Learn what a tagline is and what qualities make one memorable.

Taglines are the bread-and-butter work of advertising agencies. That doesn’t mean that they are easy to write or to get right. If you’re working with an advertising agency or on your own to create a tagline, it helps to know what qualities it should have to be effective and memorable. It also helps to know what a tagline is to make sure you’re working toward the correct goal.

A tagline is those three, four or five words that often appear with an organization’s logo. Organizations use their taglines on all sorts of things – packaging, print and video ads, billboards and more.

This means that taglines are different than headlines, which can and do change over time as ad campaigns come and go.

Taglines, at least well-written ones, are used by organizations for years, even decades. Like a logo, they are part of an organization’s branding and should communicate a “unique selling proposition.” In other words, what makes its products and services different from the competition.

That’s a big job for a handful of words. And it explains why it can be so hard to come up with a tagline that is effective, memorable and enduring.

Here are the things you need to check to make sure your tagline stands out in a crowd.

How well does it differentiate your offering? Too many organizations have taglines that communicate everything they do or are targeted at every possible customer. And as a result, such taglines aren’t memorable. (I’m not going to use examples here; there’s no point in shaming anyone.)

A good tagline is focused on what differentiates an organization from others in its field or community. Don’t be afraid to take a stand with your tagline by narrowing your focus.

Is it clear? This is a fairly simple test. Run your tagline by a relative or a child. Can they explain what your organization does after hearing your tagline? If they get lost in jargon or vagueness, your tagline isn’t clearly communicating ANY message. Here’s another test: Type your tagline into a search field. How many organizations are using something similar? If there’s more than one, your tagline is probably not focused on your organization’s uniqueness.

Is it short? Long taglines are often the result of decisions made by committees or marketing teams that kept tacking on words to the end of what was once a good idea. While there are examples of longer taglines that work (Melts in your mouth, not in your hands), the reason why they work is that they support that all-important differentiating factor. They show what problem a company solves, its main value or its guiding principle.

Is it focused? A tagline isn’t a mission statement or a vision statement. It isn’t a corporate manifesto. Ideally, it succinctly summarizes elements of each of those bigger groups of sentences in as few words as possible.

So if you haven’t figured it out already, tagline writing can be hard work. Sometimes inspiration strikes and a great tagline will come to you out of the blue. But more often, an initial idea that you thought would work great fails one (or more) of these tests. So you must revise, refine and revisit tagline ideas until you arrive at one that passes them all. It’s hard work, but it’s also exciting and rewarding to come up with a tagline that stands the test of time.

Whether you’re a new or established business, you need a strong tagline. Contact Vela for strategic thinking, complete marketing and social media solutions, and – yes! – great taglines.