Write a tagline: a guided brainstorm.

Taglines in the Making: A Basic Brainstorm

A tagline worthy of your dream is a tall order.

So, as you embark on the task of drumming up options, try hard to leave perfectionism at the door. Take the pressure off by promising yourself to make it fun. Let your right brain work freely (and give it some coffee or whatever kind of fuel it likes best!).

If you haven’t already done so, also read this primer on the truth about taglines to get your expectations straightened out before diving into the exercise.

Let’s get right to it! There is no right way to build a tagline, but this brainstorming walkthrough will get you off on the right foot.

1: The Raw Materials

Write out your answers to the following questions in a concise and straightforward way. It’s like laying out your raw materials in front of you: you’ll get a clearer idea of how you can play around with them to come up with something special.

(And have no fear — example is coming below!)

About your customer:

What is their pain? Their fear?
What is their dream solution (if they have one)?
What will you/your product enable them to do?
What is their before/after state?

About You:

What are you the source of?
What are you the best or only at?

Go ahead and lay your answers out. Don’t rush it! Have fun with it.

An Example: to demonstrate how this works, let’s drum up some examples for my fictitious new tagline business. Here are my answers:

What is their pain? Their fear?

Missed opportunity to tell them who you are.
Looking nondescript.
Missing telling opportunities.

What is their dream solution (if they have one)?

Customers that “get” them.
A clever and memorable brand image.
The crown jewel of their logo.

What will you/your product enable them to do?

State your intention.
Let your logo speak for you.
Capture attention.

What is their before/after state?

From generic to one-of-a-kind.
From confusion to crystal clear.
From overlooked to unmistakable.

What are you the source of?

Word-wielding know-how.
Ideas and discernment.

What are you the best or only at?

Making sense of the creative process.

Starting with these prompt questions ensures that we’re working with raw materials that are true and relevant.

2: Play

A good start, but now we need to give them a bit of style.

To do that, we consider and evolve each statement for brand character alignment and added zing. Speak (or sing!) out loud as you go to get to the best formulation of words.

Play with each statement by turning it into a number of different formats. If any specific words are not quite right, now’s the time to pull out the thesaurus and/or dictionary. (It works. This is how I fell head-over-heels with the word “realize”.)

Here’s a few ways you can transform an idea:

Turn it into a command or instruction. (“Just do it.”)
Turn it into an outcome/benefit statement. (“That was easy.”)
Turn it into a question. (“Got milk?)

Potential taglines for my tagline company:

I would come up with many more than this in a full-scale brainstorm, but here are some examples of initial statements transformed into catchier taglines:

Missed opportunity to tell them who you are. –> “Say everything.” or “You, told.”

Looking nondescript. –> “Say it smart.”

A clever and memorable brand image. –> “A message to remember.”

State your intention. –> “State your awesome.”

The crown jewel of their logo. –> “Your logo’s best friend”

Capture attention. –> “The (smallest) art of attention-getting.”

From generic to one-of-a-kind. –> “From nobody to notable.”

From overlooked to unmistakable. –> “Unmistakably stated.”

Making sense of the creative process. –> “Creative words that work.”

Word-wielding know-how. –> “Words, wielded.”

Continue to press, prod and play. Make each statement as condensed, on-character, and compelling as you can.

3: The Trashcan

Elimination Round 1:

Use the criteria provided in this past post to evaluate each possibility: customer relevance, tie to brand promise, fit with business name, etc.

I’d probably eliminate “Say everything.” at this point (or rework it) because it’s a bit of a false promise — my goal isn’t really to help them say everything (it’s not coming off as figurative as I intended it to be).

Elimination Round 2:

With your brand position and character top of mind, eliminate any tagline that contradicts your higher message in any way at all.

For example, I’d be eliminating “From nobody to notable.” in a single second because the word “nobody” does not sit well with me. Nobody’s a “nobody” in my books, so, even if this language functionally resonated with my audience, I wouldn’t use it because it’s not representing what I stand for.

I would also eliminate “State your awesome.” in this round because it doesn’t suit my brand character. I’d be pushing it if I pretended to be that cool. ;)

4: The Gallery

The final step is to write out each of the taglines that are left standing and display them for the ongoing perusal of you and your team. As much as possible, you want to put them in their natural habitat: in your brand font, cozied up to your logo, etc. You might have a favourite, but walk away without a decision made for now.

In my example, I’d say my top contenders would be:

You, told.

Say it smart.

The (intricate) art of attention-getting.

Unmistakably stated.

5: The Prize

After the brainstorming, a break, and any necessary legal searches, it’s finally time to make a choice and really try it on for size. Put the words into more of your brand collateral to see how it feels. Do this internally to become more sure of your decision before rolling it out officially.

And brainstorm ways to make this statement an integral part of the customer experience. Remember that it’s your job to turn that statement into something with substance. No tagline in itself will ever become a sensation without a business building up huge value behind the words.

Stay inspired,

Also Need Naming Help? Thought you might like this helpful post from designer Amy Purdie: How to Come Up with a Business Name. It’s packed with great examples and anecdotes from other business leaders.