Why a Good Tagline is More Than a Catchy Phrase
The right tagline can make or break a brand. It can inspire seamless customer loyalty, or turn a brand into a meme if done poorly.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss some of the core elements of a strong tagline, and then highlight the effects taglines can have on the brand.
The Core Components of a Successful Tagline
This may seem obvious, but brands miss the mark on this one more often than you’d think. Often, what leads business owners astray here is focusing too much on thinking of something that sounds zingy and exciting at the expense of being clear.
Think of something like, “An Experience You’re Not Even Ready For!” That sounds like we’re selling the sizzle, right? Except… What are we selling?
A strong tagline should accurately demonstrate the brand’s unique value, reinforcing the feelings conveyed by the logo and setting the stage for the rest of the brand’s marketing materials.
The reason Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline is so successful, apart from being short and memorable, is that it speaks to action and accomplishment. The swish logo also looks like a checkmark, symbolizing completing something. The sense of forward motion and making it happen are important to the types of customers that buy Nike — and both Nike’s logo and tagline are tightly interrelated.
As mentioned above, a good tagline needs to be simple and concise. When a brand nails both of these criteria, it helps ensure two things:
- A prospective customer will immediately understand what the brand offers, and has a real chance to connect emotionally even if their engagement isn’t long enough to read a whole website or brochure. This is especially important about the tagline if the company’s name isn’t very descriptive.
- Prospective customers are more likely to remember it. We don’t emotionally connect with things we don’t understand or recall later. Ever seen an ad while out and about and vaguely thought of it once you got home, but couldn’t quite remember the name or tagline? That’s a missed chance for connection.
There’s that famous Maya Angelou quotation, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A short tagline increases the odds of being remembered, but the emotional pull is what endures. At its core, this is really the bit that customers remember about the brand.
It’s the reason a customer would choose a given brand over others, despite even potential differences in pricing or location.
That message of motion and accomplishment Nike’s swish conveys is powerful, because every time a customer is lacing up their Nike sneakers and puts on their hat to go for a run, or go play a basketball game, they are thinking, “I can do this.”
When that person feels that satisfying moment of accomplishment, there’s a subtle mental undercurrent that their sneakers were a part of that success.
Ideally, a tagline’s message should be able to endure the test of time. A message that only makes sense because of its cultural relevance right now may not connect in a few years.
It’s costly and difficult to continuously revamp your brand, so it’s better to find a phrasing that connects more universally.
Inversely, brands should also be cognizant of relevant discussions of the time and be careful not to alienate customers.
One notable example that is now a cautionary tale is when Budweiser adopted this tagline in 2015: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”
What they were going for was a fun-spirited concept of beer helping you be more outgoing and avoid excuses that’d prevent you from having a good time. Unfortunately, this branding change also came at the same time as the increased attention being put on sexual harassment on college campuses and the importance of consent.
Budweiser’s message fell flat and instead came off as making light of a sensitive issue at someone’s expense.
Direct Benefits of Taglines on Brands
While in essence a tagline exists to reinforce the logo and explain the message succinctly, sometimes people’s perception of a tagline is so strong that it becomes a defining characteristic.
A business publication called The Manifest conducted a 2020 study of a little over 500 consumers, and 50% of them reported that a company’s slogan was the primary way they understand a company and what it is about. While admittedly 501 consumers isn’t statistically significant in a large-scale sense, it does convey some degree of just how significant a tagline can be to a brand.
But the tagline and logo aren’t simply there for first impressions. The real value of branding is recognizability.
Prospects seeing a logo or reading a tagline they’ve seen/heard before naturally increases their reception to them. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a 14% increase in digital ads click through when the ad uses a slogan the reader has seen before.
That’s 14% that has nothing to do with the sale, pricing, or availability the ad is promoting. It tells you the degree to which familiarity influences sales, and why working toward becoming a recognizable name enhances all the marketing a company does.
Consider it in this context: You are a shopper and see two companies with very similar products, with very similar pricing. One company you’ve seen before, whether on TV or on billboards while out and about. The other, a name you’ve never heard of. How do you make a choice between them? With all else being basically equal, you’d pick the one you’d seen before.
Even if you’d never done business with them, there’s a sense of familiarity that our brains interpret as trustworthy. In our minds, that automatically makes the one company a safer bet.
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