Villing & Company

Does Anybody Really Know What A Tagline Is?
Does Anybody Really Care?

My apologies to the artists known collectively as Chicago for the headline of this article. But, seriously folks, I do believe the subject of taglines and positioning statements deserves our time and attention. So because there is a fair amount of confusion about these terms, let's start with some basic definitions.

While both positioning statements and taglines should flow logically from your overall marketing communications strategy, the similarity of intent ends there. A positioning statement should address the "who, what, where and why" of your company. It speaks to the essence of what your brand stands for and who you serve. As such, a positioning statement typically has a longer shelf life than a tagline.

By contrast, a tagline (or a themeline as I generally prefer to call it) is more of a catchy summary of the organization's current marketing communications campaign. It is a hook by which your audience can mentally grab on to and remember the essential message of that campaign.

Understanding these differences is essential to the process of developing the collection of words that will accomplish your brand communications objectives. However, there may be times when a slogan can serve both purposes. The best example I can give is the classic line for FedEx, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." It not only summarized FedEx's value proposition, but it also provided a great platform for the company's long-running advertising campaign.

Since developing a positioning statement tends to be a more complex, strategic exercise, I will devote the rest of this article to the subject of taglines. What makes for a strong tagline? I believe the two most critical elements are consistency and memorability. Consistency is defined by a tagline's relevance to the brand and its sustained use in all appropriate communications. Memorability speaks to the uniqueness of the words and the degree to which they can become connected to the brand.

To me, the number of words is largely irrelevant. People can remember and relate to the aforementioned nine-word FedEx slogan as readily as they do to Nike's "Just do it". Short and snappy is great, but memorable is even better.

In conclusion, here is a short, subjective list of some of the best taglines that come to my mind. I would love to know your favorites.

  • "Think different." – Apple
  • "Got milk?" – California Milk Processor Board
  • "Have fun out there." - Jeep
  • "It keeps going, and going, and going…" – Energizer
  • "Kid tested. Mother approved." – Kix Cereal
  • "You deserve a break today." – McDonald's
  • "The nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine" – NyQuil
  • "I coulda had a V-8." – V-8
  • "What happens here, stays here." – Las Vegas
  • "Live in your world. Play in ours." – PlayStation
  • "You're not you when you're hungry." – Snickers
  • "Have a break. Have a Kit Kat." – Kit Kat

Filed Under: branding

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