Villing & Company

Sometimes, More IS More: Top 10 All-Time Long Taglines

As much as the world of marketing communications has changed, and as much as we all acknowledge that people have shorter attention spans now than they used to, one debate never seems to go away – the impact of word counts on advertising effectiveness. Sometimes the debate involves the amount of text. Other times, it is the number of words in a headline. And, often, it is about whether a nice pithy tagline is more powerful than a longer one.

In keeping with my recent contrarian mode on matters of "conventional wisdom", I will focus today's discussion on taglines. I would submit that, by and large, truly memorable taglines are usually long.  By long, I mean seven words or more. Quite frankly, that is often what it takes to stake out a marketing position for a brand and/or define its differentiation qualities. To make my case, I share with you my Top 10 all-time great (and relatively) long marketing taglines.

  1. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (Federal Express)
    There's only one reason people would ever pay a premium price to send a package. They need to get it into the hands of a customer in a defined period of time, often the next day. FedEx positioned themselves perfectly with this tagline.
  2. 15 minutes can save you 15 percent on car insurance. (Geico)
    Clear benefit statement (15 percent savings). Minimal risk (15 minutes). A sales proposition doesn't get much more straightforward than that.
  3. When you care enough to send the very best. (Hallmark)
    The hallmark strategy of Hallmark advertising has always been an emotional appeal. This tagline is as relevant today as it was when it was introduced in 1944.
  4. There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard.
    MasterCard has also mastered the emotional message pretty well with this powerful payoff to the "Priceless" campaign.
  5. With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.
    Another long-running tagline. Obviously, the emotion is not so much in the tagline itself as the advertising that it supports. But it is a great reinforcement of the brand name and brand promise.
  6. It keeps going and going and going… (Energizer)
    When your primary competition is named Duracell and battery life is a major consideration in purchase decisions, having an iconic character and tagline keeps the advertising strategy going and going and…
  7. The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.
    The rhyming pattern is what makes it memorable (and makes for a good jingle), but true coffee aficionados savor the flavor of their morning coffee.
  8. When America has a job to do, it reaches for Black & Decker.
    Twelve words and an ampersand. This is a great example of a tagline mirroring a company's positioning. Black & Decker wanted to make the statement they had a tool for every DIY job in the house and this tagline drilled that message home very effectively.
  9. The first vacuum cleaner that doesn't lose suction. (Dyson)
    Even though it's really tempting to change this to something like "the first vacuum cleaner that doesn't suck," this may be one of the all-time classic examples of stating a product's primary benefit or USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
  10. You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world. (WINS, New York)
    Unless you listen to New York radio or are a marketing scholar, this may be one of the best taglines you've never heard. Like Geico's 15 minutes line, the transactional benefit is well stated and the station's positioning as the definitive news source is effectively presented.

I chose this topic for today's article because there are so many myths out there about what makes for a memorable tagline. To be sure, lines like "Just do it" or "A diamond is forever" can be powerful when presented in the right context and with plenty of media weight behind them. But most brands don't have the clout of Nike. And while occasionally a brand can be effective with a left-brain message (i.e. – Dyson and Geico), memorability usually comes by aiming on the right side of the buyer's brain. To be effective in that space, it often takes more than a couple words.

My experience has been that the length of a tagline is totally irrelevant to its effectiveness. Above all, it needs to convey the brand message in a consistent and memorable way.

Here's a concluding thought I have shamelessly stolen from Advertising Age.

When Scarlet O'Hara said to Rhett Butler, "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?" he could have said, "I don't care." But he didn't. What he said was "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

A great example of seven words trumping three. Sometimes, more really is more.

Filed Under: advertising

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