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Home » Branding, Marketing

The #1 Tagline Mistake To Avoid When Branding A Business

Tag lines can make or break a company. Nike’s “Just Do It” is arguably as famous as the company itself. For years, Coca Cola ads extolled “Coke Is It” and later “Coke Adds Life.” 

I can still recall (okay… I’m not that old, I just have a really good memory…) that “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should” and that “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.” Numerous spins off have resulted from the “Got Milk?” campaign to the point where it has become part of pop culture. Apple implores the world to “Think Different,” Avis promises to “Try Harder,” and M&Ms will always “Melt in your mouth, not in your hands.”

An effective tag line is much more than a catchy slogan — it serves the added role of defining the company’s positioning statement. It highlights why the company is different, faster, less expensive or better than all the rest. If you want something that “Tastes great,” and is also “less filling,” then you know to reach for a Miller Lite. The old Timex ads convinced us that their watch “Takes a licking, and keeps on ticking.” In this case the positioning revolved around reliability and durability.

So why then, (and here’s where I give out my #1 tagline pet peeve) do we still have taglines that apologize for a company’s main product or service? I sometimes call them non-statement statements, and here are just a few past and present examples…

“We’re more than great coats” Burlington Coat Factory

“We more than just staffing” Advanced Staffing

“We’re more than a bus company” Pacific Western

“We’re more than just computer sales” Discount Computer Sales

“More than a bank” Arkansas Valley State Bank

You probably get the general idea. This type of tag line double speak is usually indicative of a deeper problem, the company brand name itself. In the case of Burlington Coat Factory, they had grown to a point in the late 90’s where coat sales only accounted for 20% of their total revenue. Rather than rebrand, they launched a $48 million advertising campaign with the tag line “We’re more than great coats.” There are a few problems with this type of strategy…

1. It takes an apologetic stance for the company’s main product line.

What’s wrong with being a bus company, or a bank, or a staffing company? And if there is something inherently wrong, then perhaps it’s time to re-examine the company name. If the name is too confining, too narrow, why spend $48 million to try to overcome a self made obstacle? It’s often less expensive and more effective to rebrand than to carpet bomb the media in an attempt to overwrite the literal meaning of a company name.

2. It doesn’t explain who you are, what you are or what you do.

As if apologizing for the company’s core product wasn’t bad enough, these type of ambivalent mottos leave the potential customer even less informed. If you’re “More than a bus company,” than what exactly are you? A truck company? An airline? A travel agency? Who knows!

These “More than” tag lines probably began with the intention of creating curiosity in the minds of consumers, as if they would immediately demand “Then tell me more! Tell me what you really do!” But in the busy reality of daily life, few will bother to inquire further. It just takes too much effort. And if the company can’t succinctly convey what they do, why should the consumer have to figure it out?

If you want to differentiate your company and it’s products, then create taglines that are informative and compelling – ones that will further position you in the eyes of your potential customer. If you want the company slogan to be truly great, it needs to be “more than a tag line.” 

Phillip Davis

Meet the Author Phillip Davis

Phillip Davis has written 65 Articles on Small Business Delivered.

Phillip Davis is a twenty year marketing veteran, having run a full service advertising agency in the Tampa Bay, Florida area for nearly 17 years, before opening his full time naming firm. In the past five years, Phil has personally named over 150 regional, national and international companies

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