Why your tagline really matters


Taglines matter because they do a lot of heavy lifting. You have two seconds to succinctly say what you’re all about, brief moments to capture someone’s attention.

Your first, most important message, also known as a strapline or slogan, needs to convey a promise.

This tagline is a value proposition, an immediate understanding of your company’s purpose, the heart and soul of why somebody else should care.

These two to 10 words are your story in a nutshell. If there is a single narrative about your organisation you should spend time crafting and perfecting, this primary message is it.

But, unearthing the one central truth of what needs to be in this message, and wrapping expressive words around it is, unfortunately, difficult.

Unearthing your tagline is not simple - but that is what it needs to be

Too often companies resort to generic and meaningless words when they attempt to create taglines.

For example, what does the term ‘innovative solutions’ mean? It might (just) apply to a chemical business, but then it would be in danger of being a clever pun that no one gets.

There’s plenty of other words that are bandied about which say nothing about the product or service a company provides. People ignore terms such as:

  1. synergy
  2. entrepreneurial
  3. disruptive
  4. unique
  5. collaborative

They mean nothing – and such is people’s’ general skepticism the use of such words in fact risks creating the impression you’re exactly the opposite. These terms are lazy, underwhelming and unmemorable.

Including them as part of your slogan will not, cannot, instantly give a reader or listener a good idea of what you’re about. Someone is more likely to go ‘uuunnnhhh’ and screw their face up in confusion.

A tagline needs to resonate

What your first, most important message must do is enable a reader to go ‘oh, OK, got it’, and then if you’re lucky ‘tell me more’.

This strapline needs to convey:

  • you deliver something that is different
  • you deliver something that is desirable
  • an expression of your essence

When these two to 10 word encapsulating messages work properly, they resonate. They ring true and people outside and inside the business realise it. This is because simple, meaningful descriptions:

  • inform and inspire
  • engage and have an emotional connection
  • set the tone and reflect the reader or listener’s self-perception

In resonating internally and externally, this message or mini-story is much more likely to be remembered and restated.

People remember a tagline that resonates

So, how should you go about unearthing the one central truth about who and what you are?

We already know that it is not easy. Simple is hard.

Fortunately, there is a start point.

All customers, all consumers are looking for the best possible value from their purchase of your good or service.

Across all industries and sectors, the underlying imperative is to be:

  • faster
  • better
  • cheaper

(It is important to note that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be cheaper for the buyer. It could be your business model can do more for less – enabling you to charge the same price for a better product, giving you a larger profit margin)

The nexus of a faster, better, cheaper discussion is a core understanding of how you are SMARTER than your competitors. The discussion and determination of these components of your value proposition makes the next stage of framing your first, most important story much, much easier.

Describe your smartness, in words, as a tagline

The challenge isn’t over. This is where the real wrangling occurs.

You’ve got to ask questions. And more questions. And sometimes, even when you’re sick of questioning, you’ve got to ask more.

There is a framework to use however.

The 3D tagline wrangling framework

This diagram makes it appear as if a draft tagline will magically appear.

It won’t. The probing and examination is a messy exercise. It requires whiteboards and open minds. You will end up with many whiteboards covered in ideas that hover around, partly describe your most important message.

And don’t forget to keep hold of the whiteboard notes you create. While these scribblings may have very little to do with the final slogan, there’s a strong likelihood they will provide insights for other stories you wish to tell about your business.

As a way of repurposing valuable thinking, the question-storming process will provide gems to be re-used in other forums.

Among some of the points to be covered in in discussions are:


  • the true start point for the digging, unearthing process
  • (we’re all special, all friendly – this is not enough)
  • why, why, how, why and why again


  • what is the unmet or underserved need that you cater to?
  • why should someone care? If it is that desirable, are you actually able to charge a premium for it
  • whose problem do you solve? If it is so good, does price become only a tiny part of the conversation?

It should be noted that though the faster, cheaper, better (smarter) discussion and then the 3D process to unearth one central truth for your message appear as distinct…in reality it isn’t. There is often no clear delineation between these parts. It is by its very nature; messy.

A tired brain later, what you end up with is a DRAFT. Just as Picasso or Leonardo da Vinci had to go back to their art, and tweak and modify and adjust, so you will probably have to do the same for your own words.

Testing your tagline, re-writing your key documents to match

It is unlikely that a two to two and a half hour session will come up the right combination of words to emotively describe what you’re selling. Even if you leave the room thinking you’ve nailed it, reflection, consideration and bouncing of the strapline off others inside and outside the organisation is vital. Especially remember that outsiders haven’t been exposed to the deeper thinking that resulted in the draft slogan.

It must work for them straight away, with no other clues or context required for them to get it.

Working with your draft, constant assessment is needed since:

  • one or two (or more) of the words may not feel quite right
  • use a thesaurus; a work with similar meaning may fit better, provide a more nuanced interpretation of what you’re trying to convey
  • above all, question whether the expression, your shortest story…resonates

Once you’re satisfied, and other stakeholders agree, then you can start using it in the heat of battle.

This includes being the first words on your website, a term you can use when out and about at other business forums, and the infamous BBQ test. (Is it a line you’d comfortable using in front of strangers?)

Finally, now that you have your tagline, re-write your

Your tagline creation will probably need an outside facilitator

Most of us struggle to be able to distinguish between the wood and the trees.

We’re usually too close, too aware of minor points, unable to view a business’s product or service in a detached enough way to be able to properly assess and question.

An outside facilitator is usually a must to unearth a tagline

You also might have to revisit your slogan.

Time moves and so does your business. What works today may not be appropriate for tomorrow.

All of our stories are works in progress, so there is no reason your tagline should be considered set in concrete. That said, change it reluctantly.

Your stakeholders may be very comfortable with the words you’ve used to describe yourself.

If your tagline still reflects the one central truth of your story; trust it, stick with it.

Finally, if you want help unearthing your own compelling tagline, give Punchline a call

Punchline is really, really good at this challenging exercise.

We’re happy to travel, happy to engage, happy to co-create your first, most important message.

Read and download a free white paper on how you can unearth your own tagline