Thursday, December 20, 2007


When I started in advertising, taglines were everything. We sat in our offices for hours, days, weeks, even months to come up with a tagline. The tagline was the centerpiece of the campaign - once we established it, everything else fell into place: Commercials, Print, Billboards, Stickers, etc.

Things have changed dramatically: Michael Jackson tapes his face with weird stickers, a cowboy became president (oops, I guess it's not the first time) and taglines are now on life support, according to this article from Brandweek:

“Too often, taglines are used as safety nets out of a fear that the rest of the campaign isn’t communicating well enough, he said.

Taglines are often more utilitarian and less emotional, experts say. They tend to be fed through the focus group mill until they’re watered down beyond recognition. That process does not produce “Think Different,” “Got Milk?” or “Just Do It.”

“If the Nike tagline were suggested today, the question back would probably be, ‘Just do what?’” said Wolfsohn. “There’s a level of trepidation now that people won’t get it and they won’t be able to parrot the idea back to you. So, taglines get over-defined.”

That’s when they lose strength and become meaningless, he said.
For a slogan to stick, it’s not just coming up with five catchy words or less, said Landor & Associates’ managing director Allen Adamson. It’s vital to weave that message through all the communications and the very brand DNA itself.

“It has to be the right promise, with the brand living up to it, expressed in a sticky, unexpected way,” Adamson said. “And then you have to spend money and stay with it for the long haul.”

He points to GE’s “Imagination at Work” as a breakthrough tagline because it’s more than a slogan. “It’s the business strategy,” he said. “It’s the mission of the company.”

It's a good article and I would like to add one important factor:

Taglines reflect the brand promise. Looking at today's taglines, the promise is very mediocre at best, horrendous at worst: (With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good. It's a new morning. Brew something good) Just pointless lines that serve no purpose except to fill up the pockets of agencies.

Consumers don't buy promises anymore. They buy great product and brand experiences. Big ideas don't come out of advertising, they come out of R&D labs and consumer insights. Great products need low advertising support and high-involvement in conversational marketing. Mediocre product need the advertising idea but these ideas will fall shirt in the end because product experience is king.

I'm glad to see the mind-numbing taglines leave the market and head to the traditional marketing graveyard. Taglines based on the heart and soul of a brand and product experience will continue to live and thrive. Because they are not based on a promise, they are based on facts.


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