Tagline Tutorial Part II: So You Want to Write Your Own Tagline

Writing a tagline is usually one of the first things people going into business for themselves attempt to do. First, they might come up with name for either their website domain, product, service, location or whatever. Then they might write out some behind the scenes stuff, like a description of their offering or details about their ideal customer.

Soon after that, it’s tagline time. Is that where you’re at? Are you excited? Let’s make it fun!

Maybe it’s to go along with a logo you’re designing. Maybe it’s because you’ve learned that your name doesn’t say it all and you need a few more words drive your key selling points home. Maybe it’s because you blend in with the crowd otherwise, and you want to stand out more from the start.

There are a lot of reasons people use a tagline, as I discussed in Part I of this Tagline Tutorial series. If you want to write your own tagline, you should read that article before this one.

Assuming you know your basics, let’s move on to the types of taglines you might test drive.

Pick a Make

Tagline Tutorial Part II pen to ZenI’m going to save you so much time and trouble in the next paragraph, that I get excited just thinking about you reading it.

Just as you don’t need to go to every car dealer on Earth to understand which vehicle will work for you, you don’t need to start writing your tagline from scratch either.  Look around on the road and remember back to all those you’ve already experienced. You can figure out which makes are your top contenders based on that much alone.

For example, for taglines, let’s start with some major car brands, shall we?

Declarative (a Ford): Quality is job one. (or a Hyundai): Driving is believing.
Descriptive (a Mercedes): Engineered to move the human spirit.
(or a Chevy Truck): Like a Rock
Actionable Command (a Jaguar): Unleash a Jaguar (or Land Rover:) Go Beyond.
Claiming a Space (a Lincoln): What a luxury car should be.
Experiential (a Mercury): Imagine yourself in a Mercury now.
(or a Toyota): I love what you do for me, Toyota!
Conceptual (a Saturn): Like always. Like never before.
Benefit-Centric (a Volkswagen): Relieves gas prices.
Brand-Centric (an Oldsmobile): This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.
Informational (cars not known for these…favorite example is Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.)

There are some reasons why, in theory, you might choose a few of these makes of taglines over the others. Again, allow me to save you some time:

Don’t pick Experiential, Conceptual or Brand-Centric. 

Unless you’re a giant consumer brand with a solid name in your industry, or a lot of money to throw after large advertising campaigns, or the resources to switch taglines later when you find they don’t work out for you based on market research. Which makes them more like slogans.

Lean toward Benefit-Centric and/or Claiming a Space if you are in a niche where you can leverage something special about your offerings that you know people value. These kinds of taglines will usually prove the most effective, if there is such a proof to be had. In other words, these kinds of lines create the responses that are most likely to connect with a strong lead for your business.

Actionable Commands are very popular. We copywriters love them. If you can write a good one like Nike’s, well, just do it. heh. But if you miss the mark, you can sound more bossy or confusing than motivating or authoritative. Tread with care.

Pick a Model

What KIND of Ford or Volkswagon or Jaguar do you want? With taglining, like car shopping, you have your options. Features like like 2-door or 4-door matter. Also, if you pick Cadillac, there’s a big difference between a rapper’s ride and what my uncle drives.

Statement: Single sentence (Ford above), 2-parter (Saturn above) or 3-parter.
I call it the tri-tag. Subaru used it with Think. Feel. Drive.
Question: (Have you driven a Ford lately?) You take a chance with a question.
A) You can’t control the audience response. B) Then again, there was Where’s the Beef?
Self-referring: This can come in a lot of colors and sizes. Refers to company, product.
It might be descriptive, or benefit-centric, or even conceptual. It’s about your thing.
Audience-referring: Sometimes your thing doesn’t need as much attention in the tagline
as the users of it do. If so, you choose this model, like Choosy Mothers Choose Jif.
Results-referring: An aspirational tagline is one that sums up the transformation that
the users of the brand will experience. What happens with this product or service?
Clever: A clever, or otherwise wordsmithed tagline deserves a showroom of its own.
They’re hard to come by. But when they are good, like Volkswagen’s gas relief, they sing.

Start Test Driving

Now that you know some of the features and options available for you to choose from, it’s time for you to do some preliminary work. Part of shopping for a new tagline is taking some test drives.

1. Make a list of the Makes and Models you’d like to consider
2. Find examples of those makes and models among famous brands you enjoy and buy
3. Find examples of those makes and models among your competition or idols
4. Consider your name, and what it might not be communicating to first-read audiences
5. Decide on some descriptions, benefits or commands that might fill those holes
6. Then, have fun putting some model cars together on your own. Easy on the glue.

If you do this process quickly, you can whittle down to your top contenders in a few days. For others, it can take weeks to mull this stuff over. If you’re a DIYer with a business on the side, don’t let it hold you back from anything else! Not even printing cards or publishing your site.

You can always add your perfectly crafted tagline in to your materials later. And I’ll be back with even more detailed information in this Tagline Tutorial series, to help you.

If you get stuck in the meantime, hey, no worries. Communicating your most important benefits and ideas in a few words is HARD! I’m here, when you need to call in a professional. I’ve been practicing this stuff for way longer than most of you, my dear grasshoppers.

Not driving though. I’m only so-so at that, so let’s hire a limo when we go out, k?


photo by: dok1

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