What Makes for a Great Tagline or Slogan?

It is almost impossible to understate the value and importance of your business slogan, tagline, or catchphrase. Do it right, and people get exactly what your business is about, and in just a moment; but get it wrong and you ruin that rare opportunity to brand with potential new customers.

Rules for Slogans and Catch-Phrases for the Self-Employed Business Owner

A great business slogan explains in a nutshell what your business or product is really all about. Ideally, it sells your desired benefit and creates your intended brand at all once.

Consider the tagline here at TheSelfEmployed.com: “Your job just got easier.” The idea is to explain, quickly, the value someone gets out of visiting our site. It offers benefits (ease), and does so in one sentence. That is what you need to think about doing too. Your tagline enables people who don’t know you to get a handle on you and your business immediately.

A while back, some of advertising’s all-time top honchos analyzed the 115 of the best business slogans ever, and then, after that, Nick Padmore analyzed the results. His conclusions are very informative. The best catchphrases tend to:

  • Mention the brand only about half the time.
  • Usually use declarative or “imperative” sentences (Burger King — “Have it your way.”)
  • May bend the rules of grammar or spelling (Campbell’s Soup — “Mmm, Mmm good!”)
  • Often use a rhetorical devise like alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme (“You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)
  • Are short, generally five words or less (“Just do it.”)

The only caveat with the analysis above is that the list was made by British ad execs, and therefore apply to slogans that are both British and American. Do these rules hold up when used to look at what works in the U.S. alone? The answer is yes.

Inc. magazine looked at the Top 10 slogans of all time. They fit the model above. Consider (in no particular order):

  • Apple: “Think different”
  • Wheaties: “The Breakfast of champions”
  • Wendy’s: “Where’s the beef?”
  • M & M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”
  • Miller Lite: “Great taste, less filling”
  • Nike: “Just do it”
  • Maxwell House: “Good to the last drop”
  • Clairol: “Does she… or doesn’t she?”
  • United: “Fly the friendly skies”
  • Coca-Cola: “It’s the real thing”

Here’s the deal: Branding takes place in the mind. It is the feeling, thoughts, and impressions people have when they think about your freelance business. That is why a great tagline is so important. Often, the first time someone is exposed to your business is when they see or read your advertising. Your tagline enables you to instill the exact brand you want to create.

But only if you do it right.

So the key to a great slogan is to be creative, keep it short and sweet, and use tools like rhymes, alliteration, or even puns.

A good tagline: Don’t leave home without it.


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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