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The Biggest Tagline Mistake, And How To Avoid Making It

Kristen Michaelis

Visitors: 191

Taglines work. I remember several great ones from marketing generations past. I bet you do, too. Decades later, you can probably still name the brands these taglines represented:

  • Where's the beef?
  • Let your fingers do the walkin’.
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • Don't leave home without it.
  • We try harder.

How did you do? Chances are, if you're at least thirty years old, you knew them all. Why? What makes these taglines great?

Well, for one thing, they're succinct. No long-winded proverbs or mission statements here. The average number of words in the taglines above is five. Five words! According to most marketing surveys, you definitely want a tagline to be less than ten words long, with five to seven words being ideal.

So, what else set these taglines apart?

Of the five listed above, at least three directly reflect how the company positioned itself against its competition. A good tagline communicates to the world the value of your brand. It lets everyone know why your company is unique.

Now, lets take a look at a few embarrassing ones from my personal Tagline Hall of Shame.

  • An auto manufacturer once ran with “We put people in front of cars. "
  • Playtex tampons tried out “Is that a Playtex under there?"
  • And Jimmy Dean sausages used “Eat Jimmy Dean" for a while.

These taglines seem obviously bad. How did the taglines make it out of the marketing departments of these companies and into the world marketplace?

They succumbed to the biggest tagline mistake you can make: they forced it. In my years as a marketer and copywriter, I've given this a lot of thought. The biggest temptation a new company or a company seeking to re-brand itself makes is to rush. Companies feel they must have a tagline before launching their new radio or magazine ad.

May I please set the record straight?

It's okay to wait for a good tagline to happen. And, yes, they do happen. Good taglines have a life of their own, and they seem to know when they'll be created. The greatest taglines happen by accident and not in a “tagline brainstorming session. "

You know it's true. So, relax. Instead of hitting the PANIC button and forcing the birth of a bad tagline, take a deep breath and run that ad. Perhaps hearing some of the responses to your ad can get the creative juices flowing.

A freelance copywriter and editor, Kristen Michaelis publishes the popular monthly e-zine The Wonderworking Minute . Each edition of The Wonderworking Minute contains valuable hints and tips for helping you become a better marketer, communicator, and person. Sign up today for your free subscription to the e-zine and receive a FREE copy of her report “How To Gain And Keep Clients Through Strategic Partnering. ” She and her husband Steve have partnered to create Wonderworking Words , a freelance copywriting services company. For more articles and tips like this one, check out The Wonderworking Words Blog .


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