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Hi and welcome to episode 17 of Startup marketing. Today, we’re going to be talking taglines. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about a branding element and you know they’re my favorite. I like creating taglines, but I think for once, I’m not going to tell you that they’re my favorite part of branding. I still think they’re important, but I don’t consider them critical to getting your business off the ground. They’re definitely something you can come back to once you have the nuts and bolts of your business and brand up and running. 

Alright, let’s dive in. Taglines. They’re meant to be short, punchy phrases that communicate your brand mission, culture or tone of your products and services. They’re supposed to have staying power; meaning you don’t swap them out on a regular basis. You and your tagline are in it for the long haul.

So, as I write each podcast, I always do some research to make sure that I’m fact-checking my own experience. I’ve spent a long time in the industry, but I never want to assume that my experience has been immaculate and there isn’t anything new for me to learn about whatever topic I’m speaking to. For example, in the very first post I read about taglines, the author mentioned that taglines are different from slogans. Now, I know what slogans are and I know what taglines are, but I never actually thought about them being interchangeable. They actually aren’t, which I suppose I knew subconsciously, but I wouldn’t have thought to articulate their differences to you. My point here is that even experts need reminding every once and a while about the basics. And, it took reading a few examples to really crystalize the difference in my mind, so if you’re listening and thinking “aren’t they the same thing”, don’t worry, I was there not too long ago. 

A tagline, as I mentioned, is meant to be a more permanent part of your brand. Slogans, less so. They’re meant to be used for short campaigns. If you’re thinking you can’t recall a brand that’s used a slogan, I’d point to that and say that’s exactly the difference between the two. Let me give you an example: Nike’s tagline is “just do it”. We all know it, we’re all familiar with it. In 2019, they launched their “dream crazy” campaign. Narrated by Colin Kaepernick, the TV spots feature well-known athletes, as well lesser-known successful athletes and aspiring athletes. The slogan “dream crazy” they use in the commercials is meant to provide encouragement to everyone who has crazy goals and dreams that may seem insurmountable because the common denominator of all the athletes is that they leverage the power of sport to move the world forward. 

Ok, so do you see how a brand might use both a tagline and a slogan at the same time?

Now, the process to create a tagline and a slogan really isn’t going to be much different, but how you use them will be. So, where do you start?

As with any branding element, it’s one half science, one half creative brainstorming. Let’s start with the science. 

You’ve heard me say it before, but all of your marketing and branding should be based on knowing your business goals and your ideal customers. Your business goals should be reflected in your tagline. So, get back to one of the very first exercises we did, knowing your “why”. If, for example, you’re a bakery that wants to make delicious dairy free and gluten free treats for vegans, you tagline should reflect that. 

Next, get back to your value proposition or your differentiator. What makes you stand out? 

As you go through these things, it may help you to write them on a blank piece of paper. It’s easy to say you remember them, but I know for me, it’s easy to forget them when I’m getting excited and in the creative flow. Writing them down keeps me focused and that’s important. So, if you find you’re struggling to stay on track, write them down and keep them in front of you. 

Finally, remind yourself who your target audience or ideal customer is. You don’t want to go down a creative rabbit hole that will leave you with something that doesn’t resonate with them. 

Once you’ve got your goal, your differentiator and your ideal customer in front of you, you’re ready for the fun part! Brainstorming some taglines or slogans, whichever one you’re working on. 

I like to go through this process in a way that’s very similar to how I create key messages. I get a blank piece of paper and start writing any words that come to mind that summarize the business I’m branding. I don’t worry about how much I like or don’t like them, I just start writing. If I’ve got ideas for a full phrase, I jot those down as well. Then, I start to organize similar words into buckets. Once I’ve got them in buckets, then I start the words I really like and cross out the ones I don’t really care for. I decide which ones I like and don’t like based on the way they sound and how unique they are. I lean toward using more illustrative words for taglines. If I’m choosing between “great” and “extraordinary”, I’m going to use “extraordinary”; it paints a much clearer and stronger picture than “great”. 

Once I’ve got my favorite words I start putting them into phrases. You want your tagline to be short and punchy, think no more than a handful of words. You have to say a lot with very little text, which is why I’d emphasize choosing those strong, illustrative words because they’ll tell more of your story in less words. Remember, this phrase is supposed to define who or what you are or the problem you solve.  You want your ideal customers to hear your tagline and go “yes! That’s exactly what I want for myself!” or, to quote Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek because I’m a huge Schitt’s Creek fan “Love that journey for me”. 

Once I’ve got my words into groups, I do a gut check. Do they feel authentic and genuine to me? Any that don’t get crossed out. Then I revisit my personas/ideal audience and ask myself, are there any words or phrases in front of me that don’t make sense to pair or assign to an ideal customer? If there are, those also get tossed out. Now, I should be sitting with a list of words that are pretty close to being on brand for me and, with some fine tuning, will resonate with my ideal client or customer. 

You want your tagline to be:

  • Concise; think a handful of words
  • Strategic; it should communicate your value as a business
  • Relevant; your ideal customer should be able to identify with your tagline
  • Simple; don’t make the language hard to understand by including a bunch of industry jargon
  • Unique: you don’t want your tagline to be applicable to just anyone
  • Most importantly, you want them to be on-brand. Remember, we’re all about building an authentic brand around here, so if you write a sentence down and it doesn’t resonate with you or “feel” right, it’s not going to feel authentic to your audience. While there’s a definite science to creating a brand, there’s also your gut instinct that’s worth listening to to make sure you’re not straying into any weird territory. For me, being authentic means feeling genuine and relatable. 

Once you’ve created a handful of taglines, give them some extra scrutiny and see if there are any words you’ve used that mean the same thing. If there are, eliminate the weaker one of the two. Then take a look and see if you can eliminate any extra little words like “an or a” for example. But, be careful, don’t eliminate words just for the sake of shortening your tagline. It still needs to make sense and convey your message. If you can accomplish that by squeezing out a word or two, great. But, if you can’t and it’s still short and punchy, run with it. 

When you think you’ve settled on a tagline, I recommend stepping away from it for a day or two and letting it percolate. That way, any concerns have time to surface or inspiration to make it even better has time to hit. 

So, there you have it. How to build a tagline. It’s pretty short and sweet. A tagline can be really used in a variety of settings, and when done right will convey your brand in a short memorable phrase; ideal for things like social media. I’ll let you in on a  little secret of mine: that even I don’t always follow my own advice and struggle with creating parts of my brand—I haven’t gone back to the drawing board to add a tagline to my business. Like I said at the top of the episode, it’s not critical to getting your brand off the ground. I was suddenly a full time entrepreneur, so I felt like I just had to get going on the things that bring in business. And then I never circled back because even I sometimes suffer from the pressure of putting together a brand and it feels harder when it’s my own. So, if you’re like me and you’re not sure where to start with a tagline, download my free tagline worksheet to help you get started. And, though I may be in over my head promising this, follow me on Instagram @authenticbranding to see me go through the creation process of my own tagline. Not gonna lie, it may take a while to get that series posted because I’m working from home in a couple of quick hours a day with three kids running around screaming because, Covid. 

Download the worksheet at: getauthenticbranding.com/resources and of course, if you enjoyed today’s episode, please rate, review and subscribe to Startup Marketing to help other business owners like you find this podcast. 

Until next time!