What makes a good tagline?


How do we capture the essence of our brand in a handful of words?

This sounds hard. That’s because it really isn’t the right question to be asking

Better: What brief phrase can strengthen and deepen understanding of our brand?

You can’t say it all. Don’t try.

Name, logo and tagline partner to communicate the essence of the brand. 

What you don’t want to do is say the same thing across all three assets (i.e. a company called Speed with an arrow for a logo, plus the tagline “Faster is better.”). What’s the point of that? It’s not only a missed opportunity to tell other parts of the story; it reduces the needs of your customers to single dimension - and positions you for irrelevance if and when the better mousetrap comes along. 

Your tagline does not exist in a vacuum.

A few tips as you embark on the road to a new tagline:

#1 Begin with a brand platform.
Creating a tagline without a strategic foundation risks internal dissent and external confusion. Know what you are trying to say before you look for memorable and meaningful ways to say it. The brand platform serves as both guide and filter to what you say and to the tone you use in expressing it. Great taglines ring true – and the platform will clarify exactly what it is you are being true to.  

#2 Understand what the tagline is – and what it isn’t 
Know the role you expect your tagline to play in your communications. If your corporate brand is predominantly a holding company for a set of product brands, the tagline will have limited application for customers. On the other hand, if your corporate brand is the go-to-market brand for your organization, it may need to function as a sales message, a recruiting message and an investor message – all in one. A picture of how this line will be used – where it will live, whom it is aimed towards, how it relates to the customer experience – will help you right-size the overall approach.

#3 Be additive: Name, logo, tagline.
Let each piece contribute to the bigger picture, relying on and playing off of each other. A highly descriptive name can rely on a tagline to communicate your unique approach. A more evocative or fanciful name may need to be grounded by a more descriptive line. Strong brands find the right balance across the assets. 

#4 Avoid buzzwords.

Build your line to endure. If everyone else is saying it, you can be sure it will feel trite before long – and it doesn’t belong in your tagline. 

#5 Know your voice. 
Every tagline need not be clever. Many try too hard. For some, simple and straightforward is the perfect formula. For others, a subtle double meaning or shift in interpretation can help create a phrase with the flexibility to stay fresh as you evolve. 

In short, take the time to see where it’s all going. Work the process. Have fun with it. Brainstorm. Hire professional help. At the end of the day, your tagline can become a nice handle to help break the ice across a range of audiences and media. Remember: you also have other tools in your branding and messaging arsenal to help people see who you are and what you’re all about.

Jonathan Paisner