Why do some taglines fail?

Interesting positioning…

Interesting positioning…

The tagline has been a cornerstone of advertising for decades. A well-crafted line accompanies its brand to the end, like Sancho Panza and Don Quixote. They’re the proverbial package deal.

In essence, a tagline is a memorable phrase that sums up the tone or position of a brand or product. The great taglines say and mean something. And they’re gut-wrenching to come up with.

That’s why, I think, so many are just plain weak. Even terrible. Taglines are really tough to do and a lot of work—imagine taking an entire company’s brand, essence, offerings and feel and boiling them down to a catchy line people will remember. Too often, taglines fall victim to committees with no vision and too many agendas—and the lackluster results fade from memory as soon as they’re written.

Weak taglines are trendy, vague or awkward. Some use puns (considered the lowest form of humor), or they’re a mutated byproduct of current business jargon. Best case, they’re meaningless. Worst case… they actually damage your brand.

Some harsh examples?* (Apologies to everyone here, and in some cases, these lines are old and not used anymore.) Excellence through total quality for Ames Rubber. We’re Exxon for, you guessed it, Exxon. And The strength to be there, from of all places, AIG.

Now, let’s contrast that with some really good, if not great, taglines*(Again, some current, some not.)

Save money, live better from Walmart. Good to the last drop from Maxwell House. American by birth, rebel by choice from Harley Davidson. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight for FedEx. And of course, M&Ms’ Melts in your mouth, not in your hand (more on them in a minute).

Chances are, you know or remembered all of those. Those brands, and their sidekick taglines, have claimed a few neurons in your brain. And that translates to all kinds of good for a brand—including awareness, recognition, loyalty and sales.

When M&Ms were first introduced in 1941, Mars made it a point to sell the yummy button candies to our American troops in the throes of WWII. The candies were not only comforting but also held up well in the many environments our soldiers fought in… at sea, in balmy European climates, and in bases around the world. The young GIs grew attached to the candies, and when they returned home and started having families, they continued to buy and enjoy them.

It was M&Ms’ candied shell versatility that inspired the Ted Bates agency in 1954 to create the candy’s famous tagline, written by the now legendary copywriter, Rosser Reeves (also the inspiration for the Donald Draper character in Mad Men). M&Ms have since gone on to become the best-selling candy in the world.

It’s amazing what a well-crafted tagline can do.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

*All brand names and taglines mentioned here are registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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