The Last Word: Why a Tagline Shouldn’t be a Priority for New Brands

When most people think of the components of a brand, the logo is probably the first thing they think of, followed by the tagline. Since the emergence of modern marketing, a few brands have nailed their tagline. A Diamond is Forever; The Best a Man Can Get; Just Do It.

For De Beers, Gillette, and Nike, these taglines are not only essential to their brands; they’re evidence of the role these brands have had in shaping Western (and, in turn, global) consumer culture.

Many newer or smaller brands aspire to this kind of longevity and recognition. In their minds, these brands and their famous taglines are inextricably linked. They’re hoping to reverse-engineer the effect by coming up with that killer tagline. Here’s why it won’t work.

Taglines are from simpler times. When there were only a few key players in a given category, it could be that the one with the best tagline would best capture consumers and win out. There were also very few channels available through which to tell your brand’s story, and everyone was using the same ones, so it made sense to end your radio ad, TV ad, or print ad with a single phrase that told people what your brand stood for.

Today, with countless brands in almost any category one can think of, and so many places and ways to tell people about them, you can use a combination of messages and consumer experiences to tell a story that resonates with people beyond a jingle that gets stuck in their heads.

Is developing a tagline the best use of your time, or your agency’s expertise?  While you (or your agency) are busy coming up with a tagline, your competitor is making sure their brand offers the best 360 degree user experience, or they’re making sure their customer service is so special that people will be compelled to tell their friends about it. They’re looking for ways to make the best use of technology – not as a gimmick, but to save money, reduce environmental impact, or to help people in need. Creativity is so much more than being clever with words.

It won’t be love at first sight. How many of your favourite taglines are new? Often it’s after a tagline has stood the test of time that we recognize its brilliance. There are much more impactful and instantly measurable things you can do to move the needle today. Chances are, that perfect tagline will prove elusive. And if you do strike gold? Consumers might not even notice.

The statement means more coming from the customer. The best-case scenario for any brand is that customers love it so much that they want to tell everyone they know about it. If those customers happen to be famous or have large online followings, even better. People don’t like being sold to, so messages that come directly from a brand – especially in the contrived form of a tagline – often feel forced.

At 88 Creative, we prefer to help clients build great customer experiences that they’ll want to talk about. Having customers speak freely about a brand they love is way more powerful than marketers creating a tagline and taking for granted that people will internalize it.

Gabriella is the Creative Director at 88 Creative.