By Steve Rivkin and Sandra Bauman
A good tagline often ‘takes point’ as one of the first lines of communication with consumers. And, rarely, brands achieve tagline nirvana with slogans that are so successful that their connection endures even though they’re no longer actively used:
“Melts in your mouth. Not in your hands.” – M&Ms
“Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin.'” – Timex
“Is it live or is it Memorex?” – Memorex
A good tagline should:
- Have something to say
- Set the brand apart
- Use language that is interesting, worthy of repetition, and likely to be remembered
- Resonate with multiple audiences
- Stand up over time
Brands that don’t perform this litmus test end up with just another unremarkable tagline.
Consider St. John Health System, for example, whose tagline is “A Passion for Healing.”* While it meets the first criterion above, it certainly falls short for 2 and 3. Especially when you consider the taglines for Lehigh Valley Hospital: “A Passion for Better Medicine;” or for West Georgia Health System: “A Passion for Putting Patients First.”
If it’s not interesting and doesn’t resonate, it’s not likely to last.
Advertising Age, the venerable 83-year-old journal of all things marketing, should know this better than most. Ad Age recently unveiled its new “cover-worthy” tagline, trumpeting it as “a promise to readers, clearly stated,” in the words of editor-in-chief Rance Crain.
Ad Age’s wizardly words? “What’s news to what’s next.” Sorry, Rance, but that’s a pile of palaver.
David Ogilvy would be cringing. “What’s news to what’s next” is “self-delving and flatulent,” as Ogilvy famously said. Where’s the differentiation, the uniqueness, the memorability? There is none.
Any decent business magazine, in any field, could run the same tagline. One example at random: 20/20, the optical industry’s leading publication … What’s news to what’s next.
Not only that, but Ad Age ripped off someone else’s registered service mark! The New York Design Center owns the mark “What’s New/What’s Next” for an event at which new products are introduced.
Surprise, surprise, we believe that the most effective taglines are research-driven and insight-based. Is yours?
*Since our original post on this topic, the St. John Health System has revised its brand to “Believe in Better,” a tagline that far exceeds its predecessor.