There’s a scene in the movie What Women Want that perfectly illustrates the power of this little thing we call a tagline.
(Quick definition: In marketing, a tagline, also known as a slogan, is a memorable phrase that sums up the tone of a product or business and strengthens the audience’s memory of the brand.)
The movie’s heroine, Darcy McGuire (played by Helen Hunt), is the newest creative director at a major New York City advertising agency, chosen over Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) for the role because of her ability to broaden the firm’s appeal to women. She’s recruited Nike Women’s Athletics and is intensely focused on finding the right words to describe why female athletes should choose this brand.
As the two stand in her office pushing through the creative process in this scene, we hear Darcy’s soliloquy as she imagines her audience:
She’s running. It’s early, it’s quiet. Just the sound of her feet on the asphalt. She likes to run alone. No pressure, no stress. This is the one place she can be herself. Look any way she wants, dress any way she wants, think any way she wants. No game playing, no rules. Games, sports, rules. Games, sports, rules …
And then, ding, the a-ha moment. They find the tagline. Nike: No games. Just sports.
Later in the movie, Darcy and Nick deliver their pitch to Nike executives (who actually play themselves in the film). Accompanied by a video of a woman running alone on the road in her Nike shoes with a short, 60-second elevator pitch, “No games, just sports” is a winner.
Love that play on words as much as I do? No having to put on lipstick or a fake smile. No needless worrying about whether you’re making as much money as your colleague. Just lace up your shoes and sweat it out.
The beauty in this tagline is more than just the symbolism. It’s that Darcy and Nick got inside Nike’s head (much like the curse Nick has of being able to hear every woman’s waking thought in this movie). They found the crucial thing the audience (women) can believe in and buy into, and then they made it creative.
The best taglines deliver a feeling and make you immediately connect with a brand. In a few words, you understand the company or organization’s goal — their why — and you buy in because it is speaking to you, because you believe in what the brand is trying to achieve.
Taglines can be motivational. Deliver a call to action. Include a play on words. (No games. Just sports. See what they did there?) But they can’t stand on their own merits with just one of these elements. Above all else, they must communicate the essence of the business or organization. As John Gumas wrote for Forbes, a tagline “should be the soul of who your company already is, or aspires to be.” It’s only when this is conveyed that any attempt to be motivational or creative will make a tagline stronger.
Easy? No. Important? Heck yes.
Here are a few tips for finding that one short phrase that sums up your brand:
No. 1: Be clear.
The last thing you want to do when trying to communicate the essence of your brand is put something out there that could be interpreted in different ways. There’s a time and place for being clever and creative, but it will miss the mark every time if your audience is confused by your message. Make sure you say what you mean, and mean what you say.
No. 2: Be unique.
If you’ve heard it somewhere else, steer clear of it. Avoid vague and cliché taglines like, “The best X in town,” or “For X, by X.” These statements say nothing about why you’re in business or why customers should use you.
No. 3: What is your “why,” anyway?
I know, we keep saying that over and over. But it’s worth repeating. People don’t do business with you because you provide a particular service. They do business with you because they believe in your way of providing it. Sit down and write out the reasons you’re doing this thing in the first place. Determine what problems you are in business to solve for your customers. And use those words to craft a short statement that makes them say, “Yes. I need this in my life.”
No. 4: Focus group it.
Once you’ve written a few options, share them with a select group of folks you trust to give you honest feedback. Ask them: Is it unique? Is it clear? Does it give you a positive feeling? Does it communicate what my company is and aspires to be? If you get “yes” across the board, odds are you’ve got a winner.
Need a little help finding the soul of your business? Through our Br&nd Builder process, we help organizations connect with their why and communicate it to the world. Let’s chat!