There's this prison right next to the city of San Francisco.
It's called Alcatraz.
Only three prisoners have ever escaped from this grim place, surrounded as it is by rip tides and freezing cold waters. It was so difficult and dangerous to escape that prisoners didn't even try to escape.
Likewise, in the world of taglines you get some pretty grim stories as well. Taglines that never make it past the rip tides. Taglines that sink right to the bottom before making it to shore.
And yet no tagline should trapped in a tiny dungeon when all it takes is a little audit to set them free.
So what are the audit points for a great tagline, anyway?
Let's start with the first element—clarity
Clarity, in this case, involves two distinct elements—the problem and the solution. When you string the problem and solution together in a sentence, you create clarity.
Solution: Get rid of the sneeze in 24 hours.
Problem: Feeling cold?
Solution: Feel warm as toast.
Problem: Water in ears while surfing?
Solution: Keep the water out, without reducing sounds.
In every instance above, you achieve clarity without too much effort
And this “lack of effort” is incredibly important. The simpler it sounds, the easier it is to remember the tagline. Which is what the brand, “Surf Ears”, does amazingly well. Their tagline is: Let Sound In | Keep Water Out. That's pretty clear isn't it? Well, sure it is, but does it satisfy the next audit point? Is it memorable?
Element 2: Memorability
Ok, close your eyes for a second. And repeat the tagline you just read for Surf Ears. Do you remember it well? Sure you do. Let's say you drove two hundred miles, had dinner, drank two beers and woke up the next day. Would you still remember the tagline? That's what you call a great tagline—one that you can repeat without any dropout, whatsoever.
And if you go back to the earlier part of this article, you'll see that the “get rid of sneeze in 24 hours” or “feel warm as toast”. These taglines all snuggle up to the memorability test. In effect, element 1—the problem and solution, simply stated, also create memorability. Why? Because not only is the problem/solution simple, but it appeals to our curious nature.
Which takes us to Element 3: Curiosity
A problem is like a jigsaw puzzle we haven't been able to solve. When a tagline brings up a problem, our curiosity is instantly on alert because we've tried, failed, tried and failed yet again. And there, in front of us is someone who's promising to keep water out our ears, or getting rid of our allergies in 24 hours. We almost can't help ourselves—and our curiosity kicks in! In doing so, we hit the third audit point—curiosity.
Usually short tagline works well, but only if they meet these audit points
Advertising and marketing history is full of short taglines that were super-duper-crappy. Want to read some of them? Sure you do!
Bacardi Spice: Distilled in Hell
Denny’s: A good place to sit and eat
FileMaker Software: What’s your problem?
Lehman Brothers: Where vision gets built
Stillwell Ford: We put people in front of cars.
So short taglines aren't the answer, but neither are long-winded ones!
When you read the taglines below, you're going to shake your head in amazement. It seems implausible that anyone would come up with the taglines. And yet, these taglines aren't fabricated. They're real taglines, taken from real companies such as yours as mine. Let's have a look.
Example 1: On a mission to help knowledge-based entrepreneurs who sell professional and personal services Build Authority & Become Significant.
So why is that tagline so hard to remember? It's got too many points; that's why.
– On a mission
– help knowledge-based entrepreneurs
– sell profession services
– sell personal services
– build authority
– become significant
Those are six points, but notice something?
There's no problem and no solution. And it's long winded, not curious and of course not memorable. In fact, the chances are good that if you have a long-winded statement, you're not getting to the point at all.
Let's take a second example into long- winded land, shall we?
We help computer users protect their desktops and devices so they can be safe, run their business confidently and protect against identity fraud.
Let's choppity-chop that one, shall we?
– computer users
– protect desktops
– protect devices
– be safe
– run business confidently
– protect against identity fraud
Let's go back to some crispy taglines, shall we? Here are some examples:
– Increase prices by 10% (without losing clients)
– Take an annual three-month vacation (without losing revenue)
– Turn casual podcast listeners into binge-listeners
Three audit points, that's all you need to look for…
Taglines aren't hard to create.
Start with the problem and solution and you're well on your way.
P.S. You can get a free report (well, it’s really an excerpt of The Brain Audit). The excerpt dives deep into the issue of the “problem” and why it’s so critical to get the client’s attention. Click here—As you’d expect, the report has a simple tagline: Why customers buy, and why they don’t.
Taheerah Barney says
I enjoyed your article, and the three points you discussed are essential for a stellar tagline. I think clarity in taglines sometimes falls by the wayside because people don’t balance it with creativity. Copy, especially micro-form copy like taglines, should strive for both.
I’d argue that a fourth audit point, differentiation, is also viable. I believe that a tagline should highlight the main strength of a company to set it apart from competitors. For example: The M&M’s tagline, which has been around for 50+ years, is one of the most iconic taglines around, “The Milk Chocolate Candy That Melts in Your Mouth Not in Your Hand.” Other candy coated milk chocolate has entered the market over the years, but M&M’s were the first, and to this day, it’s the brand that people remember the most (at least in the U.S.).