We’ve all seen company taglines and slogans plastered on billboards, banner ads…even T-shirts and baseball caps. And over the years, we’ve seen some great taglines come out of big brands and creative ad agencies. Think of catchy lines like “Just Do It” and “Where’s the Beef?” They stick in your head, and when you hear them you immediately connect them to Nike and Wendy’s.
There’s a common misconception, though, that in order to create a great tagline, you need to take cues from old-school geniuses like Don Draper and isolate yourself with a hearty supply of cigarettes and a decanter of whiskey. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can literally get in their audience’s shoes by donning control top pantyhose and heels, lipstick and mascara, just like Mel Gibson did in What Women Want.
But the fact is, you can’t just rattle off a series of keywords and concoct a genius tagline for your multimillion-dollar campaign. We were able to get away with this shot-in-the-dark approach in the past. But now that content marketing is so widespread, and all companies have the power to plan and roll out these awareness- and lead-generating initiatives, brands need to be more thoughtful about their campaign themes and taglines.
You need an in-depth understanding of your target audience — their wants, needs, pain points, goals and aspirations. And then, you need to build your messaging. In fact, I’d argue that buyer-focused messaging is the genesis of a great tagline. When you go through the messaging process, you’re able to take a hard look at your target audience and look for patterns between their behaviors and their preferences, as well as your company’s unique value proposition and what you’re trying to convey throughout your campaign.
To that end, it’s important to note that a tagline isn’t just a one-and-done initiative. It needs to tie into all elements of your campaign — including your website, banner ads, social posts, billboards, events and, of course, your content. So the more your tagline revolves around your buyers, the more your content will, too.
Once you have foundational messaging in place, you can start to get creative. Use words that resonate with your audience. Think about how they will see and digest the tagline. Will it make sense to them? Will it metaphorically punch them in the gut and force them to think long and hard about their professional life, their technology or how they’re doing things?
As you brainstorm taglines, continue to revisit your messaging and question whether they align. It’s okay to push creative limits and test different messaging for your taglines as long as it’s strategic and aligns with your buyers’ needs. But as you run through your list of tentative taglines, make a point to read them aloud. It will make a huge difference and will encourage you to analyze whether the tagline is succinct and easy to digest. Let me walk through a few examples to show what I mean:
Always, “Like a Girl”
This commercial debuted during Super Bowl XLIX, and the nationwide viewer response was astounding. The tagline in and of itself was effective, but it really hit home because girls and women of all ages got involved and were sharing their thoughts and experiences.
Think about it: How many times have you heard the phrase, “like a girl”? A lot, I’m sure. Well, Always took this common phrase and put a new spin on it by taking its target audience’s perspective. “Like a girl,” at its core, has an extremely negative connotation, so the brand strived to show that being a girl is pretty friggin’ awesome!
Let’s break this down even further by showing the target buyer, their pain point and the business opportunity:
The buyer: Adolescent girls and women.
The pain point: Being a female can sometimes be difficult, and societal standards and stereotypes are making my life more difficult — to the point where it’s taking a toll on my self-esteem and self-worth.
The business opportunity: Show them why being a girl is awesome, and provide tools and resources that empower them.
American Express, “Everyday Moments”
Having star power like Tina Fey is a huge perk, but what makes this campaign so powerful is the tagline and how it ties into the flow and storyline of each commercial.
As you can see from this example, Tina Fey goes through her daily tasks and shopping trips and shows how her American Express card plays a role in her everyday life. Most of all, she shows how each purchase can help her get more rewards. If American Express members use their cards to make at least 20 purchases each month, they’ll earn 20% more rewards. Even better: This particular card doesn’t have an annual fee. Talk about perks!
This example takes a more business-oriented approach:
The buyer: Consumers with good credit who are eligible for an American Express card.
The pain point: I have a lot of credit cards already, but they’re leaving a lot to be desired. They all have annual fees, and their perks are lousy at best.
The business opportunity: Spotlight the benefits of this particular credit card and how members can earn rewards and perks without having to jump through too many hoops.
General Electric, “Childlike Imagination”
When trying to show how innovative their companies are, marketers sometimes get carried away with tech jargon and superfluous language. GE kept it simple by showing the brand through the eyes of a child. Using a little girl as the narrator, the television commercial illustrated how her mother helps GE create amazing technology that’s almost hard to believe.
In fact, the commercial taps into the child’s imagination to show that GE’s innovative technology almost sounds too fantastical to be real. The title or tagline for the spot, “Childlike Imagination,” also ties well with the company’s slogan: “Imagination at Work.”
The buyer: Brands that are looking for tools and technologies to help them improve operations, organizational processes and environmental efficiencies.
The pain point: Business is moving and changing faster than ever. I need technology that will support our ongoing growth but will also be good for us economically and even environmentally.
The business opportunity: Use storytelling and compelling visuals to illustrate GE’s dedication to innovation and the environment in a concise and easy-to-understand way.
As you can see, all three brands have very different target audiences, business models and goals. The thread connecting these organizations, though, is that they used their buyers’ wants, needs and pain points to create hard-hitting taglines that helped them truly stand out.