In our last Branding 101 post, we discussed the first major step to building your brand, the brand name. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the next step, the tagline. Sometimes interchangeably referred to as a slogan, your company’s tagline allows you to say a little more about your brand than it can by itself.
Part 3 – Brand Tagline
A tagline is a short phrase or statement that is tied to and associated with a company’s brand name and/or one of its products.
The primary purpose of a tagline is to capture the essence of a brand and to add depth to its identity, whether at a corporate or campaign level. There are four primary parts of a tagline, bucketed into two primary categories. In addition to a tagline being associated to a company or product, the nature of the tagline can either be functional or emotional.
Company Associated – Nearly every company in today’s business environment uses a tagline, regardless of what products it might sell under different brand names. For example, General Electric (GE) is a multinational conglomerate with a countless number of products under its umbrella. At a corporate level, its tagline is “Imagination at work” replacing the long running “We bring good things to life.” This tagline speaks to the brand as a corporation, and can be assumed that the phrase is appropriate for all of its products in any given sector.
Product Associated – For companies who offer a host of products or services, they may very well have taglines associated with brands at the product level, and not at the corporate level. Kix Cereal is owned by General Mills, but as a product, it has its own tagline of “Kid tested. Mother approved” that is not associated with the parent brand.
Functional – Once a product has been directly associated with either a company or product, it can then speak further to the overall brand’s integrity. Within this category, a tagline can be functional or emotional. When we say “functional”, we mean it nearly and literally speaks about the brand’s function. A good example of this is Miller Lite’s old tagline, “Taste great. Less filling.” Pretty functional right there. If you’re looking for a beer that has a really good taste and won’t fill you up, look no further.
Emotional – Last of the four primary pieces that comprise a tagline is the emotional play. If a tagline can speak to the brand’s function, it can also jointly or alternately speak to your emotions, allowing the idea of the brand to germinate and grow within your own consciousness. Nike’s famous tagline, “Just do it” does not really reference any of its products specifically or even tip its hat as to what the company sells. Rather, it makes a broad, generic statement, leaving the tagline’s meaning to your own interpretation. The likely result may be you lacing up your new pair of high tops before hitting the court and energizing yourself by playing Nike’s tagline in your head.
There are no rules when developing a tagline, but ideally, you want to develop a tagline that can work on each plane of the above chart. Some taglines can even blur the lines between company/product and functional/emotional.
Looking at past taglines from Coca-Cola, which are taglines really more for the product, but since the flagship brand is also the same as the company name, the taglines truly speak to both the company association as well as the product association.
Coca-Cola Taglines & Their Chart Score:
Delicious and refreshing (1904) – Speaks to product’s function – 2 A
Coca-Cola goes along (1939) – Speaks to being a “friend” in your life – 1/2 B
Have a Coke and a smile (1979) – The product give you an emotion – 2 A/B
Always Coca-Cola (1993) – The product and brand are “always” the answer – 1/2 A/B
Open Happiness. (2009) – The product lends to an emotion – 2 B
In closing our discussion on taglines, developing your tagline is just as important as what your brand name is and how it all gets wrapped together visually in a logo, which is the next article in our Branding 101 series. Understand that a brand’s identity eventually grows and blossoms over the course of time, and a heavy advertising campaign never hurts to speed up this process. For a start-up business looking to develop a tagline for its initial launch, the leadership team needs to consider how heavy or light the marketing launch will be. The reason we say this is that if you choose a tagline that is emotional as opposed to functional at launch, your target audience will not be familiar with who you are just yet and limiting the tagline’s functionality may also limit the ability for your customer’s to quickly and immediately understand who you are and what you’re about.