Taglines: Your brand in shorthand

It’s hard to imagine Nike without “Just Do It.” Or Target without “Expect More. Pay Less.” But for every “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” there are hundreds of taglines few remember.

So what, exactly, is a tagline and why do we have them? A tagline is a succinct statement of your brand position, a phrase or sentence used to capture attention and communicate value. “The Uncola,” “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One,” “M’m! M’m! Good!” (Come on, you know the products.) The best taglines convey a primary benefit in a memorable way — and have staying power, even years after they’ve been replaced. When you hear Chevy’s classic, “Like a Rock,” you can’t help but think of trucks that are tough and durable.

Let’s take a whirlwind tour of taglines — old and new — to discover what’s behind these distilled marketing messages.

Where’s the beef?

First things first: Don’t create a tagline before you have a brand position. This is an all-too-common mistake. Why? Because it’s often easier to focus on creating a tagline (the fun part) than it is to articulate a strong, sustainable brand advantage. If you start brainstorming before you have your brand advantage solidified, you may create a great tagline, but it won’t do the hard work you need it to.

Look Ma, no taglines

Don’t think you need a tagline? Think again. Even the most recognizable brands rely on strong statements of who they are. “The Quicker Picker-Upper.” “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Both Bounty and BMW rely on these clever, but essentially straightforward statements to drive brand advantage. Does your brand need clarification? If you’re constantly explaining what you do to customers, clients, and prospects, a tagline can help.

They’re gr-r-reat!

Taglines bring brand consistency — and encourage brand advocacy. They serve as an essential, recognizable sign-off, helping focus a wide variety of creative across virtually any medium — print, digital, radio, broadcast.

You invested significant time creating a name and a brand identity. Did you forget the tagline? Take a look at your social media presence, your website, your advertising, your literature, your business cards, your email signature line, your company promotional items (tee-shirts, pens, notebooks, coffee mugs, water bottles). The tagline is there, right?

No rules. Just right.

Well, maybe a few rules. Keep it short: “Drivers Wanted.” Or don’t: “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh What a Relief It Is!”

Get personal: “You’re In Good Hands.” Capture the benefit: “No More Tears.” Create exclusivity: “The Few. The Proud.” Start a chant: “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” Get beyond your product: “Life is Short. Stay Awake for It.” Have some fun: “Think Outside the Bun.”

Try it, you’ll like it

It’s impossible to think of Avis without “We Try Harder” or Rice Krispies without “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” As long as there’s a need to distinguish your company, product, or service from competitors (let us know when that isn’t the case, will you?), well-conceived, well-written taglines will remain a marketing fundamental.