Think Different: How To Make Your Tagline Stand Out From The Crowd Ross | July 2nd, 2010

As I wrote last week in 10 Tips for Startups and Small Businesses on Naming Your Company, coming up with a great company name for your new small business or startup can be challenging and time consuming. Coming up with a memorable tagline can present an even greater challenge.

A tagline is supposed to communicate to your customers and potential customers what sets you apart from your competition and also your brand’s focus. If you’d like some additional background on branding, you might want to read Branding Secrets of the World’s Best Brands and What Can You Learn From The World’s Best Brands.

You’ve probably seen and heard some of the most influential taglines of the past 50 years:

Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board) – 1993

Just do it (Nike) – 1988

Think different (Apple) – 1998

The ultimate driving machine (BMW) – 1975

Why did those taglines capture the attention of a wide audience and how did each become so memorable? Money provides a partial answer. Each of the companies/organizations that promoted one of the above taglines spent huge sums of money establishing their brand – and the tagline.

You can leverage crowdSPRING’s community of more than 65,000 designers and writers to come up with your tagline, or you can come up with one on your own. Whether you leverage crowdSPRING’s community to help with a memorable tagline or slogain or come up with one on your own, you might find the following 10 tips useful:

1. Make it unique. Unsuccessful taglines often are too generic. If your competitor can use your tagline and it would still work well for them – you should keep working on the tagline until you find something that only you can uniquely use.

2. Make it simple. You wouldn’t want to have a complicated company name, so why would you create a complicated tagline? A good way to test for simplicity is to ask your friends, family and strangers whether they understand what your company does after they see or hear your tagline.

3. Make it concise. The best taglines explain what your company does and are short. Worry less initially about how the tagline sounds and focus first on a rough statement – you can always tweak until you get it just right. Aim for no more than five world. Five words are easier to remember than 20 words.

Some good examples: “Email marketing software for designers and their clients” (CampaignMonitor), “A Better Way To Work.” (37signals) and “The World’s Largest Junk Removal Service” (1-800-Got-Junk?)

4. Make it timeless. As tempting as hip taglines are, they will quickly become dated. There’s a reason each of the above taglines from Nike, Apple, and BMW has survived the test of time – they’re simple and timeless.

5. Keep it consistent. One mistake companies make is to regularly change their taglines because they become tired of their current taglines and think that their customers and potential customers also have become tired of that tagline. This is a mistake and can lead to confusion. If your tagline works – even if you think it’s boring – stick with it if it’s working well for you.

6. Keep the focus on your audience, not on your company. The most memorable taglines are about your customers, not about your company. If you focus your tagline on your company, your customers will wonder how it relates to them. On the other hand, by placing the focus on your customers – you’ll create a stronger brand association. Nike’s “Just do it” and Apple’s “Think Different” are great examples of placing the focus on the customers and potential customers. One common mistake companies make is to make promises in their taglines (which put the focus on the company). Don’t make promises – communicate benefits instead.

7. Keep it relevant to your company’s audience. The memorable taglines above are sexy but not very descriptive. They’re memorable in part because each company/organization spent huge sums of money marketing and used those taglines in their marketing. Since you probably don’t have access to the same marketing budgets, your goal should be different.  You should use your tagline to identify what you do and to identify the benefit to your customers.

8. Make sure it matches your other branding. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses think that a logo IS the company’s brand. It’s not. A logo is part of what defines a brand. A tagline, like a logo, helps to define your brand. Make sure that the style, voice, and other elements of your tagline match the style, voice and other elements of your logo design. Because your tagline will be part of your overall branding, you’ll want the tagline to reflect your company’s personality.

9. Keep it positive. There’s a huge body of research showing that negative statements generally don’t sell very well. Keep your tagline positive and focus on benefits.

10. Inject appropriate personality. Insurance companies speak with a different voice than Internet companies. That’s OK. Keep in mind your company’s voice and personality, and make sure that the tagline reflects that voice and personality.

What’s your favorite tagline/slogan of all time?

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  • sae

    “Have it your way” Burger King.

  • sae

    “Have it your way” Burger King.

  • Hadji

    Great article, I sort of blew it on the company name but I plan on redeeming myself with a winning tag line.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Hadji

    Great article, I sort of blew it on the company name but I plan on redeeming myself with a winning tag line.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Ross

    sae – “Have it your way” was a great tagline from BK. Nicely differentiated from their competition.

    Hadji – Good luck!

  • Ross

    sae – “Have it your way” was a great tagline from BK. Nicely differentiated from their competition.

    Hadji – Good luck!

  • Galen

    Have it your way was a great tagline, but I personally think McDonald’s was better. “I’m Luvin’ It” is catchier.

  • Galen

    Have it your way was a great tagline, but I personally think McDonald’s was better. “I’m Luvin’ It” is catchier.

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  • Tagline Jim

    I see pretty much this same list pop up on some site or in some pub frequently. This is the list that $100 per tagline writers obey. About half of these tips are misguided. The exceptions disprove the rule. For example, some of the best taglines are quite long and not at all hard to remember (i.e. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight;There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard; Hulu. An Evil Plot To Destroy The World. Enjoy.)
    And “be unique” isn’t particularly helpful because it begs the question. How to be unique is the challenge.
    As a writer who writes taglines for a living, I’d like to point out that, if following 10 obvious tips would give you a shot at writing a really good tagline, I’d be out of business.
    The reality is, some writers have the talent/ability/wiring/motivation to write good taglines, some don’t, and the rest of you out there who can write but aren’t writers, should leave this stuff to a professional. Thanks, Ross, for getting my dander up. It clears the head.

  • Tagline Jim

    I see pretty much this same list pop up on some site or in some pub frequently. This is the list that $100 per tagline writers obey. About half of these tips are misguided. The exceptions disprove the rule. For example, some of the best taglines are quite long and not at all hard to remember (i.e. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight;There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard; Hulu. An Evil Plot To Destroy The World. Enjoy.)
    And “be unique” isn’t particularly helpful because it begs the question. How to be unique is the challenge.
    As a writer who writes taglines for a living, I’d like to point out that, if following 10 obvious tips would give you a shot at writing a really good tagline, I’d be out of business.
    The reality is, some writers have the talent/ability/wiring/motivation to write good taglines, some don’t, and the rest of you out there who can write but aren’t writers, should leave this stuff to a professional. Thanks, Ross, for getting my dander up. It clears the head.

  • robert

    No taglines created by crowdspring?
    I guess it does take more than $200 for a good tagline.

  • robert

    No taglines created by crowdspring?
    I guess it does take more than $200 for a good tagline.

  • ejs

    It seems to me that people often mix up a tagline with a headline. Headlines are shorter lived than tag lines. Tag lines are “usually” placed below a logo to reinforce the brand message and are longer term. Of course taglines are sometimes used as a headline like in the case of Apples’ “Think Different” campaign. I think “Just Do It” really started as an ad campaign which developed into the Nike brands image along with the swoosh. “Got Milk” is clearly an ad campaign headline for milk. It don’t think it implies anything about the California Milk Processor Board. Just my three cents…

  • ejs

    It seems to me that people often mix up a tagline with a headline. Headlines are shorter lived than tag lines. Tag lines are “usually” placed below a logo to reinforce the brand message and are longer term. Of course taglines are sometimes used as a headline like in the case of Apples’ “Think Different” campaign. I think “Just Do It” really started as an ad campaign which developed into the Nike brands image along with the swoosh. “Got Milk” is clearly an ad campaign headline for milk. It don’t think it implies anything about the California Milk Processor Board. Just my three cents…

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  • thdvguy

    how these tips are used depend greatly on the creativity of the reader. to say these tips don’t work seems, well, silly. you need to apply your knowledge of words and your target market. what are you trying to say?

    Sheraton hotels used “the friendly people” for quite some time. it didn’t describe what they did. but it was their tagline, not a headline. United Airlines used fly the friendly skies for many years.

    I’m actually working on one for my film company. I’m going to take my time because, I know I’m gonna stick with it for a while once I settle on one. word play, word association, reading other taglines, reading movie quotes… all these things will eventually awaken some creative spark. there is a gestation period. the final line will probably come to me in my sleep, or while I’m in the shower, or driving my car… sometime when I’m not even thinking about it.

    these are good tips. there is no substitute for good writing. you must learn to write. you must learn to brainstorm. you must learn to direct your creative energy. reading articles like this help too.

  • thdvguy

    how these tips are used depend greatly on the creativity of the reader. to say these tips don’t work seems, well, silly. you need to apply your knowledge of words and your target market. what are you trying to say?

    Sheraton hotels used “the friendly people” for quite some time. it didn’t describe what they did. but it was their tagline, not a headline. United Airlines used fly the friendly skies for many years.

    I’m actually working on one for my film company. I’m going to take my time because, I know I’m gonna stick with it for a while once I settle on one. word play, word association, reading other taglines, reading movie quotes… all these things will eventually awaken some creative spark. there is a gestation period. the final line will probably come to me in my sleep, or while I’m in the shower, or driving my car… sometime when I’m not even thinking about it.

    these are good tips. there is no substitute for good writing. you must learn to write. you must learn to brainstorm. you must learn to direct your creative energy. reading articles like this help too.

  • Mat Zucker

    This is good advice but I’d also recommend authenticity and looking within yourself/your brand for what’s really really great about it. There’s a whole rigor and science behind positioning lines for companies and taglines are intended to be broad platforms for companies not just short-term campaigns so you want to keep them around a bit.

    I just put up a piece about them in the Faster Times ad column (http://thefastertimes.com/advertising/2010/07/03/taglines-straplines-themelines-your-brand-is-my-land/) and in it, I also recommend a great book, Designing Brand Identity which also breaks them down in interesting ways and also helps with brand positioning for any company.

  • Mat Zucker

    This is good advice but I’d also recommend authenticity and looking within yourself/your brand for what’s really really great about it. There’s a whole rigor and science behind positioning lines for companies and taglines are intended to be broad platforms for companies not just short-term campaigns so you want to keep them around a bit.

    I just put up a piece about them in the Faster Times ad column (http://thefastertimes.com/advertising/2010/07/03/taglines-straplines-themelines-your-brand-is-my-land/) and in it, I also recommend a great book, Designing Brand Identity which also breaks them down in interesting ways and also helps with brand positioning for any company.

  • Leo Dean

    how about make it silly? there are many good examples at sillyslogan.com

  • Leo Dean

    how about make it silly? there are many good examples at sillyslogan.com

  • Tim Hedrich

    I’d echo Mat’s point.

    You forgot “make it believable.” A tagline should reinforce the brand promise, and the brand needs to be able to deliver on it. Positioning isn’t worth anything if you pick an attribute your product or service can’t really deliver the goods on. Doing so will only set high expectations, make disappointed customers and, at worst, make your brand a laughingstock.

  • Tim Hedrich

    I’d echo Mat’s point.

    You forgot “make it believable.” A tagline should reinforce the brand promise, and the brand needs to be able to deliver on it. Positioning isn’t worth anything if you pick an attribute your product or service can’t really deliver the goods on. Doing so will only set high expectations, make disappointed customers and, at worst, make your brand a laughingstock.

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  • Paperboyz

    I’ve been in political and corporate marketing for a while, and I’m constantly amazed by how often people telling us how to write better use “leverage” as a verb, usually connoting one of about 20 different ideas (“use,” “exploit,” “take advantage of,” “employ,” etc). Here, we are told: “You can LEVERAGE crowdSPRING’s community of more than 65,000 designers and writers to come up with your tagline, or you can come up with one on your own. Whether you LEVERAGE crowdSPRING’s community to help with a memorable tagline or slogain (sic) …”

    How about this: Use plain English.

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