A Way With Words

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The ingredients of a formidable tagline:

  1. Wit: not necessarily to be funny, but to make people think
  2. Honesty: there's a fine line between clever and cringe, so avoid fancy alliterations and get to the point 
  3. Embellishment: not boasting, but to emphasise competitive value and difference
  4. Daring: if there's no opportunity to 'live up' to what you're stating then it's already out of date
  5. Subtlety: your audience needs to 'get it' without thinking 'so what?'
  6. Destination: a tagline is not for today, it must propel you forward. Do you know where you're going?
  7. Conformity: you need to instill comparative value so people understand where you sit in the market
  8. Conviction: Do you really believe it?
Method: mix carefully, serve in under 5 words.
But seriously, there's no strict formula for creating a tagline or value proposition for that matter. How you decide on a tagline is dependent on what you need it to achieve. And what you need it to achieve is based on where your business is currently positioned.
Whether it's a new entity and needs to quickly establish credibility, or has been trading for many years and needs to reaffirm its value or combat new competition, or change its course and enter new markets.
You could say it's dependent on which stage of the business lifecycle you're in, but I don't like that term because it suggests that nothing lasts. I believe that good leadership coupled with good brand strategy allow companies to more easily navigate change and customer demands on an ongoing basis.
Which leads to another important point, that taglines are not set in stone. Most taglines will have an expiry date. Whether it's ten months or ten years is dependent on what you need to achieve and the state of your market.
Last minute nerves:
If you have a vision and want to achieve great things for your business, don't be conservative. Don't seek opinion to make a decision as you'll almost always encounter opposition, however well intentioned. Taglines are not the product of a committee.
Keep in perspective where and how your tagline will be used. It exists to support your brand and business culture and is seldom a primary messaging tool, so don't judge it in isolation.
Remember that conviction is different to comfort. If you're a little hesitant you're on the right track. If you're comfortable you're not going to excite your market, and it's not going to compel you to live up to anything.
In this market the organisations that are seen to stake a clear position and live up to it will achieve more.
© Hamish Chadwick 2011. All rights reserved.

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