Does Your Brand Need a Tagline?
Taglines are like linguistic logos—they must be memorable, ownable and support the brand’s established purpose and positioning. “Think Different” defines not only Apple products but an entire ethos and identity. Walt Disney World lives up to the promise of its tagline as “The Most Magical Place on Earth” by continuing to surprise and delight new generations of families.
A great tagline succinctly conveys the essence of your brand. A bad tagline can confuse your audience, misstate your values, damage your reputation or dissuade potential customers. These hazards bear careful consideration: many brands have eliminated or deemphasized their tagline after weighing the potential benefits against the real and serious risks.
Part of that calculation is determining how best to capture attention and build awareness amidst aggressive, overwhelming competition. Today’s consumers are inundated with branded content in both the physical and digital worlds all day, every day. In fact, 78% of consumers say they have unsubscribed from emails because they felt overwhelmed with the amount of branded content they were receiving. Brands must be strategic about where, when and how they make impressions. In visual media, copywriting and SEO, every pixel counts. Your messaging must operate with purpose and clarity to make the most out of each split-second interaction—and it must precisely address your audience’s needs, wants and expectations. Crucially, it must also reflect the established best practices of the forum in which the engagement takes place.
Naturally, you must invest in building a comprehensive understanding of your audience before implementing an engagement strategy. Only then can you make an informed decision around how or whether it makes sense to deploy your tagline. For example, if one of your primary avenues for engagement is Instagram, the practical reality is that most members of your audience will never be exposed to your tagline. That’s not to say the effort involved in creating a tagline is wasted; the line might never appear in your timeline but could be utilized as a signoff for video content or a banner on your website homepage. In this way, a tagline can serve as a link between brand touchpoints and provide an opportunity to promote deeper engagement.
For mission-driven organizations, a tagline can provide an opportunity to communicate your values to the world. This is key, as studies show that members of Gen Z are more likely to engage with a product, service or brand that they see as having a positive impact on the world versus one that doesn’t—even if the end product costs them more.
On the other hand, if your actions speak loud enough, a tagline might not even be necessary. Consider Patagonia, a brand with no formal tagline but strongly held values pertaining to sustainability and the environment. The brand recently demonstrated its commitment to these values by transferring the majority of ownership shares to a social benefit trust to fight climate change. Case in point: if your tagline isn’t backed up by concrete action, your brand may not be perceived as authentic. And when your actions speak for themselves, a tagline might distract from the action you are taking to support your values—or even make those actions seem self-serving.
Descriptors, or bylines, differ from taglines but may serve a similar purpose by providing critical factual information about the product or service. This is especially common in the B2B space and in niche markets where a descriptor (such as “A Construction Management Company”) is needed to differentiate the organization against its competition or to add specificity to a potentially generic brand name. Descriptive bylines may also include differentiating capabilities or the regional purview of the organization.
With increasing competition for attention in the digital space, it is important to consider whether a tagline will add value and how it can be utilized most effectively across all relevant platforms and channels. A great tagline has the potential to unite all aspects of your brand around a single, powerful, ownable idea in a way that your audience will remember long term. However, achieving that level of recognition is rare, requires substantial strategic investment and isn’t necessary or appropriate for every brand.
As you pursue your marketing strategy going forward, carefully consider the buyer’s journey to determine whether a tagline or descriptive byline will help drive business growth and set you apart or if it will distract from your efforts and further distance you from potential customers.
- CNBC: Patagonia’s Bold Move to Donate the Entire Company to Fight Climate Change Only Works If It Stays Competitive in Business, CEO Says
- Journal of Business Research: A Study of the Antecedents of Slogan Liking
- AdAge: Slogans vs. Taglines: What Is Your Brand’s Battlecry?
- Forbes.com: Does Your Brand Need A Tagline?
- Pocketstop: Are Consumers Becoming Overwhelmed By Marketing Strategies?