Using Taglines to Build Stronger Brands – Part 1

What are Taglines and Why Does Your Brand Need One?

Taglines are an important part of your brand identity. They should communicate your brand promise and differentiate your brand from competitors in a handful of words, which is easier said than done. Does your brand need a tagline? There are actually few reasons not to have a tagline for your brand, and Part 1 of my new series, Using Taglines to Build Stronger Brands, explains the what and why of taglines.


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brand taglinesWhat Are Taglines?

A good tagline communicates a brand’s promise, position, and message in a specific and succinct phrase. The tagline is an essential element of the brand and stays with the brand throughout the brand’s lifecycle — or until a rebranding takes place.

The word tagline is often used interchangeably with the word slogan. By definition, the two are quite different. A tagline is part of the brand strategy while a slogan is part of a brand tactic. Slogans are used in ad campaigns and in short-term marketing messages to communicate a specific product or service attribute. Taglines have long lives while slogans are typically short-lived.

Some of the best taglines enjoy lifespans that outlast a brand. While KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) hasn’t used the “Finger lickin’ good” tagline in years, people still associate it with the brand. That’s because it checked all the boxes that make up a great brand tagline, which you’ll learn more about in the upcoming Part 2 of this series.

Does Your Brand Need a Tagline?

Every person or team that’s responsible for a brand’s growth asks the question, “Does my brand need a tagline?” My answer for all of them is yes. Why wouldn’t you create a tagline for your brand? It can’t hurt your brand (as long as you take the time to create a good tagline), but it can help your brand by communicating your brand promise, differentiators, and position in a more effective way than a logo or brand name alone can do.

However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If your brand name and logo do a stellar job of communicating what your brand offers, then you might not need to add a tagline that would be redundant or take away from the strength of the message communicated through your brand name and logo. Of course, this rarely happens, so it’s far more likely that a tagline can help your brand building efforts.

apple think different adConsider this as you try to decide whether or not your brand needs a tagline. Apple wasn’t always the powerful brand that it is today. In 1998, Apple launched its “Think Different” tagline which was the first step in differentiating its brand against Microsoft in a bold and direct way. To say it worked is an understatement. That brand tagline communicated the Apple brand promise and differentiated it from its competition in just two words.

Taglines can be used externally and internally. The trick is to create taglines that mean something to consumers rather than simply highlighting things that company executives want to hype.

Branding is all about consumer perceptions, and taglines are not an exception. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you conduct consumer research to ensure the taglines you launch are the best ones from consumers’ perspectives. You’ll learn more about consumer brand research in Part 4 of this series, so stay tuned!

Up next in the Using Taglines to Build Stronger Brands series, you’ll learn how to create brand taglines, including the do’s and don’ts that can help you avoid making a big brand tagline mistake.


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Images: kristja, Apple.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.