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Taglines 101

What’s the secret to developing a great tagline? There isn’t one. It’s a process, like everything else. And the process is equal parts strategy, method and creativity.

Upon completion of a corporate brand positioning, the tagline is usually the next deliverable in the brand development process. Typically we develop them in conjunction with the corporate signature, or logo.

I don’t believe in hard and fast rules for taglines, because it limits exploratory thinking in the development process. But here is one notable exception: never, ever, ever, be boring. Taglines can suffer death by a thousand cuts (just like other creative work) as they move through an extended approval process, and the result is boring, benign blathering. Avoiding this fate isn’t always easy, but it is always worthwhile. The tagline represents your brand promise—don’t squander the opportunity to engage via the force of language and ideas.

With that said,
you do have to know what kind of tagline you’re trying to create—descriptive or evocative—and why. When a new brand enters the world via spin-off, start-up or merger, it may need a descriptive tagline to immediately declare its point of distinction in a crowded category.

Evocative taglines, on the other hand, represent the high road in brand strategy. At the core of the brand positioning there should be a promise of distinction—and it is by translating that promise into the ultimate benefit to your audiences that memorable, engaging and compelling taglines can be conceived. Now repeat that process at least 50 times to make sure you’ve explored every angle and idea, and you’ll have a list of candidates. But then what?

As is the case with corporate naming, it isn’t a great tagline if it isn’t available. Prescreening through search engines, the USPTO and IP service bureaus will reveal potential conflicts.

Managing the approval process is another blog post entirely, but once you have a shortlist of recommendations, it’s time to add context to each candidate so that others can see its full potential just as you do. A short statement or paragraph, or even some preliminary ad concepts, can bring the tagline to life and reinforce its larger context to company leadership who is ultimately charged with approving a candidate.

And finally, as with the brand name and logo, remember that the tagline can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything. They are tools in the brand-building toolbox, and each has a specific purpose yet all work together to form the complete impression.

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