What Is A Tagline? [The Science Behind The Strategy]

When you think of your favourite brands, the first thing you’ll likely think of is their logo.

The reason you think of the logo first is that it’s the easiest and most memorable element of a brand to remember because of its visual aspects and how our brains work.

Our brain digests visuals as quickly as 13 milliseconds and stores them in a part of the brain (the limbic system) that’s easiest for us to recall.

The second thing you’re likely to think of is the tagline.

Although taglines are processed in a different part of the brain (the neocortex), they are the most simplistic form of a brand’s language communication.

Their simplicity and memorability allows the brain to quickly create a shortcut between the logo and the tagline, which in turn leads back to an idea and the overall experience of a brand.

In this article we break down the tagline and the important role it plays in brand strategy.

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The Definition Of A Tagline

I’ve found many different definitions of a tagline, though none I have found encapsulates exactly what it is, the job it does and its overall importance…

Rather than give you an outdated (or inaccurate) dictionary definition, I would rather define the tagline as:

“The memorable formation of a concise set of words which capture the unique value a brand offers its audience”

There are four key words in this definition, which represent the tagline best






The goal of the tagline is to embed itself to memory creating a shortcut between the logo and the idea. If it’s not memorable, it won’t get stored to memory and therefore cannot perform its task.


This goes hand in hand with memorability. If a tagline is not concise it wont be remembered. Optimal range is between 4-5 words.


The tagline aims to embed the unique difference a brand offers. If the brands offer lacks differentiation, there is nothing unique about it and it can be easily forgotten.


The offer of the brand cannot be different for the sake of being different. The audience needs to associate value with that difference to motivate desire for the offer.

Why The Tagline Is A Pivotal Strategy Tool

The importance of the tagline cannot be understated.

One branding element that’s never understated is the logo.

In fact, if you ask 10 people to explain what a brand is, 9 of them will likely mention the logo but the tagline won’t get a mention.

The truth is, the tagline, just like the logo, is another strategic tool brand builders use to get their audience to first remember the brand, then to associate it with an idea.

Brand builders need to use all the strategic tools at their disposal, as effectively as they can and the tagline plays a major role in an overall brand strategy.

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The Strategic Goal Of A Tagline

Brand recall is when an audience remembers the experiences of a brand through a trigger or cue.

This trigger could be a sighting of a visual element (such as the logo), a purchasing experience or a desire.

The process of recall follows three distinct steps

Step 1: Visual recall (Logo)

Step 2: Message recall (Tagline)

Step 3: Brand experience recall (Idea)

As each step progresses, the consumer is required to recall more information which is stored in a deeper part of the brain (and therefore uses more energy for the brain to recall it).

Our brain’s reptilian complex is built for survival and therefore preserves energy when it can.

It resists any unnecessary energy use, which is why it’s harder for us to recall large amounts of information.

The goal of the tagline therefore is to land in a part of the brain that allows for easy recall and forms a shortcut between the logo and the overall brand experience.

If it’s successful, the audience, when triggered can easily recall the brand and associate it with an idea by following the shortcuts embedded in their mind.

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The Focus Of The Tagline

Brands don’t change their taglines often.

When they do, it’s often part of an evolution to solidify their position and idea in the mind of the audience.

This tends to happen when a brand has a high level of awareness in the marketplace and relies less on the tagline to provide a memory shortcut.

Once the brand enters the long-term memory of the audience, the job of the tagline can shift to crystallise the overall idea.

Two examples of taglines, which crystallise the idea of the brand, are:

Nike: Just Do It (1988)


Apple: Think Different (1997)

Both these taglines were adopted with unparalleled brand awareness already established.

In the early stages of developing a brand, the brands low level of awareness means that the tagline needs to focus all its energy on establishing its position in the mind, rather than the big idea.

Positions are solidified through the difference offered in the marketplace, which means, brand builders need to develop taglines that are laser focused on the differentiation strategy.

This means there are two stages to the tagline.

Stage 1: Solidify The Position

Stage 2: Crystallise The Idea

The tagline doesn’t need to change as it advances from stage one to stage two though it often does.

Regardless, when developing a tagline for a new brand, it needs to be developed to solidify the position with a focus on the differentiator.

Once that position has been established and held for an extended period of time, it can evolve into phase two, when it shifts focus to crystallise the idea.

If a tagline can capture both the idea and the differentiator then it should, though establishing the initial position is the primary focus.

The 4 Characteristics Of Effective Taglines

An effective tagline achieves its goal, when it lands in the memory of the intended audience and creates a shortcut in their mind that facilitates brand recall.

In order to do this effectively, brand-builders need to inject these 4 characteristics into their taglines.

  1. Clear

  2. Catchy

  3. Concise

  4. Clever


The message in the tagline should be clear. If it’s unclear or confusing in any way, it won’t be understood and has no chance of landing in the memory.


No ordinary collection of words will make it into your audience’s memory either. The words must be carefully selected and interact with each other well whether through rhyming or phonetic appeal.


Though there are some examples of long taglines (15 minutes can save you 15 percent on car insurance – Geiko), they are exceptions to the rule. Keep your tagline between 4-5 words if possible. Any less, the message may be lost. Any more it may not be remembered.


This characteristic should only be included if the first three boxes have been ticked. A clever tagline should not come at the expense of any of the three characteristics before it. If you can pull it off however, it can supercharge memorability.

A perfect example of this of a tagline ticking all four boxes is:

Shave Time, Shave Money –The Dollar Shave Club

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24 Awesome Examples Of Effective Taglines

Here is a collection of some great taglines for your inspiration.

See if you can identify which taglines that Solidify A Position or Crystalise An Idea:

Push Button Publishing – Blogger

Buy It, Sell It, Love It – Ebay

American By Birth, Rebel By Choice – Harley Davidson

Greatness Awaits – Playstation

Make Believe – Sony

Subway – Eat Fresh

EA – Challenge Everything

Jaguar – Grace, Space, Pace

Finger-Lickin Good – KFC

Have a Break, Have A Kit-Kat – Kit-Kat

The Burgers Are Better At Hungry Jacks – Hungry Jacks

Think Different – Apple

Schh… You Know Who – Schweppes

The Ultimate Driving Machine – BMW

We Try Harder – Avis

Melts in Your Mouth, Not In Your Hands

Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin – Ronseal

Open Happiness – Coca Cola

Intel Inside – Intel

Because I’m Worth It – L’Oreal

Connecting People – Nokia

Taste The Rainbow – Skittles

Think Small – Volkswagen

Let your fingers do the walking – Yellow Pages


The tagline is not just a clever collection of words that sounds good.

It has a job to do. An important one.

The job it does crosses strategy and science and when executed well, can nail down a position for the brand.

Are you building a brand now or in the future?

How do you use taglines strategically?

Will you adjust your approach from anything you’ve learned in this article?

Will you inject the 4 characteristics into your next tagline?

Let me know in the comments Right Now!

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    1. Hey Steve,

      Finding a great tagline is deceptively difficult. Keep a focus on that position and simplify simplify simplify.

      I’ll make a note to create more content around techniques and processes to help.

      Good luck

  1. As a copywriter and branding enthusiast, I just love headlines! This single line tells what you’re all about as a company, marks your unique selling point, and captures the reader’s attention all at the same time.

    Taglines are like branding master keys. Logos are great, but there’s nothing like a a good tagline that says everything.

    1. I agree… Without the master key to let the big idea into the mind, the logo gets locked out

      Love it Mia


  2. Hi Stephen, Mia,

    Thanks! My company has reinvented the bathroom faucet, you can see it here: http://www.nasoni.com There’s an excellent unboxing video created by The Gadgetflow that shows what it does here if you have a minute: https://youtu.be/_RncDaJGrwQ

    The original tag line I came up with was our mission is to:

    Make Life Easier
    And that morphed into:

    We Reinvented the Faucet. Literally.

    Following that, we went to what I have currently, which is:

    The Future Of Faucets Is Here

    which is meant to say there is something new, and your old faucet isn’t good enough. Next, we thought of something more general:

    Live Simply and Beautifully

    as a tagline as it seems we could go in a lot of different directions with that.

    These comments may be of interest to your readers as well, following a journey of a tag line in development….. :) Greatly appreciate your thoughts and feedback!

    1. Hey Steve,

      Anything that could be anything I’d rule out.

      I.e. – “Make Life Easier” could be a toaster or an accounting app

      Live Simply and Beautifully could be a cosmetic brand or an apparel brand

      “The future of Faucets Is Here” is direct… Doesn’t need “Is here”

      Follow the key characteristics… Make it clear, catchy, concise, clever in that order

      Cheers Steve

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