How To Write a Great Tagline For Your Company
A Step-By-Step Guide To a Tagline That Lasts Decades
Before you can begin to write a great tagline, it’s important to understand what a tagline actually is. Or, to be more specific, what it’s actually supposed to do. After all, you cannot begin to come up with a solution if you don't know what the problem is.
A tagline is described online as “a catchphrase or slogan, especially as used in advertising, or the punch line of a joke.”
That's an interesting description, but it's not even close to the truth.
A tagline is not a joke.
A tagline is not a punchline.
A tagline is not a catchphrase.
A tagline can BECOME a catchphrase over time, especially if the product or service itself becomes a household name. Think of some of the ways taglines have become a part of pop culture, from the following list:
AVIS – We Try Harder
If Avis had gone with something like “service second to none” it would have been forgettable. Bill Bernbach gave them a mission statement, and it made Hertz sit up and take notice.
NIKE – Just Do It
It doesn’t talk about sports, or sneakers, or anything else as mundane. This is an attitude, and 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 any more.
APPLE – Think Different
For a while, this WAS Apple. They were zigging when others zagged. They challenged the status quo. Under the direction of Steve Jobs, they dared to break boundaries and recreate the technological environment. Sadly, these days it would be more like “Where Others Lead, We Follow.”
AMERICAN EXPRESS – Don’t Leave Home Without It
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.
HOW TO WRITE A TAGLINE...STEP BY STEP
Having seen how great a tagline can be, what are you going to do with yours? How are you going to make it stand out? What will it say that will make people think about it long after they have seen it?
It all starts with the values and truths that make your company (or your client’s, if you work in an agency) what it is. Here is a step-by-step process that can help you create a tagline worth its weight in gold. All you’ll need is a blank sheet of paper and a pen, or a computer. But honestly, the old-fashioned note making technique is best here. 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.
- Write Down Words About Your Business
Every word you can think of, and anything that comes to mind. 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 don’t read like poetic prose. They use simple words, but combined in a way that makes you sit up and take notice.
- List ALL Of Your Strengths AND Weaknesses
It may seem counterintuitive, but the latter part of that direction is important. The AVIS line came directly from a weakness; they were not as big as Hertz. But, Bernbach turned it 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 putting phrases together from those words. At this point, it is very easy to think about a clever turn of phrase. Avoid cleverness at all costs. Your goal here is communication. Quick communication. Cleverness is great for headlines, and other advertising tactics. But a tagline, it 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 option out. 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 should also start giving you ideas on where you can take your advertising and marketing campaigns.
This is it. This is your tagline. And if it’s good, it can last decades.