Is a Tagline or Slogan Brand Critical?

First, let’s understand the difference between a slogan and a tagline. A slogan is used in advertising to help solidify the brand value proposition. A tagline is the words following the brand name or logo. Taglines have also been referred to as the brand anthem, motto, mini mission statement, or the brand rally cry. The tagline can be the audible representation of the brand.


What makes a great brand tagline?

Like a great ad, a brand tagline must be memorable and unique, provide a relevant benefit that resonates or inspires, and create a positive feeling toward the brand.

Can you match these taglines with the correct brand?

brand tag

Did you complete the test? It was easy to complete the top four brands because these taglines are firmly planted into our brains. The last four brands were likely more challenging to match to the tagline, if not impossible. How many ways can you say “quality” without boring your customer? There are hundreds of brands that have taglines like these.

The worst situation has a brand tagline that hurts the brand. I think Carl’s Jr. “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face” was one of those sad experiments.


According to a study published in the Journal of Business Research, three factors determine whether people like a given tagline. They are clarity of message, creativity, and familiarity with the brand. So it does not hurt to throw billions of advertising behind a brand tagline to help people like it.

The researchers also published a list of the ten most-liked slogans and the ten most-remembered slogans. Four slogans appeared on both lists: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (M&M’s), “Eat fresh” (Subway), “Got milk?” (California Milk Processor Board), and “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell).


Does tagline length matter?

Some marketing experts argue that long taglines are more successful than short ones. Al Ries, the guru of branding, says that most of the taglines people remember are relatively long because it takes more words to create a sufficient meaning for people to remember. He says the marketing industry is fixated on the idea that taglines, the shorter, the better. “In my opinion, [short taglines] are not very effective …not because they’re short; it’s because they’re not very memorable,” says Ries. Some long taglines that have withstood the test of time are: Las Vegas – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”; Geico – “15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.”; and Secret deodorant – “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.”

In an empirical study (2014) done by Anibal Vieira, he found that shorter taglines have higher spontaneous recall rates. But more important than the size of the tagline is the duration it has been used. The report states, “long-term perspective is a crucial element to achieve a more easily and effective recalled slogan.”

Short or long, the tagline must hit the brand essence on the head and be meaningful to the customer. I also believe the shorter taglines have a greater success rate beyond the audio message channels (TV, radio, video), especially in the visual channels (print, digital, out-of-home), which are easier to consume.


Does a brand need a tagline?

That’s the 50 million dollar question. There are a lot of advertising and design studios that think you should. It also keeps them in business. Plenty of websites and blogs will tell you how if you are too cheap to buy a tagline. I am not sure an online “how to” will get your “Just do it” tagline.

In Vieira’s study, he concluded that slogans might play an essential role in brand positioning. But many successful brands have stayed clear of any slogans or taglines, such as Starbucks, Lululemon, and Nordstrom. Denise Lee Yohn, brand-building expert and author of What Great Brands Do, says that taglines are a legacy of the past and aren’t as relevant today. If you follow the Nike brand, they focus more on the swoosh symbol than the tagline “Just do it.” He argues that “most brands today are distinguished less by the products and features and more by values and personalities. These differentiators can be difficult to convey succinctly.” Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see mega digital brands such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Uber live without taglines.

However, the tagline isn’t dead. They still serve an essential purpose in defining a brand and its customer relationship. Yohn says it’s fair to assume that since the cultural power shift from brands to consumers, the declarative taglines such as American Express’s “Don’t leave home without it” and Nike’s “Just do it” might be a thing of the past. Maybe that is why Nike is backing away from “Just do it.”


Final tagline

An inspiring tagline is the single-most powerful summation that a brand has to express the brand essence in a few words. You will have a winner if you can create an emotional connection to the brand’s values. It’s no different than a great leader who has been idolized and emotionally connected to us with simple, powerful words like “I have a dream.”

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