There’s a lot of advice out there regarding taglines, and some of it is crap. (Example: “It needs to be short and memorable.” Wow, it sounds so easy when a professional explains it.) In this post and the next, my goal is to give you a set of considerations – some contrary to “conventional wisdom” – that will help you decide how to best proceed with the development of your brand’s tagline.
The first two tips deal with the “before” phase – what to consider before you move ahead with the development of a tagline:
1. You might not need a tagline.
Professional copywriters, before you inundate me with hate mail, hear me out. Many of the world’s top brands don’t have a tagline. It’s a situational choice, and we’ll discuss those situational considerations next. But brand leaders, don’t buy the line that “having a tagline can’t hurt.” Sure it can. If it’s the wrong tagline, it undermines the overall brand. And developing the right tagline has attendant costs: The time to generate, evaluate and approve them; the money to hire a professional copywriter, which I absolutely recommend; and the attention to manage the process well. While you are deploying those resources, the market is not waiting to buy.
Your mindset should be, “We need a tagline only if we are very confident that it will strengthen our brand and outweigh its costs.” Actually, that should be your mindset for all kinds of brand decisions.
2. A tagline is part of a system.
More specifically, a tagline is part of two systems:
Your verbal identity system. These are all the words your brand uses to present itself to the market. These can include, but are not limited to, campaign themes, key messaging, web copy, sales collateral copy and packaging copy.
Your overall marketing system. These are all the tools and tactics that form your go-to-market strategy.
Ask: In what environments will the tagline reside, and how will it be deployed? For instance, if you’re a local retailer or services firm that primarily invests in billboard advertising – where the use of words should be economic – your campaign messages are probably more important than a new tagline.
Most of us know Geico’s tagline: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” It’s not particularly catchy – and we’ll talk about that too – but it registers because it’s been deployed effectively. I don’t like much about Geico’s ads, but they’ve been consistent and focused in this regard. They’re also spending nearly a billion dollars a year, which helps.
You don’t have a billion-dollar ad budget. So consider how your tagline will actually see the light of day. Taglines live or die on consistency and repetition. If your marketing plan is unlikely to generate numerous near-term impressions of the tagline with your target audience, you can probably do without.
In Part Two of this post, we’ll discuss three additional things to consider once you’ve decided that you want to move ahead with a tagline.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew founded Three Deuce Branding in 1997 with a simple mission: “To help good people build great brands.” He’s a former CMO who repeatedly led underdog brands to dramatically outpace the market, and now he does the same for the clients he serves. Businesses with revenues of seven to ten figures trust Matthew to help them achieve “brand clarity” through core brand strategy and positioning. Matthew is also a highly-rated speaker. Contact Matthew here. He’s based in Chicago.
Copyright 2014 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.