August 14, 2012

What Makes a Good Tagline?

What are the first five taglines that come into your mind?

Here are mine:

1. Good to the last drop.

2. Just do it.

3. Imagination at work.

4. Open happiness.

5. Let’s Build Something Together

Maxwell House, Nike, GE, Coke, Home Depot. Now, I love coffee but I won’t necessarily run out and buy Maxwell House just because I know their tagline. On the other hand, knowing their tagline certainly doesn’t hurt their chances with me.

A tagline is to a copywriter what a headline is to an editor. One of the sharpest tools in our bags, taglines are both creative works of art and advertising genius. Just as a good headline draws a reader into a story, a well-crafted tagline entices a consumer to consider a brand or one of its products or services.

While some may argue that taglines are irrelevant in today’s social-media driven culture, I disagree. Some brands are so well known (think: Costco, Starbucks, Whole Foods, McDonald’s) that they don’t need taglines (although that doesn’t stop “I’m lovin’ it” from playing on airwaves across America and around the world). I agree with John Moore of Crackerjack Marketer when he says the more undifferentiated a brand is, the more it needs a tagline to help consumers know what that brand offers. As a freelance copywriter, I’m often asked to craft taglines for small to medium size companies who need a little differentiation in their industries. In my humble opinion, terrific taglines are:

Short – Keep the tagline to eight words or less. Make sure it’s long enough to get the point across, but remember that shorter is better.

Catchy – The best taglines are memorable. When crafting yours, start with exhaustive research of the brand/company so you know who they are and what they do. Then, look at the masters for inspiration; consider some of the best companies out there and examine their taglines for cadence and content. “Pork, the other white meat;” “Choosy moms choose Jif;” “Where’s the beef?;” and “The Happiest Place on Earth” are just a few to get you started.

Informative – Beautiful, powerful words aren’t enough; a killer tagline informs consumers instantly by telling them what a brand sells and something of its identity or character in a compelling manner. Go back to my opening list; “Good to the last drop” doesn’t tell you coffee, but when paired the logo, it tells you this is coffee so good you’ll have to finish your cup.

Resonant – A tagline stays true to the identity of its brand. It tells the consumer about a product or service quickly while also communicating the character of the company it belongs to. Take “Let’s build something together” as an example. This tagline is perfect for Home Depot because it creates an emotional attachment to the brand – “go here, buy what you need and reconnect with your son or Dad.”

Weigh In

There’s much more that can be said about taglines. Let’s get a conversation going and improve our writing skills in the process. What do you think? Are taglines irrelevant? How do you go about writing them? What are your tricks and tips?

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