For generations, taglines have served as the foundation for advertising—a short statement poised to deliver the brand message in a memorable way. Today, there is some consensus that the tactic is on life support.
The reasons range from ever-shorter tenures of CMOs (13 months on average, according to recent research) to ever-splintering consumer demographics.
“It used to be on the list of deliverables,” said Mike Wolfsohn, vp/executive creative director at Ignited, Los Angeles. “It was mandatory.” He suggested marketers be bold and definitive about taglines, or skip them all together.
When it comes to developing a hit tagline, there is no set formula, Wolfsohn said. There is little commonality in ones that work.
“Treat it heroically,” he said. “Celebrate it. Don’t relegate it to 8-point type in the lower right-hand corner.”
Too often, taglines are used as safety nets out of a fear that the rest of the campaign isn’t communicating well enough, he said.
These slogans are often more utilitarian and less emotional. They tend to be fed through the focus group mill until they’re watered down beyond recognition. That process does not produce “Think Different,” “Got Milk?” or “Just Do It.”
“If the Nike tagline were suggested today, the question back would probably be, ‘Just do what?'” said Wolfsohn. “There’s a level of trepidation now that people won’t get it and they won’t be able to parrot the idea back to you. So, taglines get over defined.”
That’s when they loose strength and become meaningless, he said.
For a slogan to stick, it’s not just coming up with five catchy words or less, said Landor & Associates’ managing director Allen Adamson. It’s vital to weave that message through all the communications and the very brand DNA itself.
“It has to be the right promise, with the brand living up to it, expressed in a sticky unexpected way,” Adamson said. “And then you have to spend money and stay with it for the long haul.”
He points to GE’s “Imagination at Work” as a break-through tagline because it’s more than a slogan. “It’s the business strategy,” he said. “It’s the mission of the company.”
What’s your opinion on taglines? Or, as we prefer to call them, brand promises? Should we stick with one memorable line that sums up the brand? Or, should we vary the message with the market? We’d appreciate your thoughts.