Taglines and Slogans
How long does it take to dream up the perfect slogan for a new product? Five minutes? Five hours? Five days!?
The answer is…there is no answer! That's the nature of developing tag-lines and slogans. You could come up with a catchy phrase right away or agonize for hours or days, brainstorming dozens or even hundreds of alternatives.
At first glance you might think that writing taglines and slogans is a pure act of inspiration, that there are no formulas, techniques, or other strategies to help you. Fortunately, this isn't true. There are proven brainstorming techniques you can use that will make the whole process a lot easier.
But first you need to know the difference between these often confused terms. Because taglines and slogans are not exactly the same.
A tagline is a line of copy, usually just a few words, that is connected with a company or product name. For example, the famous tagline for Nike is “Just do it.” It is meant to encapsulate the essence of the brand in a way that has a significant impact on its target audience. “Just do it” says that Nike is a serious athletic-wear company for active, energetic people. There are no excuses. Just do it!
A tagline is often positioned next to or integrated with the logo. Many professionals consider the tagline the written equivalent of the logo.
A slogan is very similar, but this term is not exactly a synonym. It may also be used with the company or product name, but slogans are most often developed as temporary themes for advertising campaigns, conferences, product launch events, and marketing-related activities
Dream Up a Winner
Developing a good tagline or slogan requires a combination of strategy, inspiration, and luck. There's not much you can do about the last ingredient. If it happens, it happens! But you have a remarkable influence on strategy and inspiration. Sometimes it can come quickly. The copywriter working with software developer AutoDesk dreamed up “Tools for 3D Minds” within just a couple of minutes of receiving the assignment. Sometimes, however, putting together that perfect combination of words can take a lot longer than you expect.
What makes a winning tagline or slogan? The very best have the following characteristics:
It's easy to remember. A slogan or tagline that cannot be easily recalled by your target audience isn't much use. You want the words to stay with prospects or customers, and even be repeated by them to others. If you hear “Hey, honey, let's have some finger lickin' good chicken tonight!” someone's going to KFC.
Contains a key benefit. Great slogans and taglines don't always express a benefit directly. But the words often hint at or imply one.
Differentiates from the competition. Some of the most effective tag-lines and slogans immediately set the company or product apart from the competition. This is usually done by emphasizing a USP or positioning statement (as explained earlier in this chapter).
Notice a pattern to the above? Despite the fact that they might be highly creative or clever — seemingly pure acts of inspiration — a successful tagline or slogan follows the basic rules of good copywriting. So there is really no mystery. It has to gain attention, be benefit focused, and set the product or service apart from the competition.
The next time you're asked to develop a tagline or slogan, follow these steps:
1. Look at the USP or positioning statement for your product or service. Get clear about the key benefits, advantages over the competition, target audience, and the one thing about the product or service that makes it distinct.
2. Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases that are related in any way to the product or service. Don't be judgmental. Don't hold back. Write down as many options as comes to mind. The longer the list the better.
3. Expand on your brainstorm list by using word tools. Dig out your dictionary, thesaurus, synonym finder, and rhyming dictionary. Use an unabridged dictionary, as the origin and history of a word can be a great source of ideas. Most of these reference books are available online, making searching and compiling results even faster.
4. Play with all the words and phrases on your list. Move them around. Discover interesting ways you can put them together. Often, two seemingly unrelated phrases can be effective, such as “Healthy lawns. Healthy families” in our earlier lawn care example. If potential taglines or slogans jump off the page, highlight them. But don't make any final decisions yet.
5. Create a list of your top ten to twenty possibilities. Don't worry if a phrase is not fully developed yet. You can polish it later.
6. To narrow your list, focus on those candidates that represent benefits and results for your target audience. For a courier company, that might be those words and phrases that describe speed, accuracy, timeliness, and reliability. For a coffee machine, it could be style, speed, ease of use, convenience, and great taste. By this point you should have a handful of potential taglines and slogans.
7. Get opinions. Circulate your list to friends, colleagues, or those at your clients' location. Don't explain anything. Don't tell them your favorites. What you want to get is their first impression. Once you do, ask if the slogan or tagline is memorable, implies a meaningful benefit, and is distinctive from the competition.
8. By this stage you probably have two or three good candidates. Which one is easier to say? Which one lingers in your mind? Which one fits the personality of the brand? Sometimes the choice isn't easy. It may come down to a flip of a coin.
You can work through these steps on your own. But it's far more effective, not to mention less stressful, to collaborate with others. If you work at an ad agency or as a staff writer in a company, get some colleagues to go through this process as well. This can be a fun assignment. Chances are others will come up with ideas and options that you would have never discovered on your own. Tagline and slogan development is one of those rare copywriting tasks where too many cooks in the kitchen is actually a good thing!