A great tagline is compelling verbal shorthand for who you are and what you promise. It has the potential to unite all aspects of your brand around a single, powerful idea in a way that resonates with your audience and which they’ll remember long term.
When you put it like that, you can see how a tagline does a lot of the heavy lifting. So it pays to get it right. But despite the fact that writing a tagline may look easy (just a few words? How hard can it be?) coming up with a cracker can be a struggle.
You’re not alone. Taglines are tricky little beasts.
But capturing the ethos and identity of your business in a few words is one of my favourite creative challenges, and here’s why…
The great thing about taglines, is that it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Or if your brand is big or small. If you can communicate clarity, and ideally an emotional benefit, you can create a meaningful tagline for your business.
So let’s help you decide if you need a tagline. Or if a marketing slogan is what you’re after. And then let’s dive into how best to come up with the goods.
Though these terms are often used interchangeably, a slogan is a memorable phrase that’s typically used to advertise an individual campaign, product or service. Whereas a tagline is evergreen and summarises what your business is about.
But whether you need a tagline or a marketing slogan, the process we’ll be going through below will work just as well. You can also use it to come up with catchy brand and product names too.
- Do you have a brand name which doesn’t convey what you do?
- Do you have a brand name which explains what you do but doesn’t convey a benefit?
- Do you have a brand name which doesn’t convey your character, culture or the purpose behind your brand?
- Do you want to tell an emotional story about your business and why it matters in the world?
- Do you want to reposition your business or reshape perceptions of your brand?
Katie Marshall of Chicks and Mortar offers unbiased education and practical support to empower women tackling property projects. She uses a tagline to define her offering. (Plus, she says, it helps avoid misconceptions – no bricklayers here!)
- Keep it clear and simple
- Make it memorable
- Make it meaningful
- Make a promise
- Highlight a benefit
- Make it emotional
- Make sure its unique
Step 1. What are your brand’s commitments and core values?
Understanding your brand’s commitment and core values can help when creating a tagline that’s quintessentially you. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want my business to stand for?’, ‘Who do I want to help?’, ‘What are the values that drive my business?’ Think about things like honesty, accountability, diversity and inclusion, fairness, quality…
Step 2. What do you do?
It’s time for that thesaurus. Write down synonyms and words associated with the products or services you sell. For example, if you sell trinket boxes, you might write treasure, valuables, jewellery, keepsake, charm, pieces, sparkles, mementos…
Step 3. What benefits do you offer?
Taking the previous question one step further, what do people to ‘actually’ get from your products or services? What advantages does it bring? These ‘ultimate benefits’ are things like speed, value, ease, precision, freedom, success, growth, confidence, relief… For our trinket box example, you might ‘actually’ be offering benefits like safety, tidiness or simply, delight.
Step 4. What words do you associate with your brand?
Your brand has a personality, an identity. When describing your brand, what words do you and your customers use? Is your brand helpful, playful, authoritative, disruptive, creative, honest, adventurous, aspirational, visionary, cheeky, or something else? Write these adjectives down.
Step 5. What emotions do you want to evoke?
What do you want people to feel when they think of your business? What are the warm fuzzy feelings you want to evoke? If you can ask your customers directly or compile a list of commonly used emotions from testimonials, perhaps even use a word cloud, this can really help.
Step 6. Time for some brainstorming
By now you should have several lists of words and ideas. It’s time to get creative.
Play around with word combinations. Sometimes just two words together is all you need. (In our trinket box example, ideas could include ‘Treasure today’ or ‘Spark delight’.)
Consider using a rhetorical device. I’m not just talking about rhyme, rhythm or alliteration – although these techniques are commonly used and with good reason. Linguistic wordplay goes a long way in making brand recall efforts simpler. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Isocolon: Use similar syllables in each phrase for a repetitive ring.
‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline’
Anaphora: Use repetition to create emphasis.
‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’
Anthimeria: Make a verb into a noun or vice versa.
‘Olay. Your best beautiful’
Alliteration: Repeat the initial consonant sounds.
‘Homing Instincts. Where Melbourne goes for gifts’
Assonance: Repeat the vowel sound.
Beanz Meanz Heinz
Consonance: Repeat the consonant sound
‘bugcrowd. See Security Differently‘
Find common phrases, song or movie titles, lyrics, catchphrases and metaphors featuring your listed words or (and this is a great tip) words that rhyme with them. A clever twist of wordplay or unexpected turn of phrase feels familiar and makes taglines stick in your brain. In our trinket box example, we might consider something like ‘Think inside the box’, ‘Enduring love’, or ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’.
Plus there are heaps of online tagline generators that may spark some ideas:
Write down everything that pops into your head. Even the silly ones. I often come up with 50 or more initial ideas trying different styles, lengths, words and punctuation. Once the creative juices start flowing, you’ll find you’re on a roll.
Step 7. Sleep on it. Then harvest and hone.
Read all your ideas out loud. Some will sound rubbish. Scrap ’em. Add any new ones that bubbled up overnight. Polish the best ones, remembering to:
- minimise prepositions (to, with, for, etc.)
- eliminate buzzwords like solutions, passion and excellence
- scrap the generic, ambiguous and inane
- try out different punctuation like full stops and commas (which add drama) and ellipses (which soften two-part phrase and suggest a passage of time or relationship between two ideas.)
- keep it strategic and authentic
Step 8. Check your language for diversity, inclusion and equity
Remember, language is fluid and nuanced. Meaning and connotation are impacted by societal and cultural change. So it’s vital to make conscious word choices and get a 360 view of your tagline ideas.
Step 9. Consider how your wording will work in different contexts and fonts
Short taglines are easier to work with. They fit underneath a logo without distracting from it. But if your tagline doesn’t work underneath your logo, you can use it elsewhere like your website, business card, print materials, digital ads and promo items.
Step 10. Check it’s original
Once you’ve got a few final tagline ideas on your shortlist, you want to check for any obvious commercial, domain or trademark conflicts. Google it. And if you’re in Australia, try the Australian trademark search.
No worries. I can help. Get in touch and I’ll send you some questions about what kind of tagline you’re looking for, what sounds good to you, and what kind of image you want to project. We’ll have a chat about it. Then I’ll come up with several concepts for you to choose from—and I’ll explain why each concept was chosen so you can make an informed decision about which tagline is best for you.