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    The most innovative designers consciously reject the standard option box and cultivate an appetite for thinking wrong.


    Nov 2009

    5 elements of a great tagline

    Posted by / in Marketing, Tips and Tricks / Link

    I recently went through a rather exhausting exercise creating a “tagline” for a client.  A tagline – you know…those succinct and often memorable statements that capture the essence of the brand.

    Think of some of the classics and soon-to-be classics:

    • A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste® (United College Negro Fund)
    • Don’t leave home without it (American Express)
    • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands (M&M’s)
    • Just do it (Nike)
    • Broadcast Yourself™  (YouTube)

    It seems so simple. One line – two or three words even! How hard can it be? It may seem pretty easy to come up with a tagline, but not one that is destined to become a classic. Let alone one that your customers instantly “get”.

    So how do you create a good tagline without hiring someone like myself?


    Consider the 5 elements of a great tagline:

    1. It is connected to the brand

      Your tagline must make sense. It must be consistent with your company’s vision, culture and values. You can’t do this without knowing who you are, how you’re different from the competition and how your customers see you. If you are just starting out, think about how you would like your customers to see you.

      Lucky Charms “Magically Delicious”

    2. It is “ownable” (aka Randy’s litmus test)

      The tagline should tie into the core of your company. My former boss used to do the same thing with advertising – I call it Randy’s litmus test. He’d ask – “if we switched logos, would this ad still work?” If it did, then we would not use the ad. The same rule applies to taglines: if one of your competitors used your tagline, would it work for them? If it does, time to try again.

      Can Microsoft use Apple’s “Think different”?

    3. It is dead simple

      Simple is so important. You see it everywhere. Memos are simple. Instructions should be simple. Blog posts must be simple! No one has time for complexity – if they do, you don’t want them as customers (they’re too much work)! A tagline that needs to be explained is obviously no good. A long-winded, multiple-sentence tagline is also likely to be ineffective.

      Lay’s Potato Chips “Betcha can’t eat just one”

    4. It is clear

      This is the really tough part. There are a lot of options but finding the one “gem” takes laser-like focus on your brand and how you want to position your company.

      CNN’s “Go Beyond Borders” does it for me.

    5. It is consumer-focused

      It’s not what’s so wonderful about your company or brand but the benefit to the consumer. Consumers don’t care that you’re the leader, the first whatever, the sole supplier, the least hated, and so on – They just want to know why they should buy from you.

      Allstate says it best: “You’re in good hands”.

    Here are some words I would suggest you avoid when brainstorming your tagline:

    • Anything that starts with “A History of…” or “A tradition of…”
    • Anything that ends with “…solutions”.
    • Words like Committeed, Facilitating or Making.

    Here’s my tagline:

    A good idea is a good idea NOW!™

    What do you think?

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