I have a love-hate relationship with taglines. As a copywriter, that might be a blasphemous thing for me to say. For decades, taglines have been one of the profession’s most revered forms, the true test of ability that separates the copy aces from the amateurs. But recently, I’ve been questioning their relevance.
The matter of taglines’ relevance or irrelevance is rooted in a few things. First, of course, is the possibility that we copywriters are to blame for being lazy and simply not creating good taglines lately. It’s been decades since the birth of the most famous taglines. Maybe today’s great taglines have not yet had time to rise to the top, or maybe we’ve lost sight of what a tagline needs to do in order to serve the brand and consumer, and we just don’t make them like we used to.
Another thing to consider is that many of those famous taglines were created in a time that was notably pre-internet and pre-smartphone. In an age of radio and television advertising, we were not quite as accessible to marketers as we are now. So taglines functioned as a way to remember a brand and generate word-of-mouth celebrity with catchy, portable sayings, because otherwise, there was no device in anyone’s pocket that could immediately explain what a previously unknown company or product does.
In that sense, taglines have lost a little bit of their usefulness. Now, brands can access consumers with any number of lightweight and memorable advertising pieces, and they do—often multiple times a day. And that’s where the tagline actually becomes more necessary. A really good tagline captures the essence of the brand’s mission and personality, and it sets the course for all of the other advertising pieces. Even the creation process of the tagline keeps the brand accountable by forcing them to articulate who they are and what their purpose is in only the most precise words.
So although I do question the traditional applications of a tagline, and it is particularly frustrating when taglines are treated as a kind of checklist item that some companies simply need to “get done,” sitting down to help a client create a tagline is still one of my favorite things to do. Ultimately, the best taglines strike a deep chord of truthfulness with the consumer, and we can always use more of that in marketing.