What Goes into Making a Tagline That Really Sings?

October 17, 2017 | by Anna Woodward

The tagline—it’s the thing that either sticks in people’s minds for the rest of their lives or it immediately floats away, never to be thought of again. Or is it neither? Over the years, the need for a brand tagline has been called into question by the advertising community. A 2013 AdAge article marks the decline of taglines by pointing out that “many of the most admired brands—Starbucks, Whole Foods, Lululemon, Nordstrom—don’t have them. Some brands whose taglines helped propel them to greatness no longer use them.”

Perhaps as a writer at a strategic branding agency I am biased, but around BatesMeron we believe that as more brands compete for attention in highly saturated markets, the need for a distinctive, powerful voice is more important than ever. As Brian Reed of Reed Words said at the Brand New Conference last month, writing is about “distilling ideas down into potent capsules of meaning.” If any piece of your brand’s marketing is going to promote your voice and value—and make sure it’s memorable—it should be the tagline, right?

Sadly, many brands fall into clichés and conventions that result in utterly ineffective and forgettable taglines. You’ve definitely seem them, over and over again. There’s the “Period. After. Every. Word” tagline meant to emulate assertiveness and boldness, usually paired with overused words. There’s the vague and utterly meaningless instruction that doesn’t say anything about the brand or what they do. Or my personal favorite to hate: the three-step instruction manual tagline. “Write tagline. Put under logo. Sell thing.”

At one time these were original and creative, but now they’re the quickest way to ensure that your tagline is totally forgettable. Nobody will ever recreate “Just do it.” Just don’t even try to do it, I say.

At BatesMeron, we know that what makes a tagline powerful isn’t the format it’s written in or the marketing buzzwords you use—it’s about the right distillation. A tagline is a sharp, to-the-point slogan that tees up what you do and how you do it, and inspires action from consumers. And while it’s easy to rag on the bad ones, it’s more inspiring to take a look at the brands that are doing it right.

 

 

 “Moo is Moot” – Milkadamia

I first came across this brand while working in a coffee shop. I remember the first time I read the name and tagline and haven’t forgotten it since. Why it’s good: It’s memorable, it speaks to the purpose of the product and it exemplifies the brand’s quirky personality. Also, they have a product just for barista/coffee bars called “latte da”—I’m in love with this brand.

 

 

“Nothing like a suburb.” — Berwyn

Every time I catch a glimpse of the billboards, I think “gee whiz, that’s a killer tagline.”
For those of you who reside outside of Chicagoland, Berwyn is a town that sits just on the outskirts of Chicago city limits. It’s not quite part of the city but not quite a full-blown suburb. To me, the shining glory of this brand is this tagline. It’s a four-word sentence that can have two opposing yet positive interpretations, depending on your perspective. And it works with almost any headline. Jackpot.

 

 

“Belong Anywhere” — AirBnb

This tagline is great because it captures the aspirational tone without sounding over the top and cheesy. It taps into both the desire for belonging and the longing to truly embrace a new destination and experience it like a local. With AirBnB, you can blend in in the best possible way.

 

 

“Leave Uncertainty Behind.” — Investment Answers

Investment Answers, a financial advisory firm, is all about helping people understand the complicated and overwhelming world of financial planning. In an industry known for being stuffy, complicated and sometimes crooked, Investment Answers strikes the balance of being trustworthy and knowledgeable. This tagline balances the straightforward name with an emotional follow-up that speaks to the service they provide for their customers.

What are your favorite taglines? Have you seen any new taglines lately that really resonate with you? Let us know!

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