Ad and marketing creatives
Just Do It! Finding the Tagline to Voice the Brand
"Taglines" are the slogans that copywriters and marketers devise to make a brand more memorable. New contributor Sarah Williams, founder of the copywriting company Wordsmith, sheds some light on what makes a winning tagline.
Short quiz — which products match these taglines? "Don't leave home without it," "It's the Real Thing," "Think Different." (Answers at the end of the article.)
We all know taglines just like we know our best friends' nicknames — Nike's "Just Do It" is probably one of the most well-known and most long-lived of all taglines, developed, so the legend has it, during a 1988 meeting between Nike executives and their ad agency, Wieden and Kennedy, when Dan Wieden apparently said in acknowledgement of Nike's positive attitude, "You Nike guys, you just do it." The tagline was great — the $300 million plus spent advertising didn't hurt either. The important point, though, is that the aspirational, direct, down-to-earth, 'can do' statement of the tagline helped consumers to feel that buying Nike products was a positive act, demonstrating their own personal 'can do' attitude. When customers buy, they buy so much more than just the product.
One way a tagline works is to help carry the brand into the consumer's consciousness, where it can lodge and, with luck, mesh with their own cultural attitudes and orientation so that they connect with the brand as something that they feel close to and develop warmth and loyalty towards. As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon said, "A brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." A tagline is an important part of that conversation.
How then to develop a tagline (or strapline as it's called in the UK, though quite why beats me)? Like company and product naming, tagline development is a highly sensitive, intensive and much-misunderstood aspect of the copywriter's and marketer's art. It takes hours, and, if you have the opportunity to brainstorm, more than one person to come up with something that, if you're lucky, then appears simply right.
A couple of examples from work we have recently done. One was to find a new tagline for a company which had been trading very successfully for over 20 years but was beginning to lose ground to its competitors — they wanted something to help clarify just what made them different, special and valuable. The company, a market research portal for the telecommunication industry, needed a tagline that focused on the speed, relevance and accuracy of their research. We provided them with an initial array of some 15 possible taglines, ranging from the slightly zany to the utterly straightforward. While the whacky ones appealed to the managing director, the management team as a whole preferred the more straightforward ones. From that feedback we provided a further shortlist of ten. From this, the company finally selected "Guided, Accurate, Timely and Totally Relevant" — does exactly what it says on the tin, as they say in the UK. We are trialing this for a few months to gauge customer response. You can check it out yourself at www.cmsinfo.com. Thoughts and feedback welcome.
The other tagline was part of a complete branding exercise for a new company for a business coach, speaker and writer. For this we held a brainstorming meeting with a number of core company members, including the managing director, the branding designer and others. After kicking around for some time just what it was the company, and in particular the MD, were seeking to achieve, and the benefit they brought to their clients, we came up with some central concepts built around energy, drive, acceleration. As a business coach, clearly success, profits, wealth and results were also part of the mix. We'd been talking for about an hour, batting ideas back and forth, when, in a sudden coalescence of ideas, we came up with the finished product: Igniting Business Results. The company has just been launched, and first phase of the website is now up and running for you to have a look at www.paul-avins.com. Have a look and see what you think.
If naming a product or company can be compared to naming a baby, then developing a tagline is like giving a child a nickname or pet name — it fits the individual and extends their identity.
(Quiz answers: American Express, Coca Cola, Apple Computer.)