Write This, Not That: TAGLINES Part 2, Eight Points to Remember

by Wes Hanson on March 27, 2012

Whether hiring someone to craft your tagline or doing it yourself, keep in mind the qualities of winning examples:

  1. Brevity – “Make. Believe.” is Sony’s newest attempt to seduce consumers to discover the magic of its products, from electronic devices to entertainment.
  2. Clarity – This one is not an absolute, for mystery has its allure. But there’s no mistaking the meaning, and power, of a tagline like the one for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder: “As gentle on the eyes as pure water.” It’s a great line because it succinctly addresses parents’ concerns: effectiveness, safety, and comfort.
  3. Benefit – The language should be directed at the customer’s desires, not yours. “Because You’re Worth It” says L’Oreal.
  4. Challenge – “Got Milk?” anyone?
  5. Surprise – Bland is boring. Use unexpected words in unexpected combinations. Sling some slang. Break the rules of grammar. Nothing is sacred when it comes to taglines. To put it another way: “Think Different.”
  6. Wit – “Just the Right Amount of Wrong” is one of my current favorites, from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The tone is pitch-perfect for the sophisticated clientele the hotel seeks to attract. The right-wrong wordplay has a lovely balance, elegantly matching the contradiction and balance of the promise itself: safe adventure.
  7. Multiple Meanings – Gillette’s justly famed line “The Best a Man Can Get” speaks to the product itself and to the transformation the man undergoes. “Get” means purchase as well as become. Turn English’s maddening vagueness to your advantage. The trick is not to be too literal; leave the line up to interpretation.
  8. Uniqueness – Don’t copy someone else’s tagline, especially a competitor’s. Also, avoid overused terms like “solutions” or “global.” They usually don’t say anything meaningful – with the Internet everyone is arguably global today. Skip the cribbing, clichés, and lazy thinking – come up with something else, please.

 

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