The Truth About Taglines

Are you tripping over yourself in the Tagline Tango?

Tag: "Something Brilliant..."When I talk to business owners trying to come up with a tagline, they often have an air of panic about them. I’m hoping that today I can help you embrace this process patiently, positively, and with enthusiasm.

After all, taglines are a real gift for businesses in this world of over-saturated communications.

It is the one piece of messaging that is almost guaranteed to get the attention of your audience.

This post is the first in a series to help you overcome tagline paralysis.

First, do you need a tagline?

Taglines can enable you to share who you are, who you serve, and/or what value you provide in that first glance of consideration granted to you by your customers.

And, as you know, we often only get that one first glance.

I like to think of it as prime marketing real estate that is inherently available to you. Any place your logo goes, it can usually go too. (It’s almost like sneaking an extra person into a drive-in movie.)

So, more often than not, this is an opportunity that businesses should embrace. If you’re on the fence about crafting a tagline, I say go for it.

Brewing up the perfect tagline.

That was a trick title: there is no perfect tagline.

If you don’t already have one, my guess is that it’s because you haven’t thought of something that you feel is good enough to put there yet.

As you start dreaming up possible taglines, how do you know which one is “the right one”?

Thing is, you won’t.

Nothing is born perfect, and the same goes for taglines. They need to mature and value needs to build up under them. “Just Do It.” could have easily been passed over at first glance. Nike didn’t know the power of what they had created until it was shared with the world and took on a life of its own.

So don’t expect too much from your tagline immediately. Don’t expect a rush of “a-ha” adrenaline to tell you that you found the right one.

Although that might happen sometimes, the reality is that it can take a test drive to see the real value and fall in love with it.

This doesn’t mean that just any tagline will do, just that you could be staring at the next sensation and not have a clue.

Selecting the best bet.

After you’ve brainstormed a wealth of possibilities (here’s a basic brainstorm walkthrough to guide you), give yourself some space and time so that you can get as objective as possible. Then, come back to the options and ask yourself the questions below.

As long as your tagline doesn’t get snagged up in one of these deal-breakers, you have something worth considering.

Does it relate directly to my customer?

  • Engage them by making your tagline about something that matters to them, not you. So “Inspiring Better Health Across the Nation” becomes something like “Inspire Your Mind & Soul.”
  • Make sure you’re using language that they would use and understand, not lingo from your industry. (You need to know your customer well for this.)

Is it tied to my unique brand promise?

  • The common test is this: if you put your tagline under one of your competitors’ logos, would it still be true? If so, it might not be original enough or tied to your points of differentiation (see last week’s post on being unique). The important part here is the alignment, not worrying about what your competitors are doing.
  • It should give them an instant reason to work with you by appealing to their dreams, fears, or unique situation. This will generally already be true if your tagline passes the first test above.

Does it work with my business name and offerings?

  • If the tagline is just another way of saying your business name, it is still a missed opportunity. If your business is “Sunshine Shoe Design”, then “Shoes that Shine by Design” would be redundant. Use the space to take the brand story further. Note: if your business is your personal name (like mine), then you don’t really have to worry about this.
  • The tagline needs to work aesthetically with your logo, be visually interesting (no ugly words), and sound nice to the ears.
  • Consider your offerings and put each of them through the tagline test: does it remain true for each of them? If it doesn’t, then something is off with either the tagline or the offering.

Of course, there are also legal and logistical aspects to consider, like if the phrase is available or works in other languages. Make sure to look at all the unique needs of your business in addition to these strategic tests.

If you have a short-list of taglines that survive this process, that is a good time to get the weigh-in of your ideal customers to help break the tie.

Then, make a decision and give it a whole-hearted chance.

Get using it, first internally, then, if all goes well, externally. You will start to see the power of it. You will find that it works on levels that you hadn’t envisioned, and will think of new ways to own, embody, and add value to your tagline.

You may not have discovered the next “Got Milk?”, but at least you’ll be making the most out of that one-time opportunity to communicate more about your business in a single glance.

Do you have a tagline story to share? Let me know your own experience in the comments below.

And don’t forget to tweet and share this post if you know others that are suffering from tagline paralysis and would benefit from this help. Thanks!