Why your company’s tagline has to do your message’s heavy lifting

Where does a company’s story start?

Often right from its brand name. But often that doesn’t really tell you what it does, what it promises, why a consumer should care.

That means a tagline has is in fact its headline. It is the beginning of a company’s story.

Indeed, it is what someone can and should say when asked, “what does your company do?”

So, the two to six word ‘headline’, which should be the first thing people read on the homepage of your website, needs to do most of the heavy lifting for your story. If someone reads nothing else, it still has to carry your message.

What can these taglines look like?

David Heitman, of The Creative Alliance, has a great blog article on ‘How NOT to write your next Company Tagline.

Quoting him, he gives five types of tagline categories – once the decision has been made to create one.

His categories and descriptions bear repeating.

Descriptive: the goal is simply to clarify what your organisation does. This can be helpful for a new entrant into its market, or perhaps a company whose name or initials are not self-explanatory. Often these descriptive taglines are incorporated into the company logo

Concept Ownership: a tagline – if well worded and frequently repeated – can enable your company to “own” a word in the customer’s mind. Go to Meeting’s tagline, Online Meetings Made Easy is a good example of owning the word “easy”. Every online conference provider can deliver a meeting; but “easy” is a great concept to own, especially with som many non-technical people embracing teleconferencing for the first time. What’s the one word (or short phrase) your company can own?

Differentiating: a tagline that differentiates is one that sets you apart from competitors, promising one core virtue that you can credibly claim above all others. Citibank’s Citi Never Sleeps is a creative differentiator as it suggests that while other banks are asleep, Citibank is wide awake looking out for you. The play on words gives Citibank a sophisticated, metropolitan feel – like New York City, the city that never sleeps.

Anticipatory: the approach here is to paint a picture of the future – of what the customer’s life will be like with you as their vendor/partner/provider. Lending Tree’s When Banks Compete, You Win is a great example of this.

Aspirational: these taglines connect your company to the dreams and goals of your audience. The U.S. Army’s iconic Be All You Can Be is an example of this. Regis University’s Learners Becoming Leaders is another good example. It’s short, it uses alliteration, and has a compelling aspirational element: prospective students immediately identify the university as a place to achieve their dreams of making a difference in the world.

Thanks David.

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