In my final installment in the Tagline series, I’m covering the shortcut version of tagline writing. It’s not about brilliant creative exploration or deep strategic consideration.
It’s more about effectiveness, and ease.
Can you really get to a good tagline, rather quickly? Say, when you’re writing your website or trying to ship a product. Without being robotic about it?
You can! I do it all the time.
Because not everyone can afford to spend oodles of money on hours and hours of copywriter genius to create their taglines.
Breathtaking would be nice, but most of the time, a good tagline is plenty.
Like my tagline for pen to ZEN. It does the job it needs to do, and I didn’t labor over the process when I was hustling to launch this business. Plus it helps as a focused and distinct launch point for my writing.
Which is important for online entrepreneurs — good taglines provide utility related to content.
A Quick Review of the Rules of Taglining
1. I want to say the first rule of Taglining is don’t talk about Taglining, but I can’t, since this is the fifth article I’ve written about it this year. But the thought is close. Don’t talk about it like it’s a mystery. You might not even need a tagline, and if you do, it might be more of an explanation that you need, as discussed here in What is a Tagline and Do I Even Need One?
2. The second rule is to look at makes and models that will suit your needs before you commit to buying, but no need to test drive every car on the lot. So You Want to Write Your Own Tagline offers easy-to-understand examples based on the auto industry, which helps you see taglines forms from the factory and fantasy perspectives.
3. If you’re going to really get into writing your tagline, it helps to have a system. The third rule, look for holes in your name to fill with your tagline, suggests you avoid writing on and on (which leads to not deciding). Here I share my conceptual but also contained writing system, The Word Basket Method. Look a little deeper into this method before attempting the shortcut version in this article. They’re directly related.
4. Observe what puts the “copy” in copywriting with 8 Great Taglines You Can Copy. There are also not-so-great tags in the same article, and a chance for you to get my free resource with a 50 of the best taglines ever and 25 terrible ones. If you are on my email list, you got it already. If not, please sign up to get your free tagline guide and copywriting ebook. The rule here is one of my favorites: “do what works.”
5. Faith’s final rule of Taglining is not really a rule unto itself, but a culmination of all the above–know what you’re working with, know what you need, pick a general direction, come up with some ideas, and then write the thing.
Write the Thing
Now that we’ve taught the tutorials and reviewed the rules, we can distill the entire discussion down to a few brief steps that will allow you to write a good tagline for your website, product, or service. In less than an hour.
(Disclaimer: if you have a revolutionary new invention or a complex business model, you might be want to pay more attention to your tagline than taking this shortcut allows. You might even hire a professional. Otherwise, let’s go.)
Why less than an hour? Because you’re not going to get overly creative. Also, the strategic thinking behind your tagline isn’t going to be real “deep.”
Instead, think solid. Think “I can work with that!”
You can write a good tagline in less than an hour if you simply fill in some blanks.
FIRST STEP: Decide which key ingredient, of this short list, your name (business name, domain name, product name, etc.) is missing:
- A definition of what this is, does or delivers that is special
- An understanding of who this is for
- A description of how it transforms the user
If your name is missing more than one of the above, it’s okay to address two or all three. But you’re still limited to the timing and the next steps.
For example, if your business name is your actual name, it’s missing all the above.
If your name is Faith’s Pet Supply, we know it’s for people shopping for pet supplies so “who for” is not a missing ingredient. Unless they are special people.
If your name is Faith’s All Natural Pet Supply, I’d say the key missing ingredient is how it transforms the user.
See how quick I decided? I did the same for pentozen.com, by the way.
Going from pen to Zen makes the transformation clear. Zen isn’t really unique, and pen suggests writing, but what kind? I felt the key ingredients missing were something distinct, which would address my audience.
My audience is people who find themselves writing by default, or under pressure, or without relevant writing experience. Now they have a business, and that’s why they are writing. Almost by accident.
Wow, I’m leading you right into the next part with that. Good.
Don’t spend more than 10 minutes on this first step!
SECOND STEP: Once you’ve decided on your key missing ingredient(s), write a nice line to sum it up or answer to them.
What do I mean by “nice?”
- Be clear
- Be honest
- Be relatable
This is a lot like having nice neighbors. They don’t live in a junk house, right? You can trust a nice neighbor, even if they’re not your best friend. You live in the same neighborhood, so you can relate.
That’s the kind of effect you should aim for in the line you write about your key ingredient.
For the fictional Faith’s All Natural Pet Supply, here’s how I might write my line about transforming the user: It’s an easy source for them to get the assortment of products they want that actually live up to their green standards and wholistic lifestyle.
For pen to Zen: My writing and marketing advice isn’t cookie cutter, and doesn’t speak down to people–it guides them to the right choices and great results per their own intentions.
See how neither of those lines is really reflected in the name, but is a key ingredient to what the business offers? That’s what you want.
Don’t worry about concise (yet) as long as it’s clear, honest and relatable.
And don’t spend more than 20 minutes on this step!
LAST STEP: You write the tagline. Whatever you have left of your hour is all you should need. Because all you have to do now is look at the nice line about your key ingredient, and trim it down and/or say it in another, slightly catchier way.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this is:
- Focus on the most powerful action word(s) and most interesting noun(s), and then
- Put them in a short phrase structured like a famous, great tagline you admire
You might end up with less than a handful of options. That would be perfect–you only need one tagline.
And don’t worry. You’ll get at least one good one based on the steps you already took.
That’s how we go from pen to Zen. We make sure you’re doing what works according to your plan, your voice, your product, etc.
So, an easy source to get the assortment of products you want that actually live up to your green standards and wholistic lifestyle, might focus on “easy source” “assortment you want ” live up to standards” and “green wholistic lifestyle.” And pentozen.com might focus on “guide” “right choices” and “own intentions.”
Faith’s All Natural Pet Supply
Lets Dogs and Cats Be Green Like You (Visine–Gets the Red Out)
The Ultimate Source for Alternatives (BMW–The Ultimate Driving Machine)
Higher Standards. Easier Shopping. (Miller Light–Great Taste. Less Filling.)
pen to Zen
writing on purpose (No direct template. I laser- focused on intention.)
In the beginning, middle and end, your purpose matters most.
When you set out to write a tagline, if you know your intention, and write on purpose, you really can do the job in less than an hour.
That’s so Zen. In fact, the content of this post forms the bulk of a bonus lesson in my course, “Zen and the Art of Writing Your Website: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting a Site that Works Wonders.” Sign up here to get it for half off when it launches later in 2014.
I’d love to hear about your results if you follow my steps. Please comment below and let me know what you came up with!