It's finally here: a blog post about taglines.
Chances are, taglines are one of the first things that come to mind when you think of old-school advertising or marketing. As a copywriter, the vast majority of my friends and family think I sit around in a Mad Men-esque office writing three-word phrases akin to Nike's iconic "Just do it" all day. Which ... I'm not gonna lie, isn't entirely false. There's just a little more to it than that. But, I digress.
Taglines are just one factor of the broader brand voice equation. But they are catchy. They are fun. And, therefore, people will probably care about them the most. That's why you've got to give taglines the time, effort, and good old-fashioned lovin' they deserve. They're more than an afterthought; to reflect what your brand truly stands for and wants to express, effective taglines require strategy and thought.
That being said, let's zoom in from big-picture brand voice and talk specifically about taglines. Why do we need them? What should they say? What should they do? And, of course, can I have more than one?
What even is a tagline?
A tagline is a short, pithy li'l descriptor that expresses the first impression of your brand. It often abstractly sells the unique selling proposition (USP) of your business, whether that's a vague explanation of what you do, a call to action, or an emotion-driven statement. Regardless, all roads lead back to your USP; it's your first shot to set yourself apart from your competitors. (Think of it as your very own, corny Real Housewives intro one-liner. You've always wanted one, and here's your chance. )
While your visual brand does a lot of heavy lifting to set your tone, your tagline sums up what you're all about in a neat, portable little package that could fit into Lizzo's iconic tiny purse. This differentiates you from the other businesses on the block, appeases our increasingly short attention spans, and sets your brand's overall *vibe.*
Refining your tagline's purpose.
Before writing a tagline, you'll first want to determine the gap this one-liner will need to fill. Do you want to inspire? Share a call to action? Take out the guesswork and straight-up tell people exactly what you do? All of these are valid purposes for a tagline, but it's important to note that your tagline will rarely do it all of these at once. You've got to give it specific directions. Often times a tagline will abstractly hint at the lifestyle of its consumers, without overtly explaining what the brand does or sells (like Apple's "Think Different"). On the flip side, other brands keep it straightforward and product-focused (like Budweiser's "The King of Beers"), with the call to action implied rather than directly stated. Whichever path you take, drill down the specific goal you're hoping to achieve with this one-liner, and stick to it, instead of trying to do everything at once. Your tagline won't do it all but, if you stay focused, it will do it right.
Keep it simple. And by simple, I mean short.
Now, Gentle Reader, you have your purpose and are ready to write your tagline. Our best advice: Keep it as short as humanly possible. The fewer words, the better. (Remember when Coca-Cola's was literally just the word "Real"?)
If you're someone like me and would find it easier to stretch your brand's *vibe* into a five-page document instead of a five-word phrase, this can be a challenge — but that's what makes a quality tagline so valuable. A tagline is more like poetry than promotion, and whittling it down into two to six words takes strategic thinking. But brevity and clean diction are what make taglines effective.
If you're wondering whether your tagline is too long, imagine it stamped on every piece of promotional swag imaginable. Especially the tiny ones, like a weird little golf pencil or something. If it doesn't fit, cut that baby back my friend.
Hot take: You can have multiple taglines.
I hesitate to let you in on this secret immediately after lauding the benefits of keeping it simple, but guess what: There's no tagline police. Nobody's gonna shut you down if you have more than one tagline.
Still, I should clarify that these are for pretty specific circumstances. For example, if your company has sub-brands, multiple taglines could differentiate the purpose and audience of each, under an overarching parent brand tagline. Toyota ("Let's Go Places") has distinct slogans for each of its sub-brands, like Toyota Tacoma ("Built for the endless weekend"). You'll see that both of these taglines form a cohesive unit under an adventurous, YOLO-esque tone, but Tacoma's gets a little more specific on what the product offers to a niche audience as an off-roading truck.
Sorry, a tagline is not a slogan.
Not to get all *technical* in the second-to-last paragraph over here, but it's important to designate that taglines and slogans are distinct entities. People use them interchangeably, but...well, they're wrong. While a slogan often applies to a specific marketing campaign (that is often temporary), a tagline is a permanent attachment to your brand name. So if slogans are the outfits you change depending on the occasion, your tagline is permanently tattooed onto your skin for all of eternity. Or, until you rebrand I guess.
Overall, a tagline is more than a catchy little one-liner; it's your brand's opportunity to present its purpose, tone, and call to action in one fell swoop. When you take the time to plan and create them with intention, those few words have potential to make a lasting impact. Choose them wisely.