By Faith Watson of Pen to Zen | @pentoZen
In marketing, it’s usually called a tagline. In advertising, a slogan. In business, it’s that one-line description that often accompanies a company name, website name, blog name, or person’s name.
- Prudential: Own a Piece of the Rock
- Fly the Friendly Skies (of United)
- Carraba’s – Italian Grill
- Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
When artists and entrepreneurs turn their creations and ideas into a business, the next step to building sales, or an audience, is marketing. If you’ve been living and breathing your work for a long time, defining the key features and benefits that appeal to your target market might come more naturally to you. But writing marketing copy, to best communicate all this is a task that can easily trip you up. It’s challenging to sum up the best parts of your work, clearly and creatively, in just a few words.
Yet, this is exactly what a great tagline does. The word tag says it all: it’s your label. [click to tweet]
It’s the audience’s reference to your brand’s origins, value or components. It’s shorthand for what you offer.
Remember the game “Tag” from when you were a kid? If you were touched, you were It. Just like that, this one line you write tags you, so everybody knows you’re the one.
Except this time, you’ll be attracting them, not chasing them away!
You’re It, But What Is That?
Visual and performing artists who show live work in galleries and theaters need a bio to tell more of their story. Their promotional materials assist with future sales. Just as a picture paints a thousand words, a tagline can speak a thousand pictures:
- What you create
- How you see the world
- Where your art comes from
- What your art is made of
Any of these elements could find their way into your tagline.
Entrepreneurs who are building businesses from the ground up typically spend a good deal of time thinking about how they will reach their ideal customers:
Why buy from you?
Who will shop at your store?
How can I trust your system?
What sets you apart from the others?
Here again is fertile ground for brainstorming on your tagline.
Even if your own name is the foundation of your brand, when we compare you to others, your tagline is how we can know you better, faster. This is powerful stuff.
What Type of Tagline is for You?
Start with a few criteria in mind before you begin free styling with your writing ideas.
1. Informative or Descriptive
Decide if you need an informative or descriptive tagline to support your name and/or business model.
A simple rule of thumb: if we can’t tell what you do or what your business offers by the name, the tagline needs to tell us.
For instance, an informative tagline is likely needed to support a branded name, unless it’s a famous name. Dr. Oz doesn’t need a tagline anymore. Until you get to that kind of brand strength, identifiable information in the tagline is quite helpful if you use your name for your business:
- Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
- Ace Ventura, Pet Detective
Can you go further, and add a more creative slogan after that? Of course, you can do whatever you like! Just be sure it adds to the goal of the tagline—which is to label how you’re It (hopefully, it makes you more attractive, too).
Here are some real life examples of people and businesses that meet this criterion and landed on compelling taglines. (By the way, inclusion here isn’t an endorsement, just recognition of fine brand communication skills.)
Colleen Attara Studio: Joyful art made from reclaimed materials
Timothy Allen: Photographer, Human Planet
Sleepless Dream: Kaisen-Muse Creativity Coaching
Chris Guillebeau: Challenging Authority Since 1978 – Writer – Traveler – Fighter of the Status Quo
2. Actionable Taglines
If you have a product or service to sell, consider an actionable tagline.
These work well in brief commands. You can imitate the rhythm and structure of other more famous taglines to make your job easier. Take a look at how you’re being marketed to and look at what you buy. What works for you? Start there. Swap out words or concepts to make the phrases your own.
Some top notch examples, and how they work:
Nike: Just do it (speaks to a motivated audience with an aspirational message)
AT&T: Rethink Possible (speaks to a broad audience, voice of an innovative company)
Dr. Mercola: Take control of your health (akin to Prudential’s Own a Piece of the Rock)
Target: Expect More. Pay Less (two brief commands—aspirational & resulting benefit)
3. Choosing Your Best Tagline
Next, you should discern whether you’ll be better off with a creative, aspirational, or problem-solution tagline.
You can start by deciding if you have a feeling you really need to promote versus problem you’re solving in your target audience’s lives. Sometimes you can do both in one, but it’s best to declare your intention now.
Is your goal to inspire or uplift? Or does it make more sense for you to practically address a “pain” (as marketers will often put it)? You apply these criteria by answering these questions:
What is your audience seeking that you provide?
Will you differentiate yourself/your company or speak about/to your audience?
GE…We bring good things to light (self-referring, but they’re doing you a nice favor)
LG…Life’s Good (aspire: life must be good when you can have technology like this)
Alka Seltzer… Plop Plop Fizz Fizz Oh What a Relief It Is (problem-solution, but creative)
Allstate…You’re in good hands with Allstate. (aspire: we have the security you want)
State Farm…Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. (aspire: you can trust us)
Geico..In 15 minutes you can save 15% or more. (problem-solution—actionable)
Ann Rae… savor the colors of the moment. (inspires the audience to want colorful work) And her website immediately tells us to “Collect contemporary California landscape and Wine Country original oil paintings, charcoal drawings, and pastels by artist Ann Rae.”
Kate Bradley…Celebrating the Fleeting Moments of Childhood (both aspirational and problem solving, because childhood is fleeting and she captures the moments for you)
As you can see, from giant Fortune 100 companies right down to the personal brands of working artists, pretty much everyone needs to describe the essence of their work in order to market themselves. Finding the best way to do so takes a bit of patience and focused creativity—usually not a problem for the entrepreneurial mind.
If you’re building a business identity, a blog, or a website, take some time to tinker with your tagline. When you arrive at that perfect line of introduction, you’ll know.
You’ll be able to look right at it and say, “You’re It!”
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Faith Watson created Pen to Zen to help entrepreneurs and small business owners solve their writing problems with a peaceful, easy process over the course of 1 to 3 days. Advice and inspiration are always free on the blog. Or, she’ll work on your project with you to get it done, just right, super-fast and affordably, so you can move forward with your happy Zen self.