A tagline becomes part of your brand identity. It’s often the most memorable part. You might even call it your verbal logo. Don’t believe me? Well…
Just Do It.
The breakfast of champions.
The happiest place on earth.
I rest my case. Listing the company for each isn’t necessary. The brand is synonymous with the tagline. That’s the power of a well-written tagline.
But what is a tagline? How is it different from a slogan? And what makes a great tagline? These are all understandable questions with plenty of confusion surrounding them. We’ll walk through each of these below. Let’s start with that first question.
What is a tagline?
The literal definition as found in Google reads like this—a catchphrase or slogan, especially as used in advertising.
A more accurate definition (according to me) looks like this—a single line used to create interest in, or connection to, a brand. A verbal logo.
Ok, but how is a tagline different from a slogan?
Honestly, the difference between a tagline and slogan is about as clear as mud. The most glaring difference is that a tagline is for the overall company and a slogan is for a specific campaign. Taglines also tend to live longer than slogans. Depending on their success, a slogan may be short-lived and often updated.
A company can have multiple slogans, but they’ll never have more than one tagline. In unique cases, slogans evolve into taglines (I know, it’s confusing). Now that your head is spinning, here’s a quick breakdown of each for some clarification:
- For the company.
- Must stand the test of time (a.k.a. used for a long time).
- Creates interest and connection.
- Represents the feeling you want connected to your brand.
- Typically short and punchy.
- A company only has one tagline. It’s like a verbal logo.
- For a campaign.
- Length of use depends on success and whether it’s relevant to the time period.
- Speaks to a benefit or differentiator.
- Intended to motivate action.
- May be short and punchy or longer.
- A company may have multiple slogans.
Tagline and slogan examples.
Starting to see the light between the two? Good, let’s wipe a little more mud from the glasses by looking at some examples. We’ll start with a tagline.
Tagline Example – “The happiest place on earth”
Can you guess the brand? If not, you don’t have kids and your childhood must have been terrible (I’m sorry). That’s the tagline of Disney.
Disney has sported numerous slogans such as “Where the magic began” , “Where dreams come true” and “I’m going to Disneyland” among others. But they’ve only had one tagline.
It checks all of the boxes for a remarkable tagline:
- Will it stand the test of time…check
- Creates interest and connection…check
- Represents the feeling you want connected to your brand…check
- Short and punchy…check
Slogan Example – Geico
I’m using Geico because they have two well-known slogans running simultaneously. Geico gives us the perfect example of the difference between slogans and taglines by using multiple slogans at one time. I’ll bet you recognize both of these:
“So easy a caveman can do it”
“15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance”
How do these stack up on our slogan qualifications:
- For a campaign…check
- Speaks to a benefit or differentiator…check
- Intended to motivate action…check
- Multiple slogans for one company…obviously
We can move into the construction of a memorable tagline now that we’re clear on the difference between a tagline and slogan.
Types of taglines to consider.
It’s a good idea to understand the types of taglines before you run off and start writing. I’ve broken things down into four buckets that are most commonly used. These are by no means the only forms of taglines, but this covers the most widely used and successful taglines.
Come right out and say what you do. This approach is best for unknown brands with non-descriptive names. When you’re small or getting started, you’ll benefit most from being direct and telling people what you offer.
These often start with a verb, but there are occasions (like “Just do it”) where a challenge tagline breaks from leading with a verb. The connecting fabric between challenge taglines is that they motivate the reader to do something. Many of the most powerful taglines take this format. It’s hard to argue against an approach that Apple, Nike, and Walmart have ridden to worldwide domination.
Bold Statement Taglines
The bold statement plants a flag and makes a claim. These often tie a benefit and emotion to the product (think “The breakfast of champions” or “The happiest place on earth”). Who doesn’t want to eat the breakfast of champions or visit the happiest place on earth?
This is maybe the most common tagline formula found in best tagline lists. Using a question as your tagline makes readers do just that—question something. From “Got Milk?” to “What’s in your wallet?” the question tagline is memorable because it makes us think.
How to write your company tagline.
You understand what a tagline is, how it’s different from a slogan, and the different types of taglines. Now it’s time to pick up the pen and sling some ink. Here’s a cheat sheet of tips to keep you on track.
Decide between descriptive and Intriguing
As mentioned above, if you aren’t a well-known company or if you have a non-descriptive name, stick with a descriptive approach for your tagline. If you’ve got a more descriptive name or some brand equity in the bank, you can go with a more intriguing approach focused on evoking an emotional response.
Make it short
Short, sweet, and to the point is best when writing a tagline. A little trick you can use—write your tagline and then cut it in half. Short is more potent and memorable. Only seasoned writers with numerous taglines under their belt should break from the keep it short rule.
The purpose of a tagline is to help your brand stand out. That won’t happen if you’re simply copying your competition and trying to rephrase what they say. Only reference your competition to make sure your tagline is different.
Make it relevant
You should complete your brand script before thinking about a tagline. Taking the time to do so will ensure that your tagline fits in with your overall communication strategy and goals. Sounding cool is only one aspect of a tagline. Relevance to your audience and brand are more important.
Sell the outcome
Coke’s “Open happiness” and John Deere’s “Nothing runs like a Deere” are two wonderful examples of selling the outcome. What stops most people from buying? Fear of making the wrong decision. So, put their worries at ease by telling them how fantastic their decision is before they’ve made it.
Taglines are a powerful tool when done well. Take the time to complete your brand script template, determine which type of tagline fits your brand’s personality, and then make sure it checks all of the above boxes for tagline best practices. Once you do land on a tagline, give it a little time to marinate before sharing it with the world. Put it away for a week and come back to it. Does it still feel right? Are you still excited? If so, you know you’ve got a tagline with some legs.
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