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Branding 101: Taglines

A good tagline can be worth thousands, even millions of dollars in revenue. They’re a short verbal expression of brand strategy and have the capacity to attract and repel audiences. 


They have the power to shape market perception and help guide entire organisations and their teams on what is expected of them and what they are a part of.


I tell clients that they must be able to live up to their taglines as their ultimate purpose is to propel the company forward. There’s little value in reflecting the status quo.


Can’t I Just Use Our Mission Statement?


A mission statement should never be used in outward marketing. They should really be called a founders statement as they’re typically written when starting a new company or in preparing general business plans.  They usually only outline the general aspirations of the organisation in broad terms, so I’d recommend you put them aside when developing your brand.


Remember; brand strategy is a response to the competitive landscape, not a reflection of personal goals.


Intention & Purpose


There are many reasons behind the design and use of taglines. Established companies can use them to reignite interest and push into new markets, or to indicate the positive outcome from an acquisition or merger by reflecting on the strengths of the merged cultures. New companies can use them to elbow in on their competition and state why they’re a viable alternative.


Ultimately a tagline is a positioning tool that hones in on specific comparative value.


Setting an Expiry


Companies change, fashions change and customer demands are a constant variable. Brand strategy is not a set and forget thing, you need to adjust as both you and your customers grow and mature. 
It can be beneficial to set expiry dates on taglines and tie them in with long term marketing objectives.

For instance a new company might need to push into a crowded market, guns blazing with a cheeky tagline to ensure they’re seen as an alternative. 


This initial launch tagline will serve its purpose for 12 months, by which stage the company will need to focus on other differentiating value in order to stay relevant and maintain the momentum.


Brand Messaging is More than a Tagline


Never review a tagline in isolation. Your audience is rarely going to see it in isolation as it will be presented on a business card (coupled with personal interaction), on the actual product, on trade show banners and your website, or spoken in video commercials - the list goes on.


When developing your brand it's important not to loose sight of the big picture and how each element of your messaging synchronizes. 
Names, taglines, logos, value propositions, website copy to intangible strategy such as preferred behaviours. 
They all need to work together cohesively. In isolation they loose their meaning.


You’re Here to Make Money, Not Please Everyone


Don’t be afraid to be cheeky or audacious with a tagline. Your tagline could be quite assertive, but combine it with more conservative marketing and you can achieve balance, and most importantly, gain attention from your market.

It’s always surprising to hear companies talk about their business with great passion, but retreat with uncertainty when presented with a provocative tagline. 


I think the fear is always ‘will people think we’re serious?’.


The question to ask is whether people will think you have any real difference at all? 


People will compare you to the competition, they’ll never question your sanity regarding a tagline.

Being reserved is fine as it means you care, but if you don’t create interest you’ll be leaving money on the table.


The Ingredients of a Formidable Tagline


  1. Wit: not necessarily to be funny, but to make people think

  2. Honesty: there's a fine line between clever and cringe, so avoid fancy alliterations and get to the point

  3. Embellishment: not boasting, but to emphasise competitive value and difference

  4. Daring: if there's no opportunity to 'live up' to what you're stating then it's already out of date

  5. Subtlety: your audience needs to 'get it' without thinking 'so what?'

  6. Destination: a tagline is not for today, it must propel you forward. Do you know where you're going?

  7. Conformity: you need to instill comparative value so people understand where you sit in the market

  8. Conviction: Do you really believe it?


Making a Choice


Remember that conviction is different to comfort. If you're a little hesitant you're on the right track. If you're comfortable you're not going to excite your market, and it's not going to compel you to live up to anything.



© Hamish Chadwick 2015

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