Category Archives: Tagline Creation

Another brand-diluting, wimpy tagline

So here I was watching TV and along came a T-Mobile commercial.

I thought about how their brand has become generic since the days of Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was a celebrity spokesperson and more. Her manner and style made her likable as well as watchable. She got our attention and represented T-Mobile well. At least that’s my opinion.

Then as this newest commercial closed, a voice over spouted their latest slogan:

Stick Together.

What was that? Stick Together?

What does that mean? How does that differentiate T-Mobile? How does “Stick Together” imply a benefit of the system? How is it relevant?

Desperate companies in desperate times sometimes panic. Is this what’s happening at T-Mobile? Has desperation caused execs there to lose perspective? What’s important about T-Mobile that would compel someone to buy? It’s not “Stick Together”, the one thing, although poorly expressed, that every mobile phone company offers. The might just as well have a slogan like “Communicate”.

And shame on the ad agency who let their T-Mobile account exec take this tepid tagline to T-Mobile for approval. It would have never gotten out of my shop.

Martin Jelsema

Are You Kiddin’ Me?

That’s my reaction to the latest brand’s tagline I just have to bash.

I’ve heard that Dunkin’ Donuts serves a pretty good cup of coffee. But since I no longer eat sugar, I don’t frequent donut shops.

But I do drink coffee.

And now Dunkin’ Donuts is packaging and selling their brand of coffee in supermarkets. So I perked up when I saw a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. But that ground to a halt when they got to the tagline.

Are you ready for this?

“American runs on Dunkin”

Have you heard anything as pompous and as exaggerated than that?

Isn’t your first reaction to scoff?

Dunkin’ Donuts may have the very best coffee in America, but claiming that America “runs” on it? You’ve got to be kidding me. No matter how much I crave coffee, I know coffee, from any source, is not what energizes me. I may get a caffeine buzz but coffee is not nutritious, not fortified with vitamins or minerals, and is not healthy if I drink too much. 

A tagline will often make an indefensible statement. But when it challenges credibility, and doesn’t even present a product benefit or competitive differentiator, I believe it’s useless.

What is more, a newcomer to the grocery shelves attempting to take a leadership position will almost always fail to live up to that position in a mature and competitor-filled product category such as coffee.

No, this slogan is misses on all fronts. It’s vacuous, pompous, irrelevant and just plain unbelievable.

It’s unbelievable that this piece of drivel was dreamed up by a copywriter, presented by the agency, or approved by the company.

Please, Dunkin’ Donuts, tell me why I should TRY your coffee. After all, that’s all it is – coffee.

Martin Jelsema

Why taglines go astray

Why do I find so many taglines not supporting the brands they’re attached to?

Why is there a disconnect, a discord?

I have a theory.

For many companies, the tagline, or slogan, is part of an ad campaign. When campaigns change, slogans change. That’s because ad agencies, even internal marcom departments, need to demonstrate their creativity. They believe the ad message is somehow different from the brand, that uniqueness in and of itself is more important than the brand.

Now the “creatives” will certainly not express such a statement. But for them, the campaign is separate from the brand, its heritage, its promise, and its associations. And the campaign includes the “concept”, the style, the headlines, copy and visuals, and…the tagline.

Then, management becomes enamored with the fresh ad idea and approves the entire campaign, including the slogan.

So these advertisers do not actively view a tagline as a branding element. A tagline is part of an ad campaign.

Now most companies do believe and demonstrate the power of a brand-oriented tagline. Quite often it is also referred to a “positioning statement”.

In this context the tag carries a visionary promise, a method of differentiating the company/product from competition, a positive and beneficial idea stakeholders can relate to.

By making the tagline part of the brand initially, and making sure that positioning statement is as sacrosanct as the name and the logo, with as much staying power as the other branding elements, continuity, association, awareness and comprehension will help to build a unified and powerful brand.

Martin Jelsema

A Tale of Two Taglines

Seems like this is tagline month. Examples of both good and bad – in my opinion – slogans have raised my consciousness concerning taglines.

The two I’m featuring today appeared within an hour or so as part of TV commercials for their respective owners on the Food Channel. Both companies appeal to parents of pre-teens in behalf of their kid-friendly play products. Both are companies with long and unblemished reputations.

First, there’s Playskool. Never mind they teach kids to misspell “school”. Their newest tagline is: “Believe in Play”.

Second is Crayola. Their newest tagline is “The Art of Childhood”.

What a contrast!

The Playskool slogan, in my opinion, just lays there. It’s a platitude for sure.

Not only does this slogan not differentiate the company and its products, it voices an obvious and pompous expression that’s border-line offensive. It’s an admonition. It asks you, the consumer, to “mend your ways” and believe in play. Because if they didn’t remind you, you’d probably take on your old Grinch-like attitude about play.

Now let’s look at the Crayola effort. They’ve nailed it as far as I’m concerned.

With The Art of Childhood, they’ve staked out their product category and made it their own. They’ve taken a leadership position, and they’ve done it with emotion and relevance. Doesn’t every parent want their child to be creative, to learn to express themselves positively?

And Crayola also speaks to understanding children and how to delight them with “The Art of..” phrase.

I don’t know if I could have hunted the Internet all day to find two better examples of :how to” and “how not to”.

If you’ve a different opinion, or even if you agree with a little of mine, let me know. Just click on the comments link below.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 41 in a Series

The name needn’t be your sole means of identification.

No, it should – nay, must – work with the other elements of the brand. Not only that, the name does not have to carry the brand on its shoulders. Although the most important, it is but one element. Other elements can take some of the burden.

So when naming your business, your product or service, remember these two points:

1) The name can have help in defining the offering.
2) The name must “fit” with the other elements (and visa versa).

That takes a load off of your shoulders when in the process of naming your “thing”. But it also means you must think ahead to other elements, or work on them as you’re developing name candidates.

I want to expand a bit about the name not needing to carry the entire burden of identification and conveying benefit, context and mood.

Quite often the name can (and probably should while the product is new) be accompanied by a category to put it in context. For instance, Lotus or Avery can presently stand alone as product names that convey the category they operate in. But in the beginning they modified the names. It was Lotus software. It was Avery labels. So let the classification help with identity.

The appropriate use of positioning statements, aka taglines or slogans, can also carry some of the load. These short, pithy (we hope) phases can identify a market segment, a product difference or benefit, a problem-solution.

Before you begin the naming process, I’ll again emphasize the importance of a naming brief to give everyone involved a foundation from which to ideate. This addresses the second point above. As you’re writing the brief, keep in mind that a category or a tagline can help the identification of the offering. Include that info in the brief, and then use the brief for direction and for candidate evaluation based on the knowledge that the name leads but does not need to carry the entire load..

Martin Jelsema

MasterCard: I’m sorry

I received a phone call from a MasterCard spokesperson after he read my recent blog on their new, poorly-conceived tagline.

He denied the slogan was MasterCard’s.

I apologized.

I did state, however, that I was pretty sure it was theirs.

He said that MasterCard had been using the very same slogan and ad theme for ten years now. You know, the one that ends: “MasterCard: priceless”.

I give MasterCard kudos for sticking with a theme for ten years. Most advertisers get tired of their messages – some even before they’ve had a chance to penetrate the collective minds of the target population. These advertisers get impatient. After all, they’ve seen the commercials and heard the words hundreds of times. They want a change, especially if they perceive sales aren’t advancing fast enough or steep enough to affect this quarter’s bottom line.

But I digress.

The MasterCard spokesperson did think it was possible that a MasterCard product or division could have used a new slogan without him being aware of it. He said he’d check that out.

He did agree with me that “the card that won’t hold you back” was vapid.

So if I just dreamed this new slogan and attributed it to MasterCard, I do again apologize. If it belongs to another credit card service and I wasn’t paying attention until that tagline “yelled” at me, I apologize.

But the first blog made a point about taglines and that’s what was important to me. I’ve never been “out to get” anyone.

So MasterCard, I’m sorry if I misrepresented you. I’m also sorry if you let this tagline slip by your corporate communications people because that’s an error in brand quality control.

Martin Jelsema

A tagline that actually differentiates the brand

If you get here often, you know I’ve been decrying the poor taglines some very large and sophisticated marketers have recently adopted.

To whit: American Airlines: we know why you fly, and MasterCard: the card that won’t hold you back.

So it’s time to feature one that’s a winner.

The commercials eBay has been running are, in my estimation, really well done and based on the way eBay is different because it’s an auction (or can be an auction, anyway). There are everyday people competing for a prize object. They may be fighting in the end zone for a “Hail Mary” pass of an unusual vase, or cantering with the hounds chasing a valued 1950’s lunch box. In each spot the winner is triumphant.

And the accompanying tagline: shop victoriously.

Right on, eBay. You’ve played to your strength and your defining characteristic: running auctions. Auctions are fun and thrilling and competitive. The tag captures all that and very clearly differentiates eBay from common retailers.

Contrast eBay’s slogan with MasterCard and American Airlines.

If you’re a copywriter, or an approver of ad copy, use this blog as your guide. By finding the emotional trigger that communicates your difference, you’ll come up a winner, too.

Martin Jelsema

Another lame tagline exposed

A few posts ago I blogged on taglines and the thought that they are at their best when differentiating a brand.

Well, I’ve run into another blue-chip advertiser whose adopted a tagline at least as useless as the example I gave last week: “American Airlines: We know why you fly”.

This time it’s MasterCard in the barrel.

I’m not sure how long they’ve been using “MasterCard – the card that won’t hold you back”.

But I can tell you it’s not a very strong competitive position, nor does it resonate with customers (at least with the six or seven I asked about the slogan). It’s not relevant as far as I can tell. Unless one of their competitors isn’t living up to promises they’ve made to customers. I own Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards and none of them have held me back, except that all of them rise interest rates, and I’m pretty sure that’s a function of the bank, not of the credit card provider.  In fact, I don’t know how any card provider could hold me back. It seems to me they’re addressing a phantom issue.

So, what’s the point? It’s a tagline that doesn’t…

Differentiate the advertiser…
Isn’t relevant…
Is not engaging…
Help make MasterCard more competitive…
Seem to increase MasterCard awareness or preference…
And finally, definitely falls into the platitude classification…

Isn’t your reaction to this slogan, “well, I should hope so”?

I’m at a loss. I speculated last week that desperation was the cause of American adopting its lame slogan. Is this the case here?

Or am I missing something.

I’d like to know what you think.

Am I so far out of sync with Mad Ave’s latest thinking that I’ve missed the point? Please let me know.

And if you’ve run in to taglines you’ve found dumb, please share them here. Also I’d like your candidates for great, differentiating taglines, too.
Just click “comments” below.

Martin Jelsema