A tagline, or slogan, is a short statement that captures the essence of your business. An effective tagline is among the most challenging pieces of copy to write. Here are some tips and ideas that will help get you started.
In the song Margarita, by The Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty sings:
She wrote a long letter, on a short piece of paper…
This sentiment captures the idea of a business tagline, aka slogan. It’s a short phrase that coveys a big idea.
An effective tagline seems remarkably simple. It’s short. It’s easy to understand. It’s rhythmic and memorable.
Eat fresh. Only two words, yet it states an action (in the imperative) and communicates the main value offering of the business. Hard to be more effective with less.
Democracy Dies in Darkness. The Washington Post hits you with a realization of how important journalism is to democracy using memorable alliteration. A serious, thought-provoking idea stated in just four words.
Writers who produce taglines can attest to how difficult it is to come up with a winner. Anyone can explain value, suggest competitive advantage, and create a brand image in a thousand words. But try doing it all in four or less.
A tagline must communicate those elements, encompassing why a business makes its offer to consumers. The best taglines capture the essence of a value proposition itself, which is a longer statement that outlines the business’ offer and competitive advantage.
The big mistake small businesses make with taglines is that they try too hard to be clever but fail to include a key benefit or differentiate the brand. When you do this, you come up with phrase someone might recall, but they won’t know why it’s important.
The best taglines are both lyrical and literal. They’re short and catchy, but also convey information about the value you offer. Amateurs tend to get the first part but not the second.
Bad tagline writing falls back on hyperbole. The #1___, or The World’s Best ___. These are both inauthentic and generic, which is a turn-off to consumers.
Here are some tips on how you can develop a strong tagline.
Tagline Tip #1: Include a Key Benefit
What makes your product or offer unique? What is the key benefit that will motivate people to buy from you?
The best taglines distill this value into a short phrase. It’s a difficult thing to do, which is why corporations pay Madison Ave agencies big bucks to produce taglines. For example, Miller Lite Beer:
But getting value into a tagline is even more important for smaller businesses with less brand recognition. You get a real jump-start on persuading your audience when your slogan communicates a key benefit they care about.
Saddleback Leather has an inspired tagline that strongly communicates its key value:
Dycetin hangover supplements has a tagline which both tells you what to do and what the result is:
Again, for a smaller business with less brand recognition, highlighting a key value of your product is the most important step in developing a tagline. It’s positive, persuasive, and immediate. It starts communicating the value your offer so fast even the most impatient online shoppers will get what you do. That’s an invaluable step in your sales process.
Tagline Tip #2: Show Your Commitment
Another effective method for developing a tagline is to communicate your company’s commitment to your customers or a social purpose. This is particularly effective when you have a product that’s harder to differentiate because it’s not unique in the marketplace.
For example, Ed Pack sells backpacks. They’re different because they donate money back to local and global organizations that fund female education. This makes a strong tagline:
Allstate Insurance has had the same slogan since the 1950’s, which simply states their commitment to their customers:
If you’re integrating the idea of customer service into your tagline, try to be specific. Avoid vague statements like “Our clients are our #1 priority”, which doesn’t communicate anything beyond the obvious.
When Domino’s Pizza started out, they literally made their brand with the tagline “There in 30 minutes or less or it’s free”. If you can show how you go above and beyond for customers, it makes for an effective tagline.
Tagline Tip #3: Use Alliteration, Rhythm, and Rhyme
Taglines have a relationship to jingles and even poetry. A rhythmic, rhyming flow that can almost be sung makes the tagline memorable. The best big brand taglines get stuck in our heads. For example, you can probably finish this tagline: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz…
Alka-Seltzer all but cornered the market on effervescent heartburn tablets with that slogan (…oh, what a relief it is).
You know Bounty is the Quicker Picker Upper, what watch Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking, or what chicken is Finger Licken Good. Nationwide’s slogan is a jingle:
US Fast Prints uses rhythm effectively:
The Washington Post’s Democracy Dies in Darkness uses alliteration, as we mentioned.
These poetical devices are not a requirement of a tagline, and in fact they can be overused. As we said, it’s much more important to convey value than rhythm, especially for smaller businesses.
But catchy phrases get people’s attention. Also, because a tagline is so short, it’s more effective when it has the ring that rhythm and alliteration bring. But don’t sacrifice clarity for the sake of being clever.
Final Thoughts and Tips
When you’re creating a tagline for your business, use a writing and editorial process. Develop a half dozen variations and do a survey to see which connects with people the best. If you are using your tagline on banners or ads, you can also split-test variations to see which delivers better conversion data.
For the small business, your tagline is strongly connected to your value proposition. It will do you the most good when it clearly communicates a key benefit of your offer.
Perhaps the most famous tagline in advertising history came from De Beers:
This phrase equates the indestructible nature of the diamond with the idea of everlasting love. Now no guy dares to buy an engagement ring that’s not diamonds. To buy anything else is to say you won’t love her forever.
It’s a tremendous challenge to create a slogan that’s this effective. You must have a strong sense of your marketing concept, target audience, competition, and value proposition.
All that creates a very long letter, but you have a very short piece of paper to write it on.
The internet is built on short content that connects with people fast. A great tagline can guide your ads, social media, and website content. It’s why you’re in business, condensed into as few words as possible.
Take the time to develop this short but important phrase. Invest in it. No other words you write have as much potential to create long-term results.