July 14, 2010
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Ross Kimbarovsky. Ross is the co-founder of crowdSPRING, an online marketplace for creative services ranging from graphic, web and industrial design to copywriting services. Follow Ross on Twitter @rosskimbarovsky and @crowdSPRING.
As I wrote last week in 10 Tips for Startups on Naming Your Company, coming up with a great company name for your new small business or startup can be challenging and time consuming. Coming up with a memorable tagline can present an even greater challenge.
A tagline is supposed to communicate to your customers and potential customers what sets you apart from your competition and also your brand’s focus. If you’d like some additional background on branding, you might want to read Branding Secrets of the World’s Best Brands and What Can You Learn From The World’s Best Brands.
You’ve probably seen and heard some of the most influential taglines of the past 50 years:
Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board) – 1993
Just do it (Nike) – 1988
Think different (Apple) – 1998
The ultimate driving machine (BMW) – 1975
Why did those taglines capture the attention of a wide audience and how did each become so memorable? Money provides a partial answer. Each of the companies/organizations that promoted one of the above taglines spent huge sums of money establishing their brand – and the tagline.
You can leverage crowdSPRING’s community of more than 65,000 designers and writers to come up with your tagline, or you can come up with one on your own. Whether you leverage crowdSPRING’s community to help with a memorable tagline or slogan or come up with one on your own, you might find the following 10 tips useful:
1. Make it unique. Unsuccessful taglines often are too generic. If your competitor can use your tagline and it would still work well for them – you should keep working on the tagline until you find something that only you can uniquely use.
2. Make it simple. You wouldn’t want to have a complicated company name, so why would you create a complicated tagline? A good way to test for simplicity is to ask your friends, family and strangers whether they understand what your company does after they see or hear your tagline.
3. Make it concise. The best taglines explain what your company does and are short. Worry less initially about how the tagline sounds and focus first on a rough statement – you can always tweak until you get it just right. Aim for no more than five world. Five words are easier to remember than 20 words.
4. Make it timeless. As tempting as hip taglines are, they will quickly become dated. There’s a reason each of the above taglines from Nike, Apple, and BMW has survived the test of time – they’re simple and timeless.
5. Keep it consistent. One mistake companies make is to regularly change their taglines because they become tired of their current taglines and think that their customers and potential customers also have become tired of that tagline. This is a mistake and can lead to confusion. If your tagline works – even if you think it’s boring – stick with it if it’s working well for you.
6. Keep the focus on your audience, not on your company. The most memorable taglines are about your customers, not about your company. If you focus your tagline on your company, your customers will wonder how it relates to them. On the other hand, by placing the focus on your customers – you’ll create a stronger brand association. Nike’s “Just do it” and Apple’s “Think Different” are great examples of placing the focus on the customers and potential customers. One common mistake companies make is to make promises in their taglines (which put the focus on the company). Don’t make promises – communicate benefits instead.
7. Keep it relevant to your company’s audience. The memorable taglines above are sexy but not very descriptive. They’re memorable in part because each company/organization spent huge sums of money marketing and used those taglines in their marketing. Since you probably don’t have access to the same marketing budgets, your goal should be different. You should use your tagline to identify what you do and to identify the benefit to your customers.
8. Make sure it matches your other branding. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses think that a logo IS the company’s brand. It’s not. A logo is part of what defines a brand. A tagline, like a logo, helps to define your brand. Make sure that the style, voice, and other elements of your tagline match the style, voice and other elements of your logo design. Because your tagline will be part of your overall branding, you’ll want the tagline to reflect your company’s personality.
9. Keep it positive. There’s a huge body of research showing that negative statements generally don’t sell very well. Keep your tagline positive and focus on benefits.
10. Inject appropriate personality. Insurance companies speak with a different voice than Internet companies. That’s OK. Keep in mind your company’s voice and personality, and make sure that the tagline reflects that voice and personality.
What’s your favorite tagline/slogan of all time?
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