The 8 Characteristics of a Perfect Tagline: Picking the Right Motto or Slogan for Your Small Business

The first time you ever hear of a business, what do you remember about that business? The name, their logo, and the feeling we developed about the company during our interaction, right? Well, that feeling, whether positive or negative, comes from a combination of that business’s messaging and the way they present it. One of the most important parts of that presentation and a company’s message is their tagline.

A tagline, also known as a motto or slogan, is a short message that explains something about the business or its target market in an attractive way to that target market. For example, Nike’s iconic “Just Do It,” doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the business, but it explains a characteristic of their target market–go-getters; people who are willing to take action. From “Just Do It” to “The Few. The Proud. The Marines,” taglines stay with us and help build a positive image of a brand. This doesn’t happen by accident.

Creating a Perfect Tagline with Michael Luchies

Over the last decade, I’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs create taglines for their startups and small businesses. While working on a new course where I help entrepreneurs create taglines instead of needing to hire someone like me, I developed a list of 8 characteristics that are part of nearly every great tagline. So before finalizing your new tagline, or maybe while you consider if your tagline is good enough to represent your brand, review these 8 characteristics of a great company tagline or motto:

  • Alignment with the Brand

One of the simplest and most important characteristics of a great tagline is that it aligns with the brand it’s associated with. Your brand isn’t just the name of a business, a logo, or a building; it’s a cohesive collection of everything your company does and represents to the world. Your tagline is a piece of that, and it has to fit in with everything else your brand stands for.

If your brand is about fun and not taking yourself too seriously, you should consider having a funny or lighthearted tagline. If your brand represents female empowerment, the tagline should include that sentiment as well. Your tagline represents your brand, make sure it’s representing it properly.

  • Short

A good tagline should get across the best possible message to your audience in the least number of words possible. Ideally, a great tagline is 2-4 words, and absolutely no longer than 7-8 words. Remember, this is not a mission statement where you need to explain your grand vision and how you will accomplish it–it’s a short phrase that should attract and stick with potential customers.

“Just Do It”

“Think Different”

“America Runs on Dunkin”

“I’m Lovin’ It”

Very few strong taglines are long, but those that are very rarely exceed seven words. Here are a few of my favorite longer taglines:

“Don’t let planning travel drive you nuts”

“We’ll leave the light on for you”

“You’re in good hands with Allstate”

If your tagline meets all of the other characteristics on this list, having a long tagline won’t hurt your brand, but it still needs to be memorable and easy to understand. And achieving that usually requires having a brief slogan, not a novel for a tagline.

  • Encourages a Positive Reaction from Target Market

In content marketing, an effective call to action can make all the difference. A call to action is telling your audience what to do next. A good call to action gets them to take that next step, and your tagline can serve as a soft call to action.

For example, “Just Do It” encourages Nike’s audience to get active athletically instead of just thinking about getting back in shape or wishing to run a marathon in the future. Apple’s “Think Different” challenges what we’ve always done in the past and to make different decisions (like forget about PCs and start using Macs). These both encourage a positive reaction from their target market, and your tagline should as well if possible.

  • Easy to Understand

Every tagline should be easy to understand. One major mistake made by brands is trying to get too clever with their taglines and including industry-specific terms or acronyms that the average person, and a section of their target market, won’t understand. Stay away from complicated or industry-specific terms. An eight-year-old should be able understand your tagline.

  • Flows with the Name of the Business

A tagline is rarely presented without a company’s name or their logo. When we see the logo or business name followed by the tagline, our brain puts them together in a sentence. Your tagline needs to flow smoothly when said alongside your business name.

The exception here is when your tagline includes your business name, like in “You’re in good hands with Allstate,” and “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” If your business name and tagline don’t flow together, consider making a change, and also look at whether or not your business name still fits your brand.

  • Showcases a Key Benefit

One of the more nuanced characteristics of powerful taglines is showcasing a key benefit that the brand offers. This can also be used to differentiate the brand from competitors (as explained below). For Wal-Mart it’s low prices, for Motel 6, it’s that they’re always open and available (We’ll leave the light on for you). Even Hipmunk’s “Don’t let planning travel drive you nuts” presents the idea that if you plan travel through Hipmunk, it will be easy and stress-free, which is a key benefit of their services. Find a way to showcase at least one benefit you provide to your customers in your tagline.

  • Differentiates the Brand from Competitors

Amazing taglines have the ability to differentiate the company they represent from competitors. This is one of the most difficult characteristics to meet, but if you can pull it off, your tagline can become a powerful marketing tool. Here are a few examples:

“The best a man can get.” — Gillette

“Nothing runs like a Deere.” — John Deere

“There is no substitute.” — Porsche

“The king of beers.” — Budweiser

“When you care enough to send the very best.” — Hallmark

Each of the above taglines position their brands as the very best and highest quality in their category. As you can see, one thing they all have in common is that they position their product as the best quality, which is just one of the many ways you can differentiate your product or service from competitors. If your brand’s competitive advantage is cost or convenience, and not quality, you can still differentiate your brand with a tagline, it just needs to speak to that advantage. For example, while it’s a little too long for my liking, Federal Express’s “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” speaks to their speed. If you wanted to promote the cost effectiveness of your brand, you could choose something along the lines of “Because your money should stay yours,” or come up with a variation of Wal-Mart’s old slogan “Always Low Prices.”

  • Memorable

Ever walk into a room and completely forget what you were going to do? Whatever it was that you were going to do, it wasn’t memorable or exciting enough to keep your attention. Taglines that aren’t memorable aren’t effective.

So how do you make a tagline memorable? It’s done by making a connection with your target market and having the other characteristics on this list (short, easy to understand, etc.).

If you can work at least six of these eight characteristics into your tagline, it’s very likely that you have stumbled on a perfect tagline for your brand. If you would like any help, please feel free to contact me at Michael@TrepRep.com or take my course to work on developing your perfect tagline on Skillshare here: How To Create The Perfect Tagline For Your Small Business

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