Perspectives on Branding and Identity from Franke+Fiorella
Issue No.49


Taglines: To Use or Not To Use

In these tough economic times, companies are looking for more efficient ways to market themselves, make an impression and be memorable. Which seems to have a lot of people wondering, “Should I have a tagline?” To use or not to use, that is the question. Taglines can cement a brand in the mind of consumers and have greater staying power than likely imagined (a la Nike’s “Just do it.”), but, depending on your business, a tagline may or may not be appropriate.

While there are many questions to ask when considering whether to use a tagline, here are seven that rise to the top:

1. Can a tagline help communicate more about your brand? Perhaps your company or brand name doesn’t immediately resonate with its audience. A tagline can serve as a mnemonic to help communicate more about your brand. BASF, for example, uses “The Chemical Company” locked up with their logo. Taking it to another, more emotional level, they use “Helping Make Products Better” or “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” in their U.S. consumer ads. In this instance, the tagline establishes a promise, describes a brand benefit, and communicates the brand’s philosophy or purpose. Your tagline should educate and reinforce what’s unique about your brand. And if you can do it on an emotional, impactful level, all the better.

2. Do you have a relevant brand strategy? An effective tagline is rooted in a solid brand strategy. It should help to communicate your position and promise in a bold, differentiated way that aids consumers in their decision-making process. If you don’t have strategy in place and devise a tagline that falls short of expectations, it could position you right out of your customers’ consideration set. Solidify your strategy first, then consider a tagline.

3. Can you manage and support your tagline? While it’s true that taglines are created to support business objectives, they cannot thrive without diligent management and nurturing. Appropriate use of taglines needs to be managed, just as a visual identity system needs management. Do you have the resources to dedicate to this? Do you have the budget to promote your tagline? Repetition breeds familiarity and aids retention. Your tagline should be used consistently, frequently and appropriately to carve out a spot in your customers’ memory. When managed well over time, a tagline will develop meaning, purpose and relevance.

4. Do you need help differentiating in a highly competitive market? Everyone is competing for customers and dollars. But some industries have more competition than others. A tagline can be used to help position your brand in the market and differentiate you from your competitors. An example of this is Avis using the “We Try Harder” tagline. Keep in mind what the competitive landscape is now, and what it might be in the future. How do your competitors position themselves and how might that change? You don’t want to invest in producing marketing materials with your tagline only to find your competitor beat you to it with a similar message.

5. Does it appeal to your target audience? Note your market segments. While brands need to deliver on one consistent promise, the relationship each audience has with your brand may be different. Ensure your tagline resonates with all of your brand’s audiences for maximum impact.

6. Does a tagline support its intended meaning when translated? What makes sense in English and is full of whimsy and humor may be interpreted very differently by another culture or in another language when translated. Keep in mind the cultural implications of using a tagline when appealing to many different geographic audiences.

7. Is it memorable—for the right reasons? As with design, a tagline should be well thought out, deliberate and purposeful. Using a tagline just because it’s catchy is not the right reason. Yes you want it to be memorable, but for the right reasons.

So, should you just do it? Maybe. Maybe not. Considering these questions will help you decide whether or not to use a tagline.