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How to Create Effective Taglines and Straplines

April 29, 2020.
M

This piece is written for the benefit of small to medium size organisations who, for whatever reason, wish to create their own brand and proposition without the aid of professional consultation.  In this, we reveal some of the theory behind the use of brand taglines and straplines, and the process involved in creating the right line to help to propel your business forward.

Taglines, Straplines, Headlines and Slogans – What’s The Difference?

The most honest way to answer this question is to say that the difference does not really matter! In different countries, in different companies, in different agencies, different people tend to blend and confuse these four terms to the extent that they have lost any definite clarity.

For the record, the purists among us would say that the formal difference is as follows:

Tagline

A tagline is the company’s clarifier, its guiding principle or its mantra.  It is often positioned adjacent to a company logo, and sometimes integrated into it. In this piece we are talking about taglines as introduced here.

Straplines

In very many instances, people refer to straplines in exactly the same way as they refer to taglines.  Technically speaking, a strapline is a secondary line used in addition to a headline, usually in a periodical publication.  The same is true for marketing purposes when used as a secondary line beneath the headline on an advertisement, in a conventional printed advert or any type of digital format.

Headlines

In line with the above, a headline is the large copy at the top of a page or an advertisement outlining its content, then supplemented by an optional strapline below and the body copy.

Slogan

The word slogan is really a catch-all phrase of any short combination of words used to describe an entity, or a campaign.  The terms ‘motto’ and ‘catchphrase’ mean pretty much the same, with ‘mantra’ being a little more specific in containing words which guide the actions of its owner.

How to Create a Tagline For Your Company

First - Naming Your Company

Before you start to develop a tagline for your business, you first need to think very carefully about naming your company.  In many instances, your company name stands alone in representing and, hopefully, promoting your company.  New companies are in the fortunate position of being able to integrate an element of marketing into their brand name from the onset.  The name is an important aspect of this and provides an excellent opportunity to set the direction for your marketing activity.

To look into the detail of how to think about naming your company, there is some advice here on names which ‘Says What It Does’, are ‘Distinctive’, ‘Future-Proof’, ‘Legally Secure’, ‘Positive in All Markets’ and ‘Search Engine Friendly’.  It goes on to explain the rationale for using different types of names including ‘Founder’s Name’, ‘Invented’, ‘Descriptive’, ‘Evocative’ and ‘Acronyms’.

Combining Names and Taglines

Naturally, it is essential to have named your company and checked all the legal connotations before starting work on your tagline.  One key objective for this exercise is to make sure that the name and tagline work in harmony, and combine to make the whole bigger and better than the sum of its two parts.

The name of your company could well have a major influence on the role of the tagline.  For example, if your company is called ‘We Buy Any Car’, then the role of the tagline would be very different than if your company is called ‘AB Smith’ which buys any car.  The name is doing the heavy lifting in the former, whilst the tagline needs to do it in the latter…

What Does Your Company Do?

For most of our clients, we go through a process with them in which we help them to understand the relationship between their ‘features’, which can be recognised as ‘what we do’, and the benefits created by those features for the customer – also being ‘what we do’.  A simple version of this would be to say that the feature for a car workshop is that they are qualified to mend cars, but the benefit for the customer is that their car is kept safe, reliable and compliant.

However, in some cases, the tagline and the marketing proposition can be very much related to the features of the product/service.  For example, for an online novelty cufflink retailer, it would be perfectly reasonable to use a tagline like ‘The Widest Range of Novelty Cufflinks Available’ – being the feature, rather than ‘Novelty Ways to Hold Your Cuffs Together’ being the benefit.

In some cases, the same company uses the same core capabilities to provide different services to different customer personas or segments.  So in these situations, it is necessary to create a tagline that captures the breadth of the offering and the different customer segments.

Tagline Tips:

Here are five essentials that you need to consider when creating your company tagline.

  1. Your tagline should be as short as possible.  Irreducible.
  2. It must be distinctive.  As with your brand in general, it should be Distinctive, Compelling and Enduring.
  3. Of course, it must be different to any competitors for both marketing and legal reasons.
  4. People must find it simple to remember and to pronounce.
  5. It should be legally protected as your intellectual property.

Types of Tagline:

Here are five different types of tagline that you might consider.

Descriptive Taglines

Particularly important if the company name is generic, for example the founder’s name; a tagline can describe the product of service.

Examples: Lush – fresh handmade cosmetics, TED – ideas worth spreading.

Call To Action Tagline

Taglines can be used to entice consumers to use the product or service provided by the company or brand.

Examples: Nike – just do it, YouTube – broadcast yourself.

Leadership Tagline

This is for organisations that want to assure stakeholders of their leadership within their sector.

Examples: British Airways (legacy) - the world’s favourite airline, BMW - the ultimate driving machine.

Superlative Tagline

Essentially self praise to promote all that is great about your product or service.

Examples: Budweiser – king of beers, KFC - it's finger-lickin’ good.

Provocative Tagline

Thought-provoking lines and questions designed to challenge and sometime shock.

Examples: Underarmour – I will, Dove – you are more beautiful than you think.

Tagline Tricks:

Only a tiny percentage of people take any English writing courses after the age of 16 – these being A Level and University students, professional copywriters and people who enjoy writing as a pastime.  So writing a strapline which will enable your company or brand to be distinctive and understood can be a daunting task.  Here are some pointers.

Keep It Clear, Not Clever:

Of course we’d all love to be able to write clever and cool taglines, but that does not always come easily; so, if in doubt, make sure it says what you want it to say as concisely as possible.

Think About The Tone:

Are you a company that is in a sector where humour is acceptable?  Or might it be off-putting?  Should the wording seem highly professional or ought it be colloquial, or even slang?  As part of this, think about the people that you want your tagline to impress and inform; how will they want you to speak to them?

Consider Double Meanings: 

Some of the most imaginative and memorable taglines use double meanings that serve to either double the value of their message or add an additional dimension, usually humour.  Examples range from the suitably irreverent and smutty ‘It’s a bit of an animal’ for long, thin sausage Peperami, to the elegant, timeless and unmatched ‘Diamonds are forever’.

A little alliteration…goes a long way:

Using alliteration and assonance delivers higher levels of recall and memorability which can be really valuable for your business.  Examples include ‘Intel Inside’ (Intel), ‘You'll never put a better bit of butter on your knife’ (Country Life Butter) and the exceptional ‘The best four bfour bfar’ (Land Rover).

It’s not permanent: 

Most successful companies change their taglines as they and their markets evolve.  If you don’t get it right first time, you can change it in time – but there is cost attached to making this change.  Getting it right first time is highly recommended, but still not as important as getting the name right, as changing that is much more complicated.

In conclusion, a brilliant, memorable tagline can make all the difference to the way that your company and brand is perceived by the world; getting it right can be extremely valuable.  If you find it difficult to manage this yourself, Mackman is here to help.  Give us a call on 01787 388038 or pop us a message on our contact form here.

What our clients say

We knew straight away that we wanted Mackman to be the brand agency to work with us on our project. We were given a real sense of confidence that they would do a great job and we were not proved wrong. We look forward to ‘growing together’ over years to come.
Jane Cotton, Board Director - ILECS (International Lift Consultants)
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