just one category of slogan that fits that last description, as anyone following this blog can attest. In fact, many are so sorry that the organizations would be better off without them because they just raise the question, “what does that mean?”.

Nancy promises to send you a copy of the final report if you request it. So if you’re connected to a non-profit, why not visit the survey?

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=zjXNjEU9fh1wCcHCZelFYQ_3d_3d

http://www.gettingattention.org/

I don’t need no stickin’ taglines

If you’ve been reading this blog with any frequency, you know I’ve made quite a point about bad taglines, aka slogans.

I’ve ranted about specific examples of meaningless and confusing taglines. My stance was that they should help differentiate a company or product from its competitors. In other words, it should strengthen the brand.

Now I see someone else has the same thoughts. Only he isn’t as negative as I’ve been.

John Moore, he blogs at BrandAutopsy.typepad.com, made a point recently that establishing a brand without using taglines at all will produce a stronger brand! In other words, let the other branding elements – name, logo, colors, ambiance, story, etc. – carry the message and set the tempo for your brand. Here’s a quote from his blog:

“A marketing world without taglines is about designing interesting customer experiences where people interact with the brand in order to better understand and appreciate the reasons why the brand deserves the right to exist. It’s about realizing a brand’s unique style is its best form of advertising.”

And here’s John’s author box: John Moore was formerly in marketing at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market; he now runs the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice. Moore is also the author of the marketing book, Tribal Knowledge. His blog is BrandAutopsy.typepad.com

Note, too that BrandAutopsy is featured on my blogroll. He’s a pro and provides good insights and information.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975