One of the best places to tell your story is in the tagline attached to your logo.
A brand or organization’s name can tell a lot. A logo can add depth. But a tagline can complete the sentence of what a brand or organization is all about. Here is a great example:
Most people know alzheimer’s is deadly, debilitating disease. The Alzheimer’s Association tagline tells you all you need to know about what it does, with a aspirational twist.
Taglines are not new. They have been used effectively to create brand patinas, such as the legendary BMW tagline, “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” Apple’s “Think Different" or Nike’s “Just Do It.”
As powerful as those taglines are, they tend to paint a picture, not tell a story. On the other hand, Dollar Shave Club’s tagline tells a very clear story, “Shave Time. Shave Money,” to describe its mail order shaving gear.
A classic storytelling tagline is M&M’s “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands.” That influenced a lot of point of sale purchases by mothers who didn’t want to clean up a candy mess.
Bounty’s “The Quicker Picker Upper” slogan cleverly described the benefit of its sponge-like paper towels.
The New York Times conveyed its mission in its tagline, “All the News That’s Fit to Print."
Brands or organizations seeking broader awareness shouldn’t overlook the value of a tagline that tells its story in combination with its name and logo. This is especially valuable for organizations with names and logos that aren’t very descriptive of what they do.
Taglines must be short and snappy, so the trick to using them for storytelling is to find a catchy way to say a lot. Think of State Farm’s tagline, “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There.” It conveys the sense that the insurance company will treat you like a neighbor, not just a policyholder when you file a claim.
The secret sauce of coming up with a tagline is to identify what makes your organization or brand different and to condense that differentiation into a few compelling words. Think of at least three options and, before falling in love with one of them, share them with fellow employees, customers and friends. See what works – and ask why.
Copywriter Neville Medhora provided an instructive example in a 2015 blog, using his 3-step process for creating a tagline that involves unpacking your business into a paragraph, trimming it to a single sentence and finally reducing it to a phrase. Here are the three steps of his example for a company called WP Engin, which has a name and a logo that offers little clue what it does:
Paragraph: “It’s really cheap to host a WordPress site, but when something goes wrong, your host will be no where to be found. Also, WordPress gets hacked if you don’t upgrade it or choose poorly designed plugins.”
Sentence: “WP Engine makes hosting a website on WordPress super easy. We’re liked the perfect website host.”
Tagline: “WordPress hosting, perfected.”
We went through a similar, but more elaborate process working with a graphic designer to develop a new identity for Central City Concern, a Portland-based homeless agency that does much more than provide shelter. The agency situates displaced people in housing, attends to their health and helps them get back into productive life with a job.
The Central City Concern example shows the value of developing a tagline at the same time as a new logo. But even if you stick with your current logo and name, devising a tagline that tells your brand or organizational story can pay huge dividends. It will put your value proposition front and forward in people’s mind when they hear your name or see your mark.
Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.