Why do some brands stick in consumer’s minds while others just float by unnoticed? One possible answer: tag lines. A gripping tag, one that tugs at your heartstrings, can either turn you off of a product or retain you as a lifelong customer.
“People don’t make decisions based on logical reasons,” said Jaci Russo, senior partner and brand strategist with Lafayette, La.-based The Russo Group. “We, as consumers, don’t always choose something because it is the cheapest or closest. We buy the thing that tells our heart that it will satisfy some need in us. That is where branding comes in.”
Here are a few iconic tags:
Just Do It
“It is a call to action,” said Jeff Lapatine, group director of naming at New York-based Seigel + Gale, of Nike’s iconic tag line. “It is telling people to be athletic in a creative way. It doesn’t just tell you what the company does. Instead, it reminds you that you want to buy a pair of sneakers because you can do it.”
What can Brown do for You?
“This is so simple, but it really works,” said Russo, of the UPS tag. “Brown is UPS’ iconic color and the phrase isn’t about the company, it is about the consumer. Instead of saying they have good customer service, they took what makes them different and what they can do for you.”
Membership has its Privileges
“People want to be members of something,” said Michael Russo, creative director of The Russo Group. “American Express’ former tag line was great. It played into the thought that when you have membership, you feel that you have arrived; that you are part of a club.”
Lapatine also sees merit in AmEx’s former slogan.
“It is an intriguing expression of what the company stands for,” he said. “It shows value beyond the actual product. It tells you that you’re a member, not just a customer. There is a sense of belonging that comes along with that.”
Think Outside the Bun
“Here, Taco Bell is positioning themselves against other fast food chains,” Lapatine said. “They are telling consumers that there are unexpected combinations of fast food that are available. They want to remind people that when they are driving down the fast food strip, they can find the food they want.”
“When this campaign got going, consumers on a whole didn’t like milk,” said Jaci Russo. “But then, market research revealed that, when eating warm chocolate chip cookies or cereal, there is no other beverage that would cut it. The campaign came from a new connection with milk.”
How can a small business create a memorable tag line?
Here are eight ways:
1. Start with a statement
“Begin with a statement of intent,” Lapatine said. “Someone in the organization needs to be the point person for this endeavor. They should create a clear document detailing what the company is about, their competitive base and how they are going to use a tag line.”
2. Know your audience
“Knowing your audience is really important,” said Jaci Russo. “For example, I understand that when Miller Light was looking for a new tag lie, they spoke with their consumers and found out many of them were heavy drinkers, so they positioned their new tag line, ‘Great Taste, Less Filling,’ for their consumer.”
3. Make it quick
“It has to be short,” said Jaci Russo. “It has to be a simple idea that talks about the benefit of the company itself; widdle it down to the simplest factor of your brand.”
4. Note trademarks
“Make sure to look at trademark availability; that can be the 900-pound gorilla in the room,” Lapatine advised. “It is really important to get trademark attorneys involved.”
5. Be honest
“Your tag line has to have truth to it,” Jaci Russo said. “It has to be believable and authentic.”
6. Be memorable
“A tag line has to have buy in for consumers to make a longtime investment in it,” Jaci Russo said. “Over time, it has to become synonymous with the company’s identity.”
7. Talk to top dogs
“Get the decision makers and stakeholders in the process early,” Lapatine said. “Whoever is going to be the individual that says yes or no should be interviewed for their input.”
8. Make it emotional
“Some of the common fallacies of tag lines are that they only focus on features,” Jaci Russo said. “They focus on a specific service or product rather than making it about the benefit to the consumer. Remember that branding is an emotional connection between the consumer and the product.”
Time for a brand makeover? Learn more about how your brand can represent – and shape – your business in the Project RE:Brand webisode series by American Express OPEN. Project RE:Brand follows five small businesses as five creative agencies help them re-envision their brands.
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.