What makes for a memorable tagline?

The best taglines stay in your head. They’re unforgettable. They stick and refuse to budge like branded on barnacles. Not only that, but with just a few words, they generate a recognisable brand image inside your head. But how? What is the magic recipe for a memorable tagline?

At first, it seems like the right phrase will be obvious for your brand, but with such a small selection of words to choose from and over a million words in the English language, finding the perfect combination may prove to be a job for the professionals. 

First of all, if you’re starting out, there’s no need to compare yourself to international corporations. Some of the most recalled taglines have a lot of time on their side and this isn’t something you can readily compete with. Many of them however share some common traits that you can utilise when crafting a recognisable tagline for your business. 

1. The quick get

The most important thing to remember is to communicate the benefit for the customer as simply and clearly as possible. What is the most important thing your customer should be taking away from your tagline? Is it what you do, what your customer can achieve or what they will experience? A tagline can have tremendous power in positioning your brand both in the market and in the mind of the customer, so make it easy for them to understand what your brand does. 

The easier it is for your customer to make the association between your brand and your product, the faster they are going to recognise their need for it. Here are some examples that get straight to the good stuff.

Disneyland. The Happiest Place on Earth.

It’s an extreme claim, but they’ve certainly backed it up. This statement makes a bold promise about a destination where there can be no confusion regarding the achievement of contentment.

KFC. It’s Finger Lickin’ Good.

You almost read it in a Southern American accent thanks to the dropped letter and encouragement of actual licking, but we do declare the promise of flavoursome chicken is clear in only three words.

2. The brand promise

They won’t necessarily keep it or fulfil it as far as customers are concerned, but they have fun trying. Some of the world’s most successful brands have made big bucks from promising their customers everything from true love to tantalised tastebuds and failing that, a money-back guarantee. Can you think of a brand that promises you exactly what you want? Here’s a couple of classics.

Diamonds are forever.

This De Beers tagline changed the way diamonds are both bought and valued. Promising an eternity of enjoyment, De Beers paved the setting for the world’s most precious stone to be deeply associated with marriage.

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.

If you look into this line, it’s pretty sneaky. It promises a lifestyle of wealth through credit even when you don’t have the money to buy the things you supposedly want or need. 

3. The short stories

Brands that share stories instead of communicating information are more likely to delight and engage. People remember stories. They forget information. So what kind of story can you craft using just a few words? 

By forming a picture in the mind, customers are more likely to have an emotional response and develop a meaningful connection or association with your brand. Here are some examples of tagline storytelling at its brief best.

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

This doesn’t just tell a story of beauty, it muses on the appeal of the ‘it girl’. It’s a line about confidence as well as outer appearance. The original ‘it girl’ in the case of Maybelline was the sister of the brand’s founder. He came in one day to see her mixing vaseline with lamp-black and applying it to her lashes and brows. Her name? Mabel.

Sukin. Skincare that doesn’t cost the earth.

At the opposite end of the spectrum as far as cosmetic morality is concerned, this is the story of a brand with a commitment to sustainable production, no harmful chemicals, no animal testing and recyclable packaging. The clever use of a known fiscal adage ‘costing the earth’ renders it memorable. 

4. Ways with words

There’s a lot of tools in the English language when it comes to cleverness and creativity. While some brands get extremely crafty with wordplay, all successful brand taglines have one thing in common – simplicity. Even the most advanced and technical products keep their customer-facing taglines easy to read and understand, but you can still have fun.

We’re talking about using alliteration, assonance, rhyming, homographs and homonyms to give your words maximum impact. After all, you don’t get many in a tagline, so you have to make them count. Here’s a couple of clever creations that make those words work for their brand recognition.

It’s the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best.

There’s a lot going on here. While this is by no means succinct, therein lies its appeal. A veritable tongue twister in 13 words, they’ve rhymed not one but two words with the brand name. As another point of difference, this was one of the first brands to make a promise of quality through what they exclude rather than include. Following suit, a large range of brands have flopped onto the John West bandwagon by listing ingredients they leave out.

Slip. Slop. Slap.

The effectiveness of these three simple words is responsible for an incredible downturn in Australia’s skin cancer rates over the last 18 years. While we all know the full version, the genius of this tagline can be identified through the repetition of the ‘sl’ at the beginning of each word, all of which possess 4 letters to create visual symmetry. 

5. It is about looks

The meaning of the words in your tagline is the most important consideration, but some designers out there may beg to differ. Good looks never hurt. Shorter words lend themselves more easily to arresting visual lock-ups and design. Given that customers will see your tagline written on regular occasions, you don’t want a customer case of TL;DR.

But how do you choose words that look good together? Often phrases that have repeated letters can look visually appealing, or words that have a similar or identical number of letters can deliver aesthetic value. Who does it well?

Have a break. Have a KitKat.

This one has stood the test of time. The brand’s use of the homophone ‘break’ refers to the breaking of the individual fingers while being an invitation to stop for a minute and gorge on chocolate. The visual excellence lies in the use of repetition and the balance of dual, separated three-word phrases.

Life. Be in it.

Remember this? The Australian government was keen to shift the image of a typical Aussie ‘Norm’ from a beer-swilling, couch-dwelling bloke and inspire a nation to get up and get moving. The use of two periods within the shortly-worded phrase pushes for intensive reflection of the tagline, especially of the word ‘Life’. 

Want to know more about branding?

If you need help finding the right tagline for your brand, schedule a discovery meeting with D&Co Studio. Chat to us today by calling 03 5292 2073.