Villing & Company

Short or Long Taglines? Maybe That’s Not Even the Right Question.

Let’s have some fun and play a game. Take a guess. What brand does each of these taglines belong to? (Answers at the end of this article.)

  1. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
  2. Rethink possible.
  3. Drive one.
  4. Moving forward.
  5. Just do it.
  6. 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.
  7. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  8. The biggest little city in the world.
  9. What happens in _____, stays in _____.
  10. A different kind of company. A different kind of car.
  11. Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.
  12. The best part of wakin' up is _______ in your cup.
  13. Good to the last drop.
  14. Don’t leave home without it.
  15. We try harder.
  16. Tastes great, less filling.
  17. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
  18. Pursuing perfection.
  19. Get there.
  20. For life.

Well, how many did you get right? (The answers are below.) Now count how many short ones (for this instance, 5 words or less) you got right versus the longer ones. In many cases, the longer ones have been more memorable – many of them have made the “most memorable taglines” lists. Lately though, it seems that more and more companies are turning to shorter (3 words or less) taglines for their brands. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying longer taglines are always better than shorter ones. (Did anyone get number five wrong? I didn’t think so.) What I am saying is that regardless of the length, a tagline needs to make a meaningful connection with the target audience. Usually that involves provoking some kind of emotion, which is quite often much more difficult with three words than it might be with seven or more.

Take two of the examples above. The first one was FedEx. Their current tagline though is “We Understand.” Which of these two taglines has more emotion built in? And then there is American Express. Their current tagline is “Take charge.” I personally think their previous tagline (#14 in the list above) was more emotional.

So next time you go looking for a new tagline for your brand, instead of considering the number of words, consider the emotional and memorability factors you want it to achieve with your audience. Most importantly, don’t overlook the strategic issues. Does the tagline accurately reflect your positioning and message strategies?

When it comes to taglines, sometimes less really is more. Sometimes it isn’t.


  1. FedEx
  2. AT&T
  3. Ford
  4. Toyota
  5. Nike
  6. Geico
  7. M&M’s
  8. Reno, Nevada
  9. Las Vegas
  10. Saturn
  11. Secret deodorant
  12. Folgers
  13. Maxwell House
  14. American Express
  15. Avis
  16. Miller Lite
  17. Timex
  18. Lexus
  19. Goodyear
  20. Volvo

Filed Under: branding

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