Crafting A Tagline: The Art, The Science, The Strategy

All household brands began from start ups, and their path to the top is paved in unforgettable taglines. While some household brands are blessed with the timelessness of a single tagline, other equally large companies cycle through slogans like last week’s leftovers. De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” tagline, for example, is over 70 years old, while Coca Cola has coined a new tagline for all 40-plus new brand strategies they’ve worked on over the last century. Before jumping into writing a tagline for your brand, let’s dig a little deeper into what a tagline actually is.

Taglines vs Slogans

Emotions can be evoked in just a few short words. How? Taglines and slogans. We’ve all seen them on just about every brand we come across. Think about it — KFC’s “It’s finger lickin’ good” or the famous “Got Milk?”. They’re short and memorable and when executed right, a tagline can find its way around the dinner table or in conversation at a cocktail party — a great tagline becomes front of the collective cultural mind. But what’s the difference between a writing a tagline and crafting a slogan?

A tagline is a catchy hook that kindles an image for your brand. An effective tagline will make a consumer think of your brand when they hear your tagline. The tagline of a brand is what you generally see on a logo or logo variation.

A slogan, on the other hand, is associated with the products or services of the brand. Generally, slogans are a bit longer in length than taglines. For example, Apple’s tagline is “Think Different,” while the slogan for the first iPod Nano was “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Slogans help differentiate a specific product from an overall brand.

* The length rule is broken all the time, but we’re talking strict definitions here, not whether people follow them.

The Sciencey Art of Taglines and Slogans  

Taglines and their brands serve to create a deeper experience for customers, something bigger than the product it works for — a message, a higher purpose. For example, we all know that “There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s MasterCard.” MasterCard did an excellent job illustrating how money and the “priceless” aspects of life are experienced in our daily lives. There are dozens of companies that have edged their way into our front-of-mind space in similar ways.

Nike. “Just Do it” has been the tough love and inspiration for people on any part of the spectrum of athleticism. It’s short, sweet and easy to remember, and when you hear the tagline, there’s only one brand that comes to mind.

Subway. When you want to “eat fresh,” but you want food fast, you go to Subway. The sandwich shop has done an excellent job introducing fast food lovers to not so terrible options, all while keeping the fast food convenience.

Red Bull. OK, it’s an energy drink, but when you need supernatural energy, which energy drink do you grab off the shelf? The one that gives you wings, obviously. “Redbull gives you wings” was the longstanding tagline, until some jerk sued the brand for not growing actual wings. You win some, you lose some.

Kelloggs Frosted Flakes. For 50 years, Tony the Tiger has fostered our appetite for these sugary flakes, claiming “They’re Grrrreat!” This slogan is simple enough to appeal to generations of kids, all while having fun with the mascot, Tony the Tiger.

McDonald’s. The iconic “I’m Lovin’ It” tagline has a built in opinion about the food. Plus, using relatively common language positions the tagline for more stage time in conversations around the English speaking world. Boom.

Skittles. In 1994, Skittles invited people to do something only previously possible in their dreams: “Taste the Rainbow.” Thanks for making our dreams come true, Skittles.

Dollar Shave Club. The grooming product company really did find a way to “Shave time. Shave money.” for its customers, even in the smallest of ways. Convenience for all.

Dunkin’ Donuts: “America Runs on Dunkin'” … what American doesn’t love caffeine and a morning sugar rush? Quite appealing if we do say so ourselves.

The New York Times: The brand has been publishing news since 1851, but only the news worth printing. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” has shown The New York Times audience that they’re always giving the best of the best.

Depending on your business, you might be considering separate slogans for your products or services. Or writing a single tagline might do it for you. Whether you decided to use slogans or a single encompassing tagline, there are few things that can guide you in the creative process for either.

Crafting Your First Tagline: Start Ups, We’re Talking To YOU

It’s one thing to write a new tagline for a long-standing business, but for a start up there’s a different kind of pressure: your tagline is your first ever impression to the world. Deep breaths.  

The tagline of your brand should, of course, be simple, memorable and interesting. Now comes the brain-busting part, creating it. Taglines are tricky little things that are often an afterthought and might seem insignificant, but you shouldn’t let them be.

How to Write A Tagline For Your Small Business

Although they’re used in different ways, both taglines and slogans should:

  • Make a lasting impression on your audience
  • Include a clear benefit to the customer
  • Differentiate your brand from your competitors
  • Create positive emotions about the brand
  • Capture the overall benefit of what you have to offer

Step 1: Summarize your business into a few sentences. What does your brand provide to its customers? What problem are you solving?

Step 2: Trim it down to a sentence and really nail down what is most significant.

Step 3: Trim it down even more. Be simple yet creative with the words you use to describe what it is you’re all about.

If you’re a bit stuck and are having trouble getting through the above steps, we have a few tips for finding your striking line.

Crowdsource Your Tagline

Grab some insight from your audience. They know better than anyone why they chose your service, what they value about the brand and why it suits their lifestyle. Take the recurring core themes that you hear from them and write your first few sentences based on their insight.

Take Your Ideas For A Stroll

We recommend giving your brainstorming some legs. We know first-hand that some taglines hit you on your way to the corner store, others emerge during a casual conversation hours after you’ve left the office. The best ones come in the shower, so go take a shower.

Go Ahead And Throw Perfect Out The Window

If you’re searching for perfect, you won’t find it. But if you’re searching for a feeling and a real way to connect with your audience, you’ll get pretty darn close to perfect. When you capture emotion in your audience through your tagline, you’re drawing them in and leaving an impression. Review your market research and pay attention to the specific pain points and aspirations your audience has. Your tagline is buried somewhere in those emotions.

Keep It Brief

It’s hard being concise. Especially when you’re dealing with ideas that are packed with emotional complexity and experience potential. But the truth is, the most concise taglines are more emotionally potent and direct than lengthy ones. Don’t set your audience up to get lost in words. Hit ‘em in the heart with a punchy, evocative tagline. Also, keeping it brief also leaves opportunity to leave it open-ended enough for users to latch onto in their own personal way.

Example: General Electric. GE’s short tagline reads “Imagination at Work.” That imagination can mean something different to everyone, and that tagline can be used to illustrate a great number of innovative ideas through their ad campaigns.

Insert Value Here

The tagline of your brand should allude to the main value of your service. As your company grows and fine tunes its contribution to the marketplace, rooting your tagline in a key value will remind people where you stand and what you offer. The more specific you are, the better.

Example: Geico. The insurance company uses the tagline “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” “Save you” describes the value that the brand provides for its customers. “15%” is a specific value and is perfectly clear promise to potential customers. And “car insurance” is a keyword that the brand associates itself with. They’re telling their audience exactly what Geico can do for them — Bravo Geico!

Know It Will Change

Your tagline will change over time as your brand evolves, and your slogans will transform for each specific product they’re associated with. Be mindful about the evolution of your brand with consistent market research and customer feedback.

Example: L’Oreal. The beauty and cosmetics brand has been telling women they are amazing for several years now, and it’s definitely working. They changed their long-time tagline “Because I’m Worth It” to “Because You’re Worth It” because they felt their tagline should be focused on YOU, making it more personal for each customer. Then and now, the campaign reminds women that they owe it to themselves to look, feel and be their best — now it’s just a bit more personal than before.

We hope this helps you craft a tagline and slogans that really resonates and dig into the emotions of your audience. If you’re struggling with how to write a tagline for your small business, buy us a beer and we’ll provide some clarity on your brand’s core message and how you can amplify it.