If a business had a soul, the tagline could be its expression in words. And every business needs to consider what adding a tagline might accomplish. That’s the philosophy of tagline guru Eric Swartz, a branding strategist who’s created thousands of brand expressions for clients across the globe, including American Express, Apple and Wells Fargo.
Here’s Swartz’s tagline definition: a succinct phrase, situated under or alongside a company’s logo, that communicates a single but powerful brand message designed to resonate strongly with an intended audience.
“Taglines are the easiest and most effective way to communicate a new or revised brand message. They can enhance the value and relevance of your brand, extend its reach, and give it renewed vigor,” according to Swartz.
It’s not hard to identify the good ones out there, the ones that clearly have soul. They are central to the company’s “belief system,” Swartz said. Consider a recent tagline for the U.S. Navy: “It’s not a job. It’s an adventure.” Or, take Allstate: “You’re in good hands.”
In a recent association interview, Swartz spelled out other qualities that make a good tagline, and the reasons every company ought to have one. The best ones are succinct, original, and believable, like the two mentioned above, Swartz said. And there are options: a tagline can be concrete or abstract, serious or funny.
And here’s some more good news: since taglines are not written in stone, they can be easily changed if a message needs to shift.
Tricks to the trade in creating a good tagline include utilizing tools including alliteration, analogy and antithesis. And the coolness factor can be big: sticky consonants, words beginning with “K” and “F” (favorites of comedians), and a display of serious attitude will support that tagline strategy, Swartz said.
Swartz also discusses how interim executives might fire up their creativity to create taglines specific to their practices. The process includes whittling down a descriptive brainstorm into the trigger words that distinguish a practice from its competitors.
Swartz’s tagline hall of shame illustrates some epic failures, including the presumptuous “We’re Exxon.” Bad taglines are typically vague, awkward, or ambiguous, and sometimes communicate an unintended message, Swartz said. Another no-no: trendy cliché and meaningless business jargon will both tend to devalue a brand.
Done well, however, a tagline can give your brand newfound soul.