Who Needs A Tagline Anyway?

While pitching a tagline to a new client recently, the CEO looked up and asked this question: Do we really need a tagline? AB-SO-LUTE-LY, I responded. But I was a little stunned by the question. I thought isn’t the answer obvious? A bunch of classic taglines ran through my head…Imagination at work. Think different. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. The quicker picker-upper. I decided not to share my stream of consciousness and instead explain why a tagline is important. Then I figured I should blog about it to help bring clarity to the subject.

So why is a tagline (a.k.a. slogan or motto) so important? Because it does a lot of heavy lifting for the brand. Internally, it serves as a rallying cry for employees to connect with. It provides clarity about why employees should get up every day and go to work. Externally, it serves as a shortcut for prospects, customers, partners, shareholders, et al to understand what the brand stands for. What they can expect when they interact with the brand.

And because it is shorthand for the brand’s point of distinction, it should appear everywhere…ad campaigns, website, brochures, in the halls of the company, corporate ID, company vehicles, and on and on. It becomes synonymous with the company or product and needless to say, it needs to be really, really good.

So what makes a tagline good?

A good tagline communicates a single, powerful message about the brand. Whether concrete or abstract, serious or funny, a good tagline should emphasize a brand’s key differentiator, and convey the brand’s character. It should be memorable, simple and believable. Boring or pedestrian taglines will not get you anywhere.

Taco Bell Live Mas

Take Listerine’s new tagline ‘Power to the mouth.’ This tagline is spot on. The promise of the product making a big difference is clearly and uniquely communicated. Love it. Another tagline I admire is Brooks running shoes, ‘Run happy.’ Brooks pours all of its R&D resources into creating a better running shoe. They focus on being inclusive and connected with runners. This tagline conveys that quite well. Two bold ones I’d point out are Taco Bell’s ‘Live Más’ (Live More) and Volkswagen’s ‘Das Auto’ (The Car). I think it is pretty gutsy to market brands in the U.S. with a non-English tagline, and I think they both work.


Here are some other oldies, but goodies:

  • I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. (Alka-Seltzer)
  • Finger-lickin’ good! (Kentucky Fried Chicken)
  • The uncola. (7-Up)
  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (FedEx)

The bottom line is when you know what makes your brand different; you need to amplify it with a really great tagline that gets people excited and interested in building a relationship! I like to refer to it as putting a stake in the ground. Claim your difference and let the world know it. Feel free to run your tagline by me if you would like a critique!