I’ve been challenged with the task of writing a tagline for a large, national player in a blue-collar industry. I have to admit – it’s been some time since I’ve had this challenge. Anymore, it seems like the majority of my writing aims to be 140 characters. Hard to believe that something even shorter than that could cause me to toil into the wee hours of the morning. But here I am, still typing, still toiling.

I’ve got a few ideas that I like. But nothing I’m in love with. I’d share them with you and get your opinions on what’s working and what’s not, but as with anything client-related, it’s top secret until the day of “launch.” So no can do.

But what I can share with you is the taglining 101 that I’ve had to revisit. Nope – not published in a book or available on the web. Just some practices I’ve learned over the years from people way smarter than me.

  1. The line must be ownable. When the pencil shavings settle and the scratch pad finally rests on the nightstand, a great tagline can live for its respective brand without the accompaniment of a logo. “For all you do, this Bud’s for you” from Budweiser. Or “Think Different” from Apple. In the former’s case, the actual product name is in the line. In the latter’s case, the unmistakable brand DNA is in the line. Either way, both can thrive on their own.
  2. A good tagline is memorable. Duh. But don’t overlook it. Sometimes memorability can be made easier by just the right number of syllables and beats. Sometimes the line needs a rhyme. Whatever it needs, it must be memorable.
  3. A good tagline is descriptive. It tells the services/benefits of the product being sold.
  4. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Your target audience is a person. Talk to them like one. Kill the shoptalk.
  5. Tell a story with your line. I know, really original of me. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not the first person to have a guy from an ad agency tell you about telling a story and how it’s so righteous to do so. Well, cut through that BS for a minute and think about your tagline like a movie poster. When a film is marketed right, it has a short sentence that encompasses even the most complex of plots in just a few, carefully chosen words. Apply this to your brand.
  6. Use interesting words. Pick up The Synonym Finder. Don’t settle for a Thesaurus – including the one on the internet that’s just a Google search away.
  7. Write all the options you want. But present no more than three directional buckets with four lines each. Learn to critique your own work. That’s the only way you’ll be able to pair it down.
  8. “Smart simplicity” is king.
  9. The first step in your litmus testing is the brief. If the lines you’re presenting don’t match up well, start over.
  10. The line needs to make the client happy – whether that’s you or the company that has hired you. At the end of it all, the client has to be comfortable and confident in the brand you’ve helped them build. Otherwise, they’re doomed for failure.
Obviously, there are many more tips. But these are just a few that I like to always keep top of mind. What are some that you find pertinent to your taglining success?

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