Today, I want to talk to you about taglines and highways. It’s an unusual mix, but bear with me.
A tagline can be a valuable tool in marketing. When used properly, it can neatly sum up the value of your product or service with a phrase or idea that is memorable for your audience.
As a copywriter, a marketer and as a consumer, the trouble I find with many taglines is that they’re just not very effective at doing the job they’re supposed to do. They describe rather than sell. They talk about features rather than communicate in benefits. They try to say too much, or they state the obvious rather than zeroing-in on a core problem that the market has. They try too hard to be clever rather than be purposeful.
An ineffective tagline is a waste of your money and your audience’s time. And that takes me to my point about highways.
A few weeks ago, I was travelling on business and I opted to take a toll highway to get home. Like many privately owned enterprises, they took great pains to remind everyone of their tagline. So every few minutes I’d pass yet another road sign reading: “Fast. Safe. Reliable.” They had invested a lot of time and money to remind me of three obvious things that I counted on” with just about any road that I drive on, including the ones that aren’t toll roads!
Keep it simple
Remember one of thinkit creative’s top rules about writing that sells: people are busy. There’s no sense in having a wordy tagline, or one where you tell people something they already know, and that doesn’t communicate a unique benefit or value.
Here’s one of my favourite examples of doing tagline copy properly: when Apple launched the very first iPod back in 2001, their tagline didn’t talk about how the device worked or how revolutionary the design was. Instead the copy read “1,000 songs in your pocket.” So simple and yet so very focused on selling through benefits.
No matter who you are, most people aren’t going to give you the time you want to explain your product or idea, let alone why they should buy it. Taglines work best when they are memorable. That’s their key purpose. Taglines aren’t the place where you explain things. It’s where you connect your product or service to a larger idea.
It’s not just about words
Don’t create a tagline just for the sake of having one. Taglines aren’t about tacking words up there beside your company logo. Taglines are about ideas. And ideas aren’t always conventional. So be willing to take chances. And stay focused on solving a key problem that your customer is facing.
Be persuasive without being salesy
No one likes to be pitched to in an overt way. In fact, there’s a growing body of research out there to suggest that poorly crafted copy can backfire when consumers sense they are in the presence of shameless sloganeering. As with all things in marketing, exercise good taste and common sense.
Sometimes you have to look harder
When it comes to copywriting, the fewer the words, the tougher the task. So where do you go looking for great taglines, elegantly crafted, that stick? Investing in professional copywriting and copyediting services can help you solve this common marketing problem. But even before you do that, it pays to dig deeper and look at who you are and what you do from your audience’s perspective.
What problem do they have that you help solve? In the case of that toll highway, a much better solution to their own business problem was found on a single sign near the end of the road, in typeface so small that a driver could barely read it. It doesn’t appear on any of the firm’s marketing collateral as far as I can tell. But its message is infinitely more effective, more memorable and more benefit-driven than all the other signage combined.
That sign simply asked the following question:
“How much time did you save taking this highway today?”