In Search of the Great Tagline

great tagline

A great tagline or advertising slogan is tough to write, mostly because it has to do so much with so little. And as a result, most taglines out there are lousy. They’re just strings of overused words conveying cliché ideas that say nothing of substance about the brand and failing to speak directly to the target audience. 

The results are ineffective, impotent phrases like “Experience the best” or “Leading the way.” Yawn. This sort of empty sentiment accomplishes nothing, and if it’s all you’ve got, you’re better off just skipping the tagline. 

But a strong slogan bolsters your brand. It speaks in the language and tone of your audience and gives them an idea or feeling they want. It jibes with other aspects of your branding, including your name, logo, and marketing initiatives. It helps convince your target market that you’re the brand for them. 

Characteristics of a Great Slogan 

Effective taglines usually share a few particular qualities: 

  • They’re short—typically 2 to 7 words (though some run longer, as you’ll see below in the examples)
  • They’re memorable, sticking in people’s heads like a catchy jingle
  • They capture a problem and the solution offered, or at least one key benefit
  • They differentiate the brand from all competitors
  • They instill a positive feeling about the brand
  • They empower the audience
  • They speak in a voice that’s relatable to the target market 

Telling a Story with a Tagline 

While it’s not always the case, many effective brand slogans convey an entire story in just a few words. It’s a short story, revolving around a primary pain point—the main problem the target market grapples with—and the solution, or the most compelling benefit of the brand that alleviates that pain point. 

If you successfully trigger thoughts of the problem and solution, your audience can subconsciously fill in all the details of the story on their own, as they pertain to their own lives. 

For example, think of Verizon’s famous “Can you hear me now?” advertising tagline. Those five simple, monosyllabic words perfectly captured the problem of spotty cell phone service and Verizon’s claim to offer the most reliable, extensive coverage at a time when it was probably the biggest issue faced by users. And everyone thought of their own annoyances with lack of cell service and dropped calls, completing the story with personal experiences. 

Some Examples of Great Taglines 

Below are a dozen of the most famous, highly regarded, effective advertising slogans in recent times. Read over them and think about how they make use of the above-mentioned characteristics. 

  • Nike: Just do it
  • Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
  • Apple: Think different
  • M&Ms: Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
  • The New York Times: All the news that’s fit to print
  • 7-Up: The Uncola
  • L’oreal: Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline
  • MasterCard: There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.
  • Miller Lite: Tastes great, less filling
  • US Marine Corps: The few. The Proud. The Marines.
  • Allstate: You’re in good hands
  • Wheaties: The breakfast of champions 

Doing a Lot with a Little 

That’s the magic of a great tagline. And pulling it off largely comes down to having a solid understanding of who you’re talking to, what they want, what you offer them, and how to talk to them. 

Also, with its power to do so much for a brand with such limited material, effective taglines have a lot in common with good logo design.

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