Four Qualities of a Powerful Brand Tagline

Ant Military Pressing LogWhen a company embarks on the process of creating a new tagline, the marketing department or the agency is usually challenged by the CEO to come up with one that is clever, catchy and cool. After all, Apple had Think Different, GE uses Imagination at work, and Nike is famous for Just do it. These are unquestionably very clever and memorable taglines nearly all of us recognize.

For these and other high-profile companies, the clever/catchy/cool approach works very well because they share the following traits – they are very large, well-established and well-recognized BtoC brands. Mention the word “Apple” to someone or a group of people and most will associate the name with iMacs, iPhones and iPads before they think of the fruit. Mention GE and most consumers will think of home appliances, technology, energy and any number of products adorning its logo. And, when we see or hear the name Nike, we all know Nike is one of the leading manufacturers of athletic shoes and apparel. Large, well-established, and well-recognized consumer brands can adopt taglines that are more charismatic and inspirational because everyone inherently knows what these companies do.

Let’s switch gears and talk about small-to-medium size companies – those that typically don’t enjoy the same level of recognition as Apple, GE, Nike or other high-profile global brands. Those companies that are focused on growing metrics such as awareness, recognition, uniqueness, consideration, and new customer acquisition. Those companies that don’t have eight-, or nine-figure marketing budgets that enable them to relentlessly expose consumers to ads, direct response, and endless promotions. If this describes your company, you would be better served and will have more success with a tagline that possesses the following four qualities:

1)   It defines the business you are in, especially if the type of business isn’t already a part of your brand name (i.e. Andersen vs. Andersen Windows and Doors). This strategy will come in very handy when entering new markets and expanding your product and service offerings. Key advice: don’t make consumers wonder what you do – you will be operating at a disadvantage.

2)   It communicates the leading benefit of doing business with you – a benefit you can promise to consistently deliver. Think in terms of the one thing that is relevant to your ideal customers that you can, and will, do better than any of your competitors.

3)   It speaks with enough conviction to cause prospective customers to pause and want to learn more about your company. Be confident and stake your claim. Have a tagline that inspires people to take some sort of action. Owning a tagline that doubles as a call-to-action is a nice bonus.

4)   It is easy to understand, makes logical sense, and is easy to remember. Some brands try to be really clever, adopting taglines believed to be profound or philosophical. This approach often leads to brand confusion or, worse, brand misunderstanding because not everyone understands its “inside” meaning. (I would cite a few examples, but I do not want to insult any brands. However, when you see a tagline that makes no sense, or one that makes you stop and wonder what the company was thinking, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.)

Of course, if your brand tagline meets these requirements and also happens to be clever, catchy and cool, that’s another nice bonus.

If you manage a portfolio of one or more sub-brands under your parent brand, the tagline strategy for your parent brand will be slightly different based on your brand architecture model. Parent brands are typically classified as holding companies or conglomerates and some have no tagline at all, as they may not be front-facing, rendering the need for one to be unnecessary.

If you’re curious about how your tagline is perceived and whether it is understood by your customers and strategic business partners, consider asking a small group of them what they think. In our brand development process, we refer to this as validation – giving our clients the assurance that comes from knowing their tagline resonates as desired, and that it is not confusing or misleading to the very people they wish to attract to their brand.