Numerous attributes contribute to a successful tagline, and you don’t need all of them to hit the mark. You should, however, strive to meet as many of the following characteristics as possible
A strong tagline should:
- Be memorable
- Recall the brand name
- Include a key benefit
- Reflect the brand's personality
- Be campaignable
- Be original
- Be concise
- Be believable
Being memorable is more easily quantified in hindsight than in creation. So, how do you know if your new tagline is memorable? One method is to use clever common phrasing with a twist. Other common tactics for memorability include alliteration, rhyme, and humor.
Recall the Brand Name (or Image)
Once a tagline is well established in the minds of its audience, the learned connection should recall the brand name – but how can you create brand recall when the tagline is new? One common tactic includes leveraging existing word-connections that your audience already knows. For example, consider GLAD Wrap’s early 1980’s tagline, “Don’t get mad. Get GLAD.” This tagline plays on the common frustration with plastic wraps that stick to themselves and not to the desired container. There is easy recall of the antonym word pair “mad-glad,” and its memorability is amplified with rhyme.
Include a Key Benefit
Perhaps the most direct example of this concept is Miller Lite’s 1974 tagline, “Tastes great, less filling.” You can’t get a much more direct identification of a benefit statement than that! Or think of this classic ad for M&Ms from 1954 that most of us still know: “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand.”
Reflect the Brand's Personality
Taglines are a personal statement to your audience and should reflect your brand’s personality and aspirations. If your brand is playful, your tagline should be playful. If your brand is intense, your tagline should be intense. One of the best examples of this attribute can be found in the iconic Nike tagline created in 1988: “Just do it.” It’s simple, direct, and captures the spirit of Nike and the attitude their audience hopes to identify with.
A “campaignable” tagline provides the foundation for a marketing or advertising campaign. A truly campaignable tagline should be broad enough to offer multiple interpretations from a campaign perspective. The rationale for this idea is that advertising and marketing campaigns come and go with each new season and new offering, but taglines should have longevity. If your tagline isn’t able to spin off into a number of related campaigns, then your headlines will be remembered instead, and headlines have a limited lifespan. The following are a few highly campaignable taglines:
- “Got milk?” California Milk Processor Board (1993)
- “Where’s the beef?” Wendy’s (1984)
- “Think different.” Apple Computer (1998)
For this attribute, it’s easiest to offer a negative example. How many times have you seen taglines that say something like, “The Art & Science of _____”? Just type the phrase into your search engine and you’ll see that phrase is NOT original. Whether the concept is on target for your business or not, no one will associate it uniquely with your business. The whole idea of branding is to stand out. Your tagline should be a part of that process.
There are no rules to how long a tagline should be, but using six words or less is a good goal. Just look at Nike and the three examples under “Be Campaignable.” Each one uses only two or three words. That’s all you need to make a memorable point.
No matter what you say in a tagline, it has to be believable. Avoid phrases such as “the best” and “number one.” These are overused clichés that imply a proven, quantifiable factor that seldom exists. If your audience doesn’t believe your tagline, you’ve broken their trust before you’ve had a chance to build a relationship at all.
Great taglines look simple on the surface, but they require great insight, creativity, and thoughtful strategic consideration. Like a logo, they should be able to stand with your brand for many years and inspire loyalty and an emotional connection with your audience.