How To Write a Great Tagline For Your Company
A Step-By-Step Guide To a Tagline That Lasts Decades
To write an effective tagline for your company, it's important to understand what a tagline is supposed to do—and, specifically, what you want it to accomplish for your company. In a broad sense, a tagline is a memorable phrase that represents what your company does or what it stands for. Creating an effective tagline is more art than science.
As much as it is important to have an objective for your company's tagline, it also is important to understand what a tagline is not. It is not a joke, a punchline, or a catchphrase. It's not an attempt to make people laugh; it is something that should make people think of your company and what your product or service represents when they hear or see the tagline.
A tagline can become a catchphrase over time, especially if the product or service becomes a household name. Think of some of the ways these taglines have become a part of pop culture:
- "We try harder," Avis: If Avis had gone with something like “service second to none,” it would have been forgettable. This made Hertz sit up and take notice.
- "Just do it," Nike: It doesn’t talk about sports, or sneakers, or anything else as mundane. This is an attitude—one that has shaped the advertising of the company for decades. It has become so synonymous with Nike that the name itself doesn’t have to appear with it anymore.
- "Think different," Apple: For a while, this was Apple. It was zigging when others zagged. It challenged the status quo. Under the direction of Steve Jobs, Apple dared to break boundaries and recreate the technological environment.
- "Don’t leave home without it," American Express: What a beautifully succinct way to tell people how important your product is, without actually saying anything boastful or disingenuous. It made people feel safe when traveling, and that is a great attribute of any product or service.
The Writing Process
It all starts with the values and truths that make your company or your client’s company what it is. If you give a tagline the attention it deserves, it can be transformative, and the foundation for a campaign that can change the way people look at your company. Follow these steps to help find the right words.
- Write down words about your business. Write every word you can think of. There are no right or wrong answers to any of this, so have at it. Create lists. Don’t be afraid to reach for a thesaurus at some point, but be careful you don’t get bogged down in fancy alternative terms for common words. When you look at the best taglines, they are accessible. They use simple words combined in a way that makes you sit up and take notice.
- List all of your strengths and weaknesses. It may seem counter intuitive, but the latter part of that direction is important. The Avis line came directly from a weakness. It was not as big as Hertz, but it turned this into a great strength. So, when compiling your list, include the flaws. You want a list of pros and cons that you can look over. It can spark great ideas.
- Examine the benefits. Your product is great. Your service is the best. You want everyone to know that. Well, a comedian doesn’t go on stage to tell people he or she is funny. Jokes, or amusing stories, do that. The same applies to your business. What can you say about the benefits? Is it faster, quicker, bigger, cheaper, stronger, or more reliable? Get into descriptive benefits.
- Assemble phrases. You’ve got pages and pages of words right now. Lists of strengths, weaknesses, benefits, and more. It’s time to start piecing together phrases from those words. At this point, it is very easy to think about a clever turn of phrase, but avoid cleverness at all costs. Your goal here is quick communication. Cleverness is great for other advertising tactics, but a tagline needs to be direct. There is nothing clever about “Just do it,” but it has power. So, don’t get into wordplay and idioms. Just say something memorable, powerful, and truthful.
- Cut, cut, and cut. You will have a lot of options in front of you now. Too many. Start testing each one. Does it work in a variety of ways? Does it have dimensions? Does it need to be explained, or does it work on its own merit? Keep cutting until you have two or three killer options.
- Give every tagline the overnight test. You may have a few favorites, but let them sit and brew. One will stand out above the others; perhaps one you had never even considered. It also should start giving you ideas about where you can take your advertising and marketing campaigns.