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Building a Brand Identity: Market Your Company with a Tagline

We’ve been building a brand identity strategy for a few weeks now — and it’s time for the finale! To do that, let’s start with a little quiz. Can you identify these brands?

  1. Eat fresh.
  2. Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
  3. Like a good neighbor…
  4. Mmm mmm good.
  5. Just do it.
  6. Think different.
  7. At the corner of happy and healthy.
  8. More saving. More doing.
  9. The quicker picker upper.
  10. Why fool around with anyone else?

Hopefully, you got 9 out of 10 here (if not…watch a few commercials). But one of these things is definitely not like the others. And this illustrates the importance of a good tagline.


In our little quiz above, these are all national, well-known brands. You can likely identify almost all of them without having to look a single thing up. These have been a consistent brand identity for those companies, telling you who they are and what they do.

Why Home Depot? It’s a place where you are guaranteed to do more money saving, so that you can do more work on your projects.

Why go to Subway? You want something fresh, not some frozen reheated burger that guarantees to pack on the pounds while not really satisfying you anyway.

Why get your insurance from State Farm? You want your insurance company to be reliable, there when you need them, like a friend or a neighbor.

Why fool around with anyone else? Uhhhh…good question.

I don’t need to convince you why a tagline is a good idea for your business; that should be obvious, especially to those with a marketing focus. So let’s skip straight to coming up with a good one. For that, let’s follow three rules:

  1. Be clear, not clever.
  2. Be unique, not generic.
  3. Be timeless, not cool.

Be Clear, Not Clever

Start brainstorming descriptors of your business. What do you do? How do you describe your work? What makes your customers’ lives better? Your mission statement helps here, since it describes, fairly concisely, what your company does.

As Charlie Cook’s Marketing for Success says, Imagine you own a little piece of your buyers’ brains. And every time they thought about making a purchase, your product or service came to mind.” What do you want them to think about?

Similarly, as marketing magazine Advergize says, The best advertising slogans are the ones that truly describe what a brand, or a company, stands for, in the shortest catchphrase possible; something that sticks to the consumer’s mind and helps the product stand out.”

Studies have shown that taglines that do NOT include a brand name are deemed to be more likable.

With that in mind, now start crossing things off. Boil down your business to as few words as possible. Shoot for no more than ten words in the whole line. When words are at a premium, you don’t have space to waste on cleverness — and that’s a good thing, because clever, in many cases, is the enemy of clear. Don’t waste words on your business name, either. Studies have shown that taglines that do NOT include a brand name are deemed to be more likable.

Be Unique, Not Generic

Since you don’t have your business name included in your tagline, you do need to make sure it’s specific to your business — something that identifies it as yours, without saying your name.

If you hear Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, it’s not likely that you’ll assume it’s a tagline for a clothing store — it’s clearly for a food product, and one that’s uniquely different than any other candy on the market. Or if you hear At the corner of happy and healthy,” it’s more logical that it’s for a local drugstore than for a home delivery service. These taglines are specific to their fields; they couldn’t be used on any other business.

Likewise, as you shorten your list of words describing your business, choose words that can describe ONLY your business — not just a respectable business. What makes you different and unique? What is your value in your field?

Be Timeless, Not Cool

In the same way that your core values don’t change, the secret to a great tagline is one that can stand the test of time — because it’s rooted in those values. There’s a reason standards like Just do it” or Think different” or The quicker picker-upper” have lasted — they’re based on the thing that the company has done, and done well, and valued, since its inception.

When your tagline is edgy or trendy, as soon as that trend is over, so is the value of the tagline. For example, take FedEx. Presumably trying to be edgy, but falling more into the awkward uncle” category, the company tried to bring up the notion of brand loyalty in the late 1980s with the tagline Why fool around with anyone else?” This vague, borderline gross line has nothing to do with shipping, and could be used by any company — if they were that tone-deaf.

When your tagline is edgy or trendy, as soon as that trend is over, so is the value of the tagline.

Once that trend failed, FedEx tried again in the early 1990s — this time with the even more awkward Our most important package is yours.” While at least this one spoke a little to what they do as a company, it still relies too heavily on risque interpretation, which is flavored too much by edgy vernacular.

As destiny would have it, that tagline failed too, bringing on another 15 years of fumbling around, trying on different lines for size, until, finally, landing on something that can be used for decades. Why? Because it outlines, in four words, what FedEx’s value to the market is: The world on time.”

Reliable worldwide shipping isn’t cool, any more than roofing is cool or installing garage doors is cool or trimming trees in someone’s front yard is cool. But they are timeless. As long as there are houses, there will need to be roofs; as long as there are garages, there will need to be garage doors; as long as there are trees in yards, they will need to be trimmed. Don’t try to make those things cool. Do rely on your values. (Values are always cool.)

Last Step: Sleep on it

When you’ve crossed off enough words (save your notes, though!), found the ones that describe your business and only your business, and put them in an order that makes sense in any decade, do one more thing: go to bed.

Seriously, set it aside for a day or three. Then come back to it. Does it still make sense? Does it still describe you? If not, play with it. Revisit some of those notes. Add words, or subtract them. But a tagline needs to be memorable, and for your unique business, it should just fit.

If you need, involve a few others in your business. At White Castle Roofing, we actually had a blind vote in our office between two options when developing our tagline. Ultimately, the one we did not choose relied too much on trends — looking back, it wouldn’t be as powerful now as it was a few years ago. That’s the sign of a poor tagline. But what we decided on — Built with trust. Proven by time.” — works in any year, for our specific contracting business, reliably and reputably selling roofs that last.

And then the fun can happen! When you have a tagline, you have a brand. Market it! It’s the culmination of your work developing your brand identity: You identified your core values, you gave them traction with a mission statement, and now you have a simple way for your customers to remember who you are and why they need your product or service. Your brand is set. Stay consistent with it, and your advertising strategy will become much easier and more effective en route to your best year yet!

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