As if finding a unique company name weren’t challenging enough… guess what. You need a great tagline, too.
Since I spend a lot of time talking about company names, today, I want to give company taglines their due. While your unique company name may begin to tell the story of your brand, your tagline can further build on the intrigue. If the human tendency is to think literal for naming, that tendency becomes even more pronounced when you are trying to sell a client on a great brand-building company tagline. When clients are thinking function, function, function, I gently try to remind them of context. Since your three primary brand identity elements of name, tag, logo are more about “setting the stage” for the sale than actually making it, a tagline limited only to the “what” of what we do can be a giant missed opportunity. A missed opportunity for what, ask my two readers. A missed opportunity to stand for something larger than yourself and your own commercial gain. This is why, in brand discovery, we get into bigger picture issues of vision and values. Because if we can identify a point of target intersect, a place where the company’s beliefs overlap with customer vision and values, that’s a solid brand position. If we can capture the essence of that in a simple tagline, all the better.
Company name first, company tagline second
I know a lot of company naming agencies present name options with taglines. Over the years, I’ve really come to dislike this practice. To each his/her own, I suppose, but I think it’s a short-cutting of something ripe with possibility. The advantages of having a final name selection in place (including legal clearance) prior to developing taglines are:
- We now have the benefit of all the conversation held around the name options; odds are there were many strong contenders and the client had a lot to say about each and every one. Can any of the juice around those other names become inspiration for the tagline?
- The name is strong in many ways, but not all. Can we use the tagline to round your story out?
- Generating multiple taglines for multiple name options is exhausting. I think it’s akin to “using creative as a search for strategy” — something I’ve long since retired. It’s bad business, inefficient both for clients and for myself, and demoralizing for the creative talent involved.
By way of example, I want to salute two great taglines
Instead of talking about my own work like an egomaniacal, coked-up chef (wouldn’t it be more fun just to call — wouldn’t it make for a better story?), I just want to use two great taglines to illustrate at least some of what I like and why.
Dow Scrubbing Bubbles – ya know, the bath stuff? No, that’s not the tagline. It’s (as if I need to tell you):
We work hard so you don’t have to.
First, it’s conversational over wordplay (sometimes okay) and punniness (careful, kid!) Second, they tie the us-side into a direct human benefit. Most companies get lost (and lose all of their marketing muscle) in a world of me-centrism. Third, the previously mentioned benefit… it’s enormous! Less work? Are you freaking kidding me? I’m writing taglines here! Who’s got time to scrub, and that’s assuming I even know how to scrub. Come to think of it, maybe I should spray some on the laptop right now. Maybe those little dudes can help with this blog post? Fourth, the common sense inherent in the line is almost Franklinian; with a practical magic like that at work, I can think of this as a very practical purchase… and not the indulgence it probably is. (For what it’s worth, I do use this stuff on everything. With bubbles on my side, I can!)
USAA – the insurance company for veterans and their families:
We know what it means to serve.
Okay, so here there is some wordplay, but look at how good it is! It’s not clunky; you can read it as a simple statement without feeling goofy. What other brilliant thing did they do here? They tied their how promise – a qualitative distinction around the typically-to-be-avoided-at-all-costs abstraction of “service” – into their why! While I don’t know for sure it’s authentic, it certainly feels true for them. Relevant and resonant? I’d say their targets would appreciate the sentiment. Differentiating? Well, for their primary audience, I think they captured the difference already in the brand… and knocked it out of the park. Somebody’s getting a fan letter…