Taglines and how to write them

By Louise Thomas

Love ‘em or hate ‘em sometimes your brand needs a tagline. And for times like those we have some tried and tested ways to help you craft a tagline that will work hard for your business or brand.

There are several ways to test how strong a brand identity is. We like to cover up the logo on an ad, for example, and ask people to identify the brand. It's an effective way to show how well the other aspects of the identity have been, well … branded. A well-designed brand identity combines visual elements such as the colour palette, photography, font or symbol to create a distinct look that stands apart and is memorable. Some even go so far as to "own" a particular element. Think Nike’s photography (unmistakeable), Coca-Cola’s colour, and the Apple symbol which is so recognisable they don't even need to write their name on their store fronts!

Powerful stuff and a brand designer’s holy grail. But what about the words associated with these brands, are their words and taglines as recognisable?

Image credit:  MapExpo

Image credit: MapExpo

Now ask yourself if your 'brand words' work as hard

for your brand as they do for these iconic brands?

What is a tagline?

A tagline is a brief phrase that helps to clarify a single thought. It distills the brand into a compelling message that’s easy to say, easy to understand, and easy to remember. The most effective tagline helps a brand stand out in the customer’s mind. A great place to be considering that what people think about your brand, is your brand.

What is the purpose of a tagline?

A tagline is there to make it easier for people to understand what you do or why they should choose you. They're valuable real estate so you need to make sure each word is working hard to differentiate your brand.

Why do you need a tagline?

Not every business or brand needs a tagline. They’re useful when launching a new business or re-brand to explain how you're different, position your brand competitively or communicate the customer benefit.  We're often asked to create taglines for brands with abstract names. So if you find yourself repeating your name. Or if people stare blankly when you tell them your name your brand might benefit from a tagline that makes it easier for people to understand. Or a new name, but that’s another blog post (stay tuned - Ed).

3 steps to writing a tagline

Step 1: Understand why

Start by understanding why you need a tagline. Are you launching a new business, has your business offering changed, or have you rebranded? Knowing why you need a tagline, will help you define what kind of tagline you need to create and focus your thinking.

Tip: Write with your brand personality and tone of voice in mind? The characteristics that describe how your brand looks, speaks and behaves.

Step 2: Choose your type

There are many types of taglines. We find it best to concentrate on coming up with tagline ideas that address why you are doing this. That’s the easy part. Now you need to shortlist and narrow it down to one tagline you feel best captures the brief.

Tip: Organise your shortlist into tagline types, select one tagline from each group and sleep on it. Whichever tagline sticks in your mind, will probably be the one that sticks in other people’s minds too.

  • Descriptive taglines are factual and informative about what you do. They're good for new business, brands or services or brands with an abstract name. For example:

    ‘Connecting People’ – Nokia

  • Benefit taglines focus on the consumer benefits. They're good for brands in a saturated market that need to fight for consumer preference. For example:

    ‘Every little helps’ – Tesco

    'Building confidence since 1954' - Cowyn Building Group

  • Expressive taglines capture what your brand stands for, the emotive associations you are aiming for. They're good for retail, service and lifestyle brands. For example:

    ‘Just do it’ – Nike

  • Aspirational taglines appeal to our hearts or extend an emotional promise. For example:

    ‘There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard.’ - Mastercard

    'Cherish the little moments' - Toucan Kids

Image credit: Creatik and  Toucan  /  Cowyn Building Rebrand /  Pinterest  /  Nokia UK

Image credit: Creatik and Toucan / Cowyn Building Rebrand/ Pinterest / Nokia UK

Step 3: Know your audience

Think about what you're selling, who it's intended for and what the benefit is to them. Keep coming back to this as you go through the selection process.

Tip: What is your brand’s sweet spot? The junction between what you’re really good at, what your target audience needs, and what makes you different to others? Zone in on expressing that.

Now that you have a few ideas, challenge yourself to write a short sentence to capture each idea. Edit and keep editing it down to just 3 or 4 words. Then sleep on it. If you love it then next day, you're in business. If not, you might need to give us a call. We love words and the challenge of finding the right words for your brand.

If there’s an aspect of taglines that I didn’t cover, or if you have specific questions, let me know in the comments – I’ll answer them as best I can.

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