Taglines: what they are, when they’re used and some memorable examples

Taglines: what they are, when they’re used and some memorable examples

Alberto Maestri Published on 8/16/2022

Taglines: what they are, when they’re used and some memorable examples

Every brand needs to convert its values and identity into words, images and symbols, because customers need to get to know and interact with a brand long before they get to a transaction (and therefore a purchase). They will only be ready to spend their money once they identify with the business’ personality, ideals and products.

Taglines can bring people closer to a brand, making it memorable.

The human mind, businesses and brands

To create a connection that fixes the brand in the consumer’s mind, every single aspect must be carefully thought through. Think about a company you follow on Instagram, for instance: the first thing that comes to mind is almost certainly the logo, because our brains process images more easily than text, and so recall them very quickly.

The second aspect you will remember will be the business’ tagline or motto.

If I say ‘Because you’re worth it‘, ‘Think different‘ or ‘Just do it‘, your mind will instantly create visual and value-based connections.

This occurs because the brands in question have succeeded in creating a short phrase that encapsulates their essence and makes them memorable.

Before you rush off to create a catchy phrase for your business, let’s investigate how to create a successful tagline and what features help make it unforgettable.

What is a tagline and why are they important for all businesses that want to become a brand?

Taglines convey in a few words the essence of a business and everything it represents.

They aim to create positive and memorable links to help consumers identify the brand, tend to be only a few words long, and sit alongside and complement the logo and brand identity. They should not be confused with slogans, which are also short, engaging phrases, but used in advertising campaigns. While a slogan refers to a single campaign, a tagline represents the entire brand.

What is a tagline
Tagline makes a brand unique and recognisable among many others.

As human beings, we tend to develop preferences for things familiar to us. This is a psychological principle called the mere exposure effect, which states that we are more likely to appreciate something the more experience we have of it. An effective tagline helps to develop this effect through repetition and memory. For this reason, it needs to be consistent with the brand identity in all areas of the business, so it provides customers with a clear view of who you are.

There are various types of tagline to choose from, all focusing on a different area of the brand’s identity. It’s worth knowing their characteristics and the differences between them, so you can work out which category is most suited to depicting your company’s personality.

A tagline can be:

  • Descriptive: in this case the short phrase highlights what the brand and its products promise to deliver, and therefore what the customer can expect when they buy something from the business. An example of this would be HSBC’s tagline ‘The world’s local bank‘, which clearly describes the combination of local service and international expertise the bank wishes to convey.
  • Imperative: these are taglines that include a verb and push customers to complete an action. A famous example is Nike’s ‘Just do it‘, which encourages sporty individuals to get moving, without thinking twice.
  • Provocative: these are words that ask consumers a question or address them directly. One notable example of this is Capital One’s ‘What’s in your wallet?‘, a simple question that makes people feel they are missing out if the answer isn’t ‘a Capital One card’.
  • Specific: this type of tagline highlights the sector the company works in or a product’s specific characteristics. For instance, ‘Be more triangle‘ instantly evokes the shape of the Toblerone.
  • Superlative: this is a phrase that positions the brand as a leader in their particular sector, and a benchmark for other businesses. ‘Das auto‘ (The car) is Volkswagen’s famous tagline that underlines how the brand produces the ultimate car in terms of reliability and cutting-edge technology.

How do you create an effective and memorable tagline?

Creating a tagline is not easy. The three most important principles to consider are clarity, meaning and storytelling.

To ensure your message is clear you need to be brief, encapsulating the essence of the brand in no more than six words and ensuring the tagline is understandable and impossible to misconstrue.

Then you need to choose words that are full of meaning. Nothing should be chose randomly: every word must point to your brand values and the elements you wish to communicate. This means avoiding generic words and being as specific as possible.

The final principle to adhere to is storytelling. The phrase you’re writing must generate semantic links, tell your brand’s story and evoke positive emotions. ‘Just do it‘, for example, recalls the values and images of people who decide to get moving to achieve their goals, and your motto should represent your story in a similar way.

It takes time to come up with the perfect tagline for a business. To avoid stumbling around blindly in search of a brainwave (it’s best not to rely on creativity alone), why not follow these steps, always keeping in mind the principles outlined above:

  • What is your why? As Simon Sinek says in his book Start With Why, it is essential to understand the raison d’être of your company and the products you offer. If you haven’t already done so, identify your brand’s mission, vision and values and write a brand positioning statement, putting down on paper what the business does, why it does it, what its strong points are and what makes it stand out from the competition.
  • Decide which of the five styles of tagline I briefly described above best represent what you wish to communicate. Look at your identity and consider whether your brand’s tone of voice particularly suits one of these categories.
  • Summarise your brand positioning statement in no more than one line. As you gradually refine it, remember that the tagline must also excite consumers and create semantic links that tell your story.
  • Try to reduce it to no more than six words, and do some tests. What do your employees think of the tagline you created? And how about your most loyal customers? This stage is crucial for gaining feedback on how effective the tagline is and whether it evokes any values you do not wish to associate with your brand.
"i'm lovin it", the famous McDonald's tagline
“i’m lovin it”, the famous McDonald’s tagline

Why do some taglines work so well?

If after all these steps you’re still staring at a blank piece of paper, let’s take a look at some examples that may help you understand how to create an effective tagline tailored to your brand.

  • I’m lovin’ it: in its tagline, McDonald’s managed to summarise the business’ focus on providing customers with incredible tasting food. The range offered by the fast-food giant certainly is not the healthiest, but the brand successfully used its tagline to create a connection between taste and affordability, helping to make it the leading company in the sector. In addition, the motto was supported by a catchy jingle, which officially cemented the idea’s success.
  • Shave time. Shave money: Dollar Shave Club wanted to focus on practical aspects and what the benefits promised by their products. By signing up to their shaving subscription service, you would save time and money, just as the tagline says.
  • It melts in your mouth, not in your hands: M&M’s also highlighted a particular feature of their chocolates, as well as underlining their USP (unique selling proposition), the element that sets them apart from the competition.
  • Taste the feeling: Coca Cola’s aim to excite the audience and tell their story is immediately apparent in their tagline. In three words they summarise the happiness of opening a bottle of Coke and how it can make any moment special.
  • Where there’s Barilla, there’s home: Barilla managed to translate family, love and happiness into a motto that became world famous. The words bring to mind a freshly prepared pasta dish waiting to be shared with family or friends.
  • Belong anywhere: Airbnb’s simple tagline immediately sums up the ethos of the brand – providing you with a home from home anywhere on Earth.

Satisfy my curiosity: what other memorable taglines can you remember?