Taglines are a fundamental tool of branding that allows you to distill your core message into a very concise, memorable often catchy set of words, that encapsulates the value you offer to your audience.
The right tagline not only supports your brand, it can act as an anchor, dropped in the exact position of the mind of your audience that was earmarked in the strategic roadmap. If it’s powerful enough, it can become what your brand is known for. It can become Iconic.
Some of the world’s most Iconic brands are known as much for their taglines as they are for their products, services or brand identities.
A Tagline becomes a Mantra
The tagline may be a direct promise, it may be a statement or it may just be a suggestion, but whatever it is, it becomes the mantra of the brand, linked directly to their purpose, mission and values, acting as a reminder of who they are as a brand.
A tagline may also be the brand’s umbrella mantra, a product promise or an advertising slogan. Whatever the need for the tagline, the intent doesn’t change and that is to solidify the brand’s place in the mind of the consumer to pave the way for seamless brand recall.
Think of some of the world’s most Iconic brands, and the taglines they are known for.
Nike: “Just Do It”
MasterCard: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”
BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
Coka-A-Cola: “Enjoy Coke”
Dollar Shave Club: “Shave Time. Shave Money.”
L’Oréal: “Because You’re Worth It”
California Milk Processor Board: “Got Milk?”
Tesco: “Every Little Helps”
M&M: “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”
De Beers: “A Diamond is Forever”
McDonald’s: “I’m Lovin’ It”
Maybelline: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.”
GE: “Imagination at work”
FedEx: “When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.”
Audi: “Truth in Engineering”
I would suggest that there probably aren’t many that you don’t know whether you have been a customer to one of these brands or not.
The Brand Recall Anchor
The pinnacle of taglines is for it to become an anchor for your brand in the mind of your audience (and the broader public) to the point where seeing or hearing those words results in an instantaneous brand recall.
That’s not something that happens overnight and requires years of reinforcing your brand promise to the market, brick by brick. Setting this up as early as possible, however, get’s your tagline to work in laying those bricks and offering your audience an easy way to recall you brand.
When it comes to creating your tagline, following a process and ensuring the common characteristics of Iconic taglines are considered, sets you off on a path that can often lead to great results.
Follow this path and great things may happen.
#1 Position Clarity & Distinction
The starting point needs to be a crystal clear and concise version of your audience message. This is usually focussed around where the value is in what you do for them and what the result might mean to them.
Along with the message, it will be useful to have your unique selling proposition front and centre, which brings a focus, back to your key differentiators. If you want to anchor down in a position in the mind of your audience, your position needs to be what makes you unique – otherwise, you’ll be attempting to anchor down in a place that already has a few anchors, reducing your chance for success.
Knowing what your strengths are key to identifying which part of the mind you want to drop anchor. This article by Brad VanAuken for Brand Strategy Insider outlines the importance of getting the position right.
Creating your tagline usually comes on the back of your internal branding, which will set out the tone and the language that your brand should be using. In order to ensure that your tagline aligns, this needs to be another major consideration. If you haven’t been through this process then I would stand back and consider it before pushing ahead.
Another area of consideration should be the taglines of your competitors. Just like your brand identity, you need your tagline to be different, unique, one of a kind. Creating a tagline that in any way resembles your competition will likely cause confusion and may even trigger brand recall of your competitor.
Remember, a tagline may be a direct promise, it may be a statement or it may just be a suggestion. The key is having a clear and distinct position of the message you want to communicate.
#2 Define Criteria
It is important to establish a consensus among the decision makers around the qualifications, goals and objectives of creating the right tagline. As it is a creative process, often various tastes in language come into play and one solution could be vastly different from another.
In outlining these criteria, you can later allocate group scores to the individual criterion outlined, to form an overall score based on the pre-agreement. This often mitigates potential selection problems and allows the team to stay on-point.
Ensure you include the common characteristics of Iconic taglines when deciding on your selection. Your tagline should be:
Your concise selection of words, their meaning and how they fit together determines how memorable it will be
The benefit must be clearly implied and the message itself must be crystal clear.
Your tagline must attempt to evoke an emotional response. This emotion must be aligned with your brand message.
If you attempt to stay within the confines of standard you are setting yourself up for uninspiring sameness, which is a ticket to obscurity. Be different and stand out.
Your tagline might start off as a long sentence, which needs to be shaped as a sculptor would shape clay. Gradually chipping away until you have a distilled, concise message. There’s no hard and fast rule about length. Some taglines are short “Think Different” some are long “”When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight”. The length is less important that its memorability and clarity.
This is where the fun begins. Getting as many ideas out as possible allows for every angle to be explored. The first few minutes of this process is usually relatively easy and quite enjoyable. It’s the proceeding minutes, hours, days that it becomes more difficult.
Using the material outlaid in front of you (your message, personality, tone, competitors) record as many keywords as possible. Use keyword tools to find synonyms and extensions (such as keyword.io and thesaurus).
Once you have an exhaustive list, it’s time to get creative. With your message and your personality at the forefront of your thinking, attempt to link words that communicate that message in the personality or tone previously extracted.
Try to be playful and allow the process to flow and use some of the following techniques to extract as many possibilities as you can.
Don’t expect the tagline to reveal itself within the first hour. That’s not to say that it won’t. The creative process is not a science and sometimes a simple word can open up the imagination and combine with memory recall to spit out a tagline that fits like a glove. The one that was meant to be.
For most however, it is usually in the frustration of the process that the magic happens. In pushing our imagination and limitations, we open doors of our imagination. A lot of those doors lead to dark rooms and dead ends, but some of them open up into other worlds. The point is, the harder you push, the more frustrated you become, the more doors you open, the more likely you are to find that missing link.
On the back of the brainstorming phase, you should be left with upwards of 10 solid possibilities. This is where you need to get ruthless start to cull your list.
You could start the scoring approach at this point but you can trust your instincts for now. Quickly take five of those contenders off the list. Doing this quickly allows your gut to get involved and alleviates overthinking.
Remember, this is a great process but not an exact science. Different people and different creative processes throw up different results. Follow the process as a guideline but allow your instinct to take over at times and break the process when you feel comfortable.
Go back to your selection criteria and allocate a score out of 10 for each criterion for each of the remaining options. Ensure that each one represents a score above five for each of the criterion. Disqualify those that fall below.
Your score system should reveal the top two or three for consideration. Take to Google to see if you can find any reference or pre-existence of this term. Also look into trademark availability to see if you can protect it. If there is a reference to the term elsewhere or it is trademarked, consider the obstacles that come with that.
At this point, all of the criteria have been met and what you’re left with is the cream of the crop. The mind has done most of the heavy lifting to get you to this stage but allow your gut to take over from here safe in the knowledge that either one is a viable option.
Along with the naming of the brand and the actual brand identity itself, taglines are one of the most creative processes throughout branding. Unlike the naming process, which usually allows for only one or two words, the tagline process opens up creativity to wordplay in a less constrained way, which is creative wordsmiths blank canvas.
The right tagline can be hugely influential in the success of a brand. Having a unique memorable tagline that creates a firm and permanent anchor in the mind of the audience can offer brands a defining edge in their market.
Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.
He’s also a friendly chap so if there’s something you want to know about brand, he’d be happy to get into it with you