February 11, 2022
How to Write a Great Brand Tagline
What makes a great tagline? What do all the “Just Do It’s” and “Think Different’s” have in common? There are a few simple guidelines to writing a great tagline that defines your brand and sticks with your audience.
For Starters, Know Your Brand
Trying to write a tagline without understanding your brand is like trying to get the power back on without a flashlight. You might flip the right switch but it sure would be easier with some light.
Being able to write a great tagline is really about understanding your brand promise. Your brand promise is the thing that you can deliver on every time. It’s what makes your brand worthwhile. A tagline should be an embodiment of that promise. If you want to build trust, and find success, you’re going to have to keep that promise. You have to understand what promise you’ll reasonably be able to keep before you make it to people.
AirBnb is a great example of a brand that has built a tagline on its brand promise. AirBnb promises customers a vacation where they’ll feel more a part of the place they’re staying than they would in a hotel. Their network of hosts also means that you can find an AirBnb just about anywhere. Their tagline “Belong Anywhere” is a masterful expression of their brand promise with a great emotional hook. Who doesn’t want to belong?
To understand your own brand better, start by talking with people about what makes your brand special; customers or donors, employees, even people who haven’t yet engaged with your brand. Insight into your brand can come from anywhere, and once you understand what it is that makes you special, you’ll be in a better position to tell people what makes you special through a tagline.
Think About The Reader
Writing for yourself with no regard for the reader is a pretty easy way to be misunderstood. When you start developing a tagline, you have to think about how others will perceive it, rather than what you like. It’s very creative writing 101 to “kill your darlings” but it’s true for any good piece of writing, which is what a tagline ultimately is.
Your tagline should be something that connects with readers. If it’s too dense to digest, you won’t make the connection with them, and they’ll struggle to remember your brand. If it’s overly simple, it might not be strong enough to stand out and become something that represents you. You’re aiming somewhere right in the middle; represent the promise of your brand in a way that people will be able to quickly understand, but that is unique enough to be solely yours.
Think about each word and how it serves the reader. Does it tell them what you offer? Does it invoke a desirable feeling? Does it explain why you’re better than your competitors?
Know Where to Put Your Effort
Some taglines stick because they’re genuinely funny, or clever, or emotionally stirring. Those are excellent qualities to have in a tagline for obvious reasons; those types of sentiments stand out. They’re also qualities that are really difficult to get right, and have a pretty high risk of missing the mark.
The great news is that no one is expecting comedy or an emotional breakthrough from your tagline. It should have some punch, but don’t worry if it isn’t built around memorable word play or a great joke, as long as it’s well written. The same goes for big emotional truths. Your tagline should be true to you, and should make readers feel something. But it doesn’t have to be the most profound thing they’ve read that day.
A lot of great taglines don’t rely on much more than a straight forward value statement. Think about Wheaties; you probably don’t even need to be told that Wheaties’ tagline is “The Breakfast of Champions.” There’s really nothing clever about it at all, and isn’t rooted in any emotional language either. It’s just a simple explanation of what the brand promises. Wheaties fuels excellent performance, and the tagline says as much in a way that sticks with you.
How to Start Writing Your Brand Tagline
A lot of developing a tagline is trial and error. It requires writing a lot of taglines to get to the right combination of words. Don’t be afraid to dump out every idea you have in a few spurts, even if a few of them aren’t very good. Try creating word clouds from interviews or survey responses, or turn to social media to start to see what things are coming to mind for people when they talk about your brand. Once you have a set of options and some key themes, words and phrases, you can start to edit and stitch together the tagline that’s going to work.
But what if nothing is coming together? You have all your options out there and they all fall short. It might come as a surprise to hear, but this would be the time to ask yourself if you even need a tagline at all.
Think of a tagline like a subtitle. A subtitle often goes a step further in explaining what you’ll get when you open the book. It can help draw in readers who are unfamiliar with the book, but might be interested in the topic. But could the book’s title just stand alone? Absolutely.
A tagline is important but when push comes to shove, it’s a bonus. If you can’t find a way to express your brand promise that will really make an impact, you might be better off without one.
Having a strong tagline is a great way to stand out and get your brand to stick with people. Just remember, like with any piece of brand work, you have to stay true to what you’re offering. Overpromising, misleading, or flat out lying about what you offer isn’t going to help, even if you’ve developed a clever tagline.