The Good, Bad and Ugly of Brand Taglines

 Critical Component or Relic of a Bygone Era

A quick online search of “taglines” will yield a range of relevant blogs and articles with broad-sweeping predictions about the future of the infamous brand tagline. Branding experts from all corners of the marketing world share very different views about the significance and utility of taglines. Some experts describe it as a critical component of a brand, while others consider it a relic of a bygone era.

In the early days of advertising, companies needed a way to distill their brand essence, personality, and positioning into a short, memorable phrase; a sharp one-liner that would hopefully linger in the minds of consumers. If you think about it, there are only a handful of truly memorable taglines. The famous taglines – Got Milk?, Just Do It, Think Different – only became significant after millions of dollars were spent on advertising.

Apple and Nike have since dropped their once-famous taglines. If you visit the homepage of Google, Amazon, Uber or Facebook, let me know how many taglines you find.

Unlike the Mad Men era where companies pushed their brand stories through one-way channels to the masses, today’s successful brands are embracing open, two-way conversations with consumers. A pithy tagline that tries to sum it all up is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the always-connected, hyper-transparent world we now live in. Consumers can instantly engage with a brand in so many interactive and personalized ways that a tagline can seem fruitless.

A tagline certainly can play a valuable role in branding, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a mandatory component of a brand. Companies should consider whether or not a tagline would contribute or improve the value of their brand.

There are no hard and fast rules that dictate taglines, but for companies who are thinking about updating or creating one, here are some quick branding gut-checks for determining the right tagline (or if one is necessary at all):

  1. The truth can hurt. The reality is that every brand, big and small, is the sum of its faults. Does the tagline reflect the authentic realities of your brand? Great taglines are deceptively simple but grew out of an intensive strategic and creative process. If the message doesn’t align with the actual brand experience then it will likely backfire.
  1. How well known is your business category? The old advertising adage “sell the hole, not the drill” only works if people know what a drill is. Consider a more practical, descriptive tagline that addresses the unique pain your brand solves. This is especially true when trying to establish a new category.
  1. Be ready to invest. Memorable and effective taglines are deceptively simple but take time and effort to create. Once finished, they require frequent and consistent use, which can be costly depending on your market.


You may also like – The ABC’s of Branding


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