We've all seen them. The witty lines that have adorned adverts, leaflets and billboards since the dawn of the marketing age. The so-called strap or tagline. Those pithy little phrases that marketers use to extol their client's businesses, to pique interest or provoke a reaction.
And, of course, to make the sale!
It's worth saying from the outset that taglines are subtly different from a slogan since a slogan is usually a more campaign-specific piece of content than a concise summary of a corporate personality. However, in some cases, you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference.
Such is the impact of some taglines that we remember them long after the products or the firm has passed from memory. Take, for example, one of the most famous lines in marketing history: 'breakfast of champions'. You'll have heard it often but do you know who first used this? (answer below)
Indeed, a good number of these lines have since wormed their way into our everyday speech by dint of their inherent stickiness. You might say they did exactly what it said on the tin.
You can imagine the deadline-driven copywriter surrounded by piles of bundled, discarded paper trying version after version until they hit upon the one that's the perfect distillation of all that needs to be said.
This image, although cliched, is not far from the truth.
Rarely do good original taglines come quickly. Usually, it will be an organic process where tens if not hundreds of ideas are thrown in then chopped up and combined until a eureka moment occurs.
That said, there are quite a few writers who would readily admit that there's no real basis for what they created. Just trial and error and dumb luck as the right words appeared from nowhere.
The key to developing your firm's tagline is to be wide-ranging in your idea generation then ruthless in honing down your best prospects to crisp perfection. And, of course, ensuring you don't stray too far from the core idea of summarising the business pleasingly and descriptively.
Here are a few things to try:
Keep It Simple.
It's a maxim that should apply to all attempts to generate a catchy line. Don't forget these ideas are supposed to stay with the consumer, much like a catchy tune. Use simple words and keep the syllable count low so you can read and say it easily on the first go. This ensures your tagline lodges in mind and slips from the tongue like butter from a toasted crumpet.
Keep It Short
The fewer words, the better: think: 'I'm Lovin' It' or 'It's The Real Thing'. Both are instantly recognisable and if they still have power, maybe have you're now yearning for a burger and Coke?
No more than six words is about right unless you have something extra creative to say such as M&M's: 'melts in your mouth not in your hands'. Any more and you're testing your potential clients' ability to understand and remember the core message.
Work The Words
Will a pun work? Consider the disruptive razor company Dollar Shave Club. In some places, you'll find they used the line: 'Our blades are f***ing great.' Arguably, this is a campaign slogan, but whatever the definition, it was never going to play to a broad audience.
They now use a subtle pun as the basis for their tagline: 'Shave Time. Shave Money.' No-one familiar with this brand can disagree that it certainly works.
One of the most well-known examples of a marketing pun was 'Irresistabubble' written for Aero chocolate bars by Salman Rushdie who worked as a copywriter before becoming a novelist.
Alliteration is sometimes an excellent tool to try. If simply sensational sausages or fizzy, fruity and fun are all that's needed, then you're done! Good examples that have worked well and we remember fondly are: 'P-P-Pick Up A Penguin' or 'Tetleys Make Teabags Make Tea’.
It would depend on what your company does, and the gravitas required. Still, if some useful alphabetical acrobatics look like they'll work for your business, it may be a valuable way to get your brand planted firmly in your clients' consciousness.
Hammer The Grammar
Sometimes it pays not to worry too much about the rules of grammar (but don't chuck them out wholesale). Apple's 'Think Different' is not grammatically correct, nor is the 1950s Milk Marketing Board slogan: 'Drink-a Pint-a Milk-a Day'. Neither would get full marks from an English teacher, but they both worked perfectly as punchy strap lines and served both firms very well indeed.
Time For A Rhyme?
A rhyming tagline can be a fruitful approach. Again, creating a sing-song edge to a marketing concept can be the way to plant roots in a punter's noggin but don't necessarily need to detract from the image of quality or value of a firm.
Take Jaguar's 'Grace, Pace, Space'. It does nothing to undermine the brand and still works hard to telegraph the premium features of these aspirational cars. A similar, FMCG example would be Bounty kitchen roll's 'The Quicker Picker Upper’.
The Shoulders Of Giants
Look to the great marketing taglines of the past for inspiration. While it would be unwise to copy, but checking out how they were constructed and how they align with the associated business is a quick way to kickstart the development process.
Reviewing what has worked before and what impact it had could be the juice you need to dig in and develop an enduring killer line.
An Outside View
Don't discount the idea of outsourcing this work. Many of the landmark lines mentioned above were not created in-house. Some of the most renowned (and expensive) advertising agencies were instrumental in developing these concepts. An outside view can be useful, and a professional writer with no preconceptions can often see what those close to product or service cannot.
As such, getting an external copywriter to develop some suggestions for taglines could make all the difference in getting just the right one.
It's Worth The Effort
That could be a tagline for a discount gym, perhaps? The point is that despite their brevity taglines are worth putting in the effort to get right. It should be a collaborative and wide-ranging endeavour to produce something that if done well can serve a company for decades. A memorable phrase that encapsulates a firm's personality, its values, its demeanour, the brand and most crucially its promise to its customers both new and established.
Breakfast of Champions was the strap line for US breakfast cereal Wheaties. From 1934 their packaging included pictures of famous American sportspeople thereby creating an association between the healthy nature of the product and sporting success. It's also the name of a 1973 novel by Kurt Vonnegut who likened the bitty format of his book to the individual Wheatie flakes.