The Mystery of the Tag
The tagline—sometimes called a messaging line, a value proposition, a true line (that’s frankly a new one to me), and of course, a slogan.
Well, I’m a copywriter of 30+ years and a member of Team Sussner, and we’re here to tell you, the “tagline” occupies its own unique territory in the foundation of a brand.
The tagline is, as our subject line proclaims, “your verbal logo.” In the hierarchy of branding, the tag sits just below your logo, often literally and always figuratively. The tag is your chance to attract, capture, educate and entertain your audience. That’s asking a lot of 7 words, or less. So, it’s important to recognize and admit that your tagline is not the be all and end all to your brand.
We like to define the tag as the outward facing experience of your brand’s most compelling differentiator. An evergreen phrase that’s meaningful and memorable. And finally, a statement that conveys what you do and critically, why anyone should care.
Those 7 (or less) magic words
A 7-word maximum per tagline is something of an unwritten rule (apart from the fact that we just wrote it here). Certainly, there’s bit of science behind the idea of attention spans and retention capacities. I personally think it has its roots in outdoor billboard thinking. What can one read and retain at 65 miles per hour? “Happiness Next Exit.” Seven words or less is an excellent rule of thumb.
Joe’s Brake Shop vs Sussner
A great place to gauge the level of intel and the amount of work your tagline needs to do is to look at the name you’re tagging.
“Joe’s Brake Shop”—thanks Joe, you’ve done a ton of work for us. There’s no real ambiguity about what business Joe is in. So, knowing that, Joe’s tag can lighten a bit and engage at a more personal, or even whimsical level.
Joe’s Brake Shop
“Stop by… if you can.”
“Your car stops here.”
Options from 5 to 2 words—we don’t mean to brag, but that’s some tight tagging.
On the other hand, if your name is, “Sussner,” we don’t know what the hell you do. Thus, your tag needs to get busy and do some real business.
“Brands Made Meaningful”
Three very unambiguous words united in a strong, singular statement that makes one want to know more.
We also realize that there’s context in which your brand is being seen, and the fact that your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. But in general, if the company, product or service name is very straightforward and descriptive on its own, your tag is freed up to play a bit.
If you’ve had all your fun in the naming with a moniker that’s creative, but not immediately relevant or revealing—make sure that the tagline is a supportive and informative partner to the name.
When your tag’s a drag
A few things to consider when assessing your current tagline’s strength:
– Too long—Are you breaking the 7-word law, and the crime is not really paying off?
– Redundant—Are you simply repeating info one can glean from your name?
– No personality or character—Is it a line that any competing organization could use?
– Confusing—Are you reading your tag from the perspective of a customer, or from your extremely informed perspective?
– Boring—C’mon, be honest.
– Untrue—Are you living up to your verbal logo’s proclamation?
– Customer focused—Is your tag addressing the needs, problems and/or realities of your potential customers?
What about that tagline vs slogan question?
And you thought we’d leave you hanging.
A slogan is campaign based. Short-term and temporary in the promotion of a special release, new initiative or product launch/push.
A tagline is evergreen and based on the mission, purpose and vision of a brand. It can certainly be refreshed, but has a longer life span.
Some fine tagline examples by Sussner
McDavid—makers of outstanding athletic compression protection and joint stabilizing products.
Tagline: First On. Last Off.
Their gear is literally the first thing you put on before competing or training and the last thing you take off. In the larger, more emotional picture, their customers are the highly committed athletes who appear first on the field, rink, or court and are the last to leave.
Cutters Gloves—makers of pro-level, highly adhesive gloves for football players, specifically pass-catchers.
Tagline: Grip The Greatness.
“Grip” makes total practical sense, but the grip is on something beyond the obvious confines of the football.
Franklin Press—Premium commercial printer.
Tagline: Print. Impress. Repeat.
Tight and precise. What we create is consistent and reliable perfection.
(Psssst, I wrote those three lines, and was instructed to take a bow. Okay, I’m Jeff. None of the above could have happened without the thorough and revealing brand foundation work done in advance by the entire Sussner Team. Kudos to all.)
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