Your tagline summarizes everything about your business or brand, by telling your audience why you best meet their needs.
Your tagline doesn’t have to be verbose, explanatory, or even direct. Indirect taglines can be powerful—like the classic “Just Do It,” which essentially says “Our products will motivate you.” However, direct taglines are exactly what some businesses need. The most important thing is your message.
So, what’s the best approach?
If you write your tagline first and plan to grow the rest of your messaging out of it, then your tagline might not align with your final messaging. Imagine a tree leaning over to the right, making you wish you could slide the trunk under it to balance it out.
If you start by creating your main message in long form, ask yourself: What message appeals to my audience?
Spend a little time really getting inside your audience’s head, talking with your clients and confirming what they want to hear about. This will serve you well in many respects, if you haven’t done it lately. Also consider analytics for popular search terms, your market experience, research on your competitors, and other factors.
Once you have your message in long form, shape it into an outline and one consistent story. You might even find that some of your tagline is hidden there, among your most compelling message text.
When you’ve established your message and story in a kind of creative brief, here are some tips for distilling it into a tagline:
1. Set your scope
A small business in a local market might need something clear and simple—especially if the business name doesn’t indicate what it does. For instance, if “The Harris Company” makes custom widgets for local distribution, they might get the best response out of “Exquisite Widgets for Portland.” It’s straightforward, and it targets the audience who will differentiate them from those big national widget makers. A national brand in a competitive market might need something more clever.
2. Generate options
Have your creative team generate a draft of options. Let your draft of options sit at least a day, then refine them. When you have your third draft, you have the first draft that’s worth showing to a broader audience, to gather feedback. You should have between 5 and 10 options in this draft.
3. Get outside feedback
Contact some sample clients—people who are as close to your customer’s mindset as possible—and run your draft of ideas past them. Resist the temptation to explain any reasoning behind ideas. You won’t be there to explain it to other customers. Just let people read and respond.
4. Don’t be afraid to start over
If your sample clients are lukewarm about all of your options, don’t be afraid to start over. Be careful to listen to exactly what they say in their responses—what concepts or aspects they liked, and what they didn’t.
5. Chase the threads
Once you have some options that are on the right track, create variations that build on their most popular traits. If people like the option that mentions “flexibility,” then consider what’s attractive about that—can you use a more powerful word, or tie it more directly to a core concept? Or, did they like “flexibility” because of the alliteration when it followed the word “fast?”
6. Live with them
Once you have a final round narrowed down to two or three options, spend some quality time with them yourself. Imagine your typical client discussions, considering the themes you usually hit upon. Are those themes consistent with these taglines? Hold each tagline up against your competitors, or ask your sample clients to do so. Which one rises to the top and sticks in your head?
It’s important to involve a small team of proven writers at the beginning—a meeting room filled with opinions is a recipe for compromise casserole. Ultimately, make sure there’s one decision-maker, and make sure the decision-maker picks the one that really nails it for him or her.
Because customers won’t choose a compromise.