4 Basic Steps to Creating an Unforgettable Tagline

Do you watch “the most exciting two minutes in sports” each year? If you are like millions of others, myself included, you do. But here’s the thing – I watch it, and enjoy it, but I am not a horseracing fan. Oh sure, going to see the ponies run live sometimes is fun, but do I consider myself a “fan?” Nope, not me, and, I think it is safe to say, this is true as well for many of the people who watch the Kentucky Derby.

So, why do we watch each year? One reason, one main reason, is that tagline: “The most exciting two minutes in sports.”

And here’s the other thing: now that I consider it, I really don’t think the Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports, not by a long shot actually. Give me the end of an NBA Game Seven, or almost any ending to a March Madness game, or NFL overtime any day, and I would watch that over the Kentucky Derby.

But that just goes to show you the importance of having a great tagline. Get it right, and you instantly create a desired, memorable brand and image in people’s mind. For example (and to reinforce the point, let’s note that I don’t even have to tell you what businesses or organization these taglines come from):

  • “Just do it”
  • “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on insurance”
  • “The ultimate driving machine”

We could analyze any of these taglines or slogans to see how and why they resonate and make a difference, but lets just consider BMW’s tagline for a moment. In four words, the German car maker lets you know that its cars are the best (“the ultimate”), that they are great to drive (“driving machine”), and just below the surface, because of that, they are a both a status symbol and a smart choice. That’s fairly amazing.

So, in the few seconds it takes someone to read a tagline, you get to convey an immediate message of your choice. How special is that? Frankly, when you own a small business, you don’t get many chances to that, so let me suggest that one of the best things you can do to get ahead is to, if you don’t already have one, create a memorable tagline.

You can do so in four basic steps:

1. Focus on the benefit.

When we launched this website last year, almost as important as the name and URL of the site was the tagline we came up with: “Your job just got easier.” Like any good slogan, the idea is to convey both an immediate benefit and the essence of the brand with your tagline.

When coming up with your tagline, you have to think about the end-user. What is it you offer that they want? A sports fan would love to watch the most exciting two minutes in sports. Someone looking to save money would be interested in a store that offers “Always the lowest prices. Always.”

What do people get when the do business with you?

2. Consider your brand.

For a slogan to resonate, for both your business and your intended audience, the tagline must reflect your brand. What are your business’ values, what is its personality, what do you want people to remember when they remember your business? Those things are your brand and those are the things that your tagline must convey.

Disney calls Disneyland, “The happiest place on earth” and can you ask for a better distillation of the Disneyland brand than that?

3. Keep it simple.

One thing you will also notice with almost all of the great taglines is that they are short and sweet (save the Geico tagline above, but that one proves a different point: A tagline does not have to turn a great phrase to be effective.)

4. Test.

Write a few out and run them by some people you know – customers, your spouse, employees, etc. If you are not a wordsmith, ask for help, or even consider launching a contest. Get a few, test them, and launch the one that sounds right.

So go ahead, get into the starting gate, create your tagline, head down the stretch, and into the winners circle. You will finish in the money if you do.

Something to think about…
Here’s how powerful a tagline can be – after 50 years, Avis finally decided to drop its iconic tagline “We Try Harder” just last year. How the phrase came to be sounds like something out of Mad Men (from Advertising Age):

“The tagline was penned (in 1962) by DDB copywriter Paula Green and was actually rooted in the response that Bill Bernbach, the co-founder of DDB, helped elicit from company management when asking why anyone ever rents a car from them. “We try harder” [was the answer].”

Within a year, Avis turned a profit for the first time in over a decade.


Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.

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