Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taglines Are It!

Use Them to Make Your Message Memorable
By Elizabeth J. Goodgold

Taglines are the invisible communication today. They’re rarely discussed, barely analyzed, and sparingly researched. Yet, a good tagline can provide the essential underpinning upon which to build all your marketing messages.

What is a Tagline?
A tagline is the name for the words that are used with the business name or brand. It should be such a natural outgrowth of the company’s positioning that the two are inextricably linked. It can differentiate you from your competitors, express your personality, and add consistency to your marketing campaign.

Most importantly, it becomes the common thread woven throughout all of your communication. It also provides the acid test: if your brochure, advertising campaign, or sales letter conflict with the tag line, it’s obviously time to rethink your creative message.

Owning Your Tagline
In a carefully crafted tagline, the key point of difference is either overtly stated or strongly implied. This strategy reinforces your positioning and pre-empts your competitor from using the same idea. Remember: the goal is to own a unique benefit in the customer’s mind.

Any company in any industry could borrow People Soft’s "we work in your world" whereas Lincoln’s "what a luxury car should be" suggests that it has created the standard in the narrowly defined luxury car market. Merely stating parental heritage doesn’t help UUNET’s "a Worldcom Company", yet it expresses personality when used with Virgin Vie’s "for life and for living" new beauty line.

A good tagline should be so clear that even if your audience had never heard of your company, they could determine what business you’re in. Good examples include Timken: "leader in bearings and steel" to PK Ware "the data compression experts."

Differentiating in a Crowded Market
When a market becomes overcrowded or a company name becomes confusingly similar, it is a good time to introduce a tag line. This statement is particularly applicable to the high-tech field in which the number of new companies appearing with the name "cyber" "micro" or "net" grows every day.

"We put the Net to work for you" provides critical information about Netcom whereas Microway’s tagline merely makes it a "me too" player with "technology you can count on."

Another opportunity to employ a tagline is when your company name tells little about your business. Consulting firms have adopted this approach with Anderson Consulting proclaiming "business performance improvement" and Deloitte, Touche counter punching with " TBD." Even Dell Computer’s "be direct" tag informs its audience that it is a direct marketer.

Avoiding Acronyms
In the current alphabet soup maze with companies using initials versus words, a tagline provides the first clue as to the company’s business. AIG, for example provides a hint of what business it is in by its tagline of"…." TPG on the other hand, provides merely more acronyms with "the world behind TNT & PTT Post" as does QNX with "the leading realtime OS for PC’s."

Taglines vs. Slogans
Although often confused, a tagline is not a slogan. Slogans change with the advertising campaign whereas a tag line remains virtually static for many years. Ford Motor Co. only recently changed its tagline to "built Ford tough" after having used "have you driven a Ford lately?" for over 15 years.

Yes, taglines can change, but they should be evolutionary not revolutionary in nature. The United States Post Office has edged away from "we deliver for you" to simply "we deliver." Ameritech had nicely evolved its tagline from "your link to better communication" to "your link to better technology." Unfortunately, they’ve now lost all continuity and brand reinforcement provided by the "link" word by recently unveiling "in a world of technology, people make the difference."

Cliché Taglines
If you’re not careful in creating an ownable tagline, your line may quickly degenerate into a cliché. In the banking world, "bank on us" is applicable to any bank, but appropriate for none because it doesn’t communicate a sound benefit. On the other hand, Citibank’s pre-merger "The Citi never sleeps" line worked well because it communicated a 24 hr, accessible, reachable institution.

The "we mean business" line is also overemployed. Examples abound from American Airlines to the City of Seattle. Again, the message is too generic to work well for any type of business.

Guidelines for a Good Tagline
Although there’s no secret formula in this highly subjective area, there are a few guidelines to remember about taglines:

• Ensure that it is consistent with the company’s positioning;
• Communicate one simple idea;
• Opt for a few, short words;
• Always use the tagline with the company name on business cards, brochures, and printed materials;
• Test to see if it is "ownable" and could not be usurped by your competitor
• Avoid acronyms even if the term is widely known in your industry
• Communicate a clear, jargon-free message

Taglines as a Post Script
Since taglines are often at the end of a commercial or at the bottom of an ad, they act as your PS: the last best hope to propel your message. Employed properly, an audience will understand your company and its unique point of difference.

Business 2 Business Marketer, July/August 1998. Reprinted with permission.

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