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Rather than give you an outdated (or inaccurate) dictionary definition, I would rather define the tagline as: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