How many times in your life have you caught yourself saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”?
(See also: “What happens in Budapest…” “What happens in Thailand…” or even “What happens on the 5-a-side football squad weekend in Portsmouth…”)
With one simple phrase, The Las Vegas Tourism Board forever solidified the idea that their town is where you go for next-level, big-bucks, total-excess debauchery.
In doing so, they spawned a bazillion stag and hen weekend bookings, a bunch of Hollywood films (including, of course, What Happens in Vegas) and, of course, an infinite number of expensive, drunken mistakes, spurred on by friends chanting, “Come on, man! What happens in Vegas…” That’s a tourism win on a scale other cities can only dream of, all thanks to a smart, pithy phrase that somehow caught on in the public consciousness.
But the Las Vegas Tourism marketing bigwigs are hardly the only ones to come up with a tagline that became an instantly recognisable cultural touchpoint.
“Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand”… “Red Bull Gives You Wings”… “The Happiest Place On Earth.” There’s no way in hell you haven’t heard these phrases before – and what’s more, according to a huge study by the Journal of Business Research, they’re three of the most liked slogans of all time.
So just what is it that makes these slogans work? What makes “Pimms O’Clock” catch on, when “Every weather is Pepsi weather” dies by the side of the road?
There’s no simple answer; a whole bunch of factors are at play here, including message clarity, creativity, brand appropriateness, product appropriateness, gender, age, income and whether you include a memorable jingle or rhyme. That said, there are certain ingredients that dramatically increase your chances of writing a great tagline, strapline, slogan – whatever you want to call it – that really stays with your audience and helps them understand what you’re all about.
5 Tips for a Top Tagline
#1 Know What You Stand For
“List the things you value. Honesty is a value. So is fidelity. So is faith. So is hard work. Think of the things that make up your personality, your belief system and how you choose to live your life.” ~ Paul C Brunson, Mentor, Entrepreneur & Life Coach
First things first, before you start drafting taglines, you need to have a good long think about what your brand stands for, what you value and what you’re like as a company.
Be honest here. If you’re all about razor wit, subversion and cool, then great. But equally, if you’re the kind of business that prides yourself on being a safe pair of hands, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
After all, your niche is what draws the right kind of customers to you; the kind of customers that love the way you think and what you offer. So own it and emphasise it – don’t offer up a weak imitation of something a competitor does more naturally instead. Otherwise, why would anyone pick you?
Now, when you start trying to nail your tagline, keep this list of values and descriptive terms to hand and keep referring back to it. Does what you’ve written fit with these words and phrases? Is it consistent with who you are?
#2 Ask Your Clients What They Love
Who is better equipped to advise you on what will work than happy customers who have bought from you before? Look through your customer testimonials and feedback, or call up some of your clients and ask them to tell you what they like most about your product or service.
This will help you to establish which feature, perk or aspect of what you do should be emphasized in your tagline.
For example, let’s imagine your product is a transport booking app. You thought that the biggest draw was the competitive pricing, but when you ask around, 90% of your customers tell you that the best thing about it is being able to book all the pieces of their journey (planes, trains, buses, boats, etc.) as a single itinerary. In this situation, forget the price issue – it’s clearly the single-itinerary feature you should be highlighting in your tagline.
#3 It’s (Usually) Better to Be Clear Than Clever
Okay, so maybe you’ll come up with the next Nike “Just Do It”: a punchy little slogan that distills your company’s attitude without having to explain what you actually do. In most cases, though, it’s far better to come up with a tagline that actually tells potential customers what it is you offer.
“Clever can work if you’re really good. But most of the time it doesn’t. The problem with being overly clever is people remember the clever line but they don’t remember the brand or product. Rather than being clever, be direct and clear. Being direct is so much more useful than any level of poetry. By being direct you are helping the customer understand instantly, and they will thank you for it. “Probably the best beer in the world” Carlsberg’s famous tagline, is direct and clear it leaves little room for doubt. “Open your world” from Heineken’s campaign is not very clear and could be applied to anything.” ~Martin Soler, Travel Tech Marketing Consultant
A good way to check whether you’re on the right track is to take out your logo and brand name for a minute and see how the tagline stands up on it’s own. Could this tagline apply to just about anything? Could it be convincingly used by your competitors? Or does it only really work with your brand, in your brand voice, to describe what you do?
If you’re not answering yes to that final question, you still have work to do.
#4 Make Sure Your Slogan Translates… Before You Translate It
When I was 15, I got busted by my high school German teacher for trying to cut corners in my homework by copying a chunk of English into BabelFish.com and hitting ‘translate’. I don’t know if you remember BabelFish, but it was a really basic, literal version of Google Translate, that would often throw out unintentionally hilarious answers.
I can’t recall exactly what I’d ended up saying in German – my teacher translated it back into English and made me read it out to the class – but I do remember that a section that was supposed to be about my family dynamics ended up proclaiming that I would always be a dog and that, like my grandmother, I would follow an old man until death.
Luckily, the worst that happened to me was looking a bit daft and having to do my homework over – but if you’re establishing your brand in a new country or region, assuming whatever you want to say makes sense in the target language and culture can be an epic mistake.
Take this brilliant example, courtesy of marketing guru Jeff Bullas:
“Ever heard about cross-cultural marketing mix fails? The reason behind these failures is when you market a product without knowing the culture of a specific region.
When Pepsi expanded their market to China, they launched with the slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life”.
What they didn’t realize is that the phrase translated to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave”.
This may seem like a pretty funny mistake… but to Pepsi, this was a huge blunder, especially when you’re trying to build a brand on a global level. Yikes!
So always try to contact a native before marketing in any other country.”
#5 Last But DEFINITELY Not Least…
… Avoid cliches.
Be as specific as you can and for goodness’ sake don’t just offer up bland adjectives you think your customer base wants to hear. If you do, you’ll blend into the background faster than a sheep in a cotton wool warehouse.
As John Gumas, founder of Gumas Advertising, puts it:
“The best taglines are true, emotional, declarative, proprietary, and stand for something. It should use language only your brand can use and defend against that of your competitors. When developing a tagline, stay clear of trite or predictable words like “customer-driven” or “friendly.” Impactful taglines are original, bold, and use powerful words that rise above their simple definition.”
And remember, when it comes to devising your perfect tagline: maybe you’re born with it… maybe it’s a product of hard work, careful research, and getting to know your customer base inside out 😉