advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Do we even need taglines?

(Fun with taglines, part 2.
Part 1 here.)

You know that logo since before you were born, that’s how famous it is. You don’t need anyone telling you to just do it.

In talking to a writer friend about the importance of taglines, he felt that of all the lines in history, that one above all else is the gold standard. You could base a college dissertation on it. Marketing directors would kill for it. Copywriters could die in peace if they wrote just one like it.

But, it doesn’t matter anymore.

When a brand’s that big, do you really need a tagline? Don’t you already know what you know about that brand from your own experiences with it? At that point, a tagline becomes meaningless.

I’ve worked with brands who place great importance on them. Maybe too much. One single aspect of a company’s overall marketing effort will not make or break it. Never does. Expecting it to carry the weight like that is unrealistic. If it does, then when the stock tanks, please, by all means, blame it on:

Values that bind.

Your Dreams. Our Commitment.

Empowered by Innovation.

While I agree that a tagline like Just Do It is unrivaled, my point is that a mega brand doesn’t need one after it reaches meganess. It may even work against the brand depending on whether or not your experience with it was negative or not.

Especially a shiny, happy tagline. Why? Because every time you see it, you’re reminded of everything you hate about the brand and everything it failed to live up. It’s like those three or four words at the end of the logo are now jabbing you after a lousy experience with customer service.

(In defense of Nike here, they and Reebok were some of the first brands to move away from showing taglines with their logos and sign-offs, instead favoring a more subtle logo treatment. The Swoosh in effect became the tagline because of all the experience you’d already invested in the brand.)

Quick, name the tags for these brands:

Apple. McDonald’s. Enron. MySpace. YouTube. Coke. Facebook. Pepsi. Microsoft. Fike Truck Lines. NBC. eBay.

Point is, you don’t need to answer. You already know the brands, and that’s enough. Whether through their ad campaigns or the time you’ve spent with them. The recognition factor is huge.

Fikes Truck Lines in Hope, Arkansas though? What? I grabbed them as an example of a brand you never heard of. We need a tag then! Time out. It’s trucking. Self-defining, no? (If you need further explanation of what they do, stop reading the blog now.) They do have one actually: Connecting People With Purpose. Even seems unnecessary. Truck lines may not be sexy, but at least you know what they do. No questions asked and no tags needed.

As for the others, well...

Think Different, I’m Lovin’ it! or The Coke side of life? Awesome lines. Really. But those are campaign slogans on par with Where’s The Beef? Catchy stuff that brands like McDonald’s changes out every month like items on their value menu.

Enron’s: Ask Why? MySpace: A place for friends™. Facebook: Doesn’t have one. (No, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” is not a tagline, it’s a subhead.)

Twitter? Their tagline subhead is even longer. How easy though just to run with “What Are You Doing?” Guess that’s why they’re devs and not writers? Which is another irony.

The crop of Web 2.0 brands now that don’t have taglines. (If I was ever to make a case for? This category would be it.) Yes, this is what I am aiming for in my grand plan for society—no taglines. Thing is, the naming conventions for many of the Web 2.0 sites are so odd that you have no clue what it is they do. (See Fikes.)

Oh wait, that’s what the subhead’s for on their respective homepages! Explain what they’re about? Well, that's what the word of mouse community is for. In some ways, they’re the new tagline for your brand:

“Hey, did you check out (insert Web 2.0 site to be gone by next week ). It’s really cool because it does (insert feature that NOBODY else has).”

Maybe it’s me though. Maybe taglines still matter. Do they? While you figure that out, I’m gonna go grab the choice of a new generation.

1 comment:

phillybikeboy said...

Whenever the topic of tag lines was brought up at the old workplace, I argued they're unneeded. They're a bad thing, in reality.

Name Rolls Royce's tag line. Mercedes? Rolex? Armani? Premium brands don't have tag lines. They know who and what they are and what they do, and so do their customers. Companies that need to explain that to their customers need to work on the brand. A tag line is a band aide on a bigger problem.