Taglines Can Do Wonders to the Bottomline

Ashutosh Wakankar April 16, 2017

Call it a tagline, a punchline or verbal branding, most marketers are looking for their ‘Just do it.’ In some ways, a powerful, pithy capture of the brand serves as an elevator pitch, a rallying cry and an extremely efficient solution for our attention-strapped times.

Most such efforts result in banal, undifferentiated piffle that hardly tells us anything attention-grabbing about the brand. Look no further than the Banking sector where a plethora of such lines which celebrate the idea of “relationships” add to the visual pollution around. ‘Khayaal Aapka,’ ‘Rishton ki Jamaa Poonji,’ ‘Good People to Bank With,’ ‘With You Always,’ and the list is endless.

There is no provocation, no inevitable surprise when we see these ideas which should ideally serve as a sacred commitment from the bank.

These attempts at verbal branding fail on two counts:

To start with, what these efforts lack is a vigorous and unique point of view. A stand. They fundamentally lack a strategic point of view about how they are trying to change the category or the world.

Secondly, there is a crafting issue. Ultimately the point of view also needs to be distilled into a fresh and unique combination of words that explodes in the mind. There is a world of difference between saying ‘Launching a low-fare airline’ and saying ‘Bringing Flying Within Reach for the Common Man.’

Here are some characteristics to look for while choosing a tagline:

1. Good taglines are based on a truth about the brand. May not be the entire truth but the most attractive truth about the brand. When BPCL says ‘Pure for Sure,’ it is deliberately putting a spotlight on the “quality” aspect and not the “quantity” aspect of its fuel. We all know that cheating at pumps used to happen on both counts, but the brand decided to focus on one.

2. A good tagline should aim for something bigger than the business. It should aim for a category high ground, a transformation agenda, a vision for the category. When Vahura, a talent scouting firm for law firms says ‘Because Our Laws Need Champions,’ it is making a commitment to the state of the legal domain in India and not just talking about its business.

3. A great tagline brings dead facts to life by telling the truth about the brand in a manner that makes you sit up and take notice. Many years ago, Club Med defined its role as an ‘Antidote to Civilization.’ How cool is that?

One pitfall to avoid doing with taglines is to stay away from the clever. There are many ways of framing the truth impactfully, but if one has to make a tradeoff, it is better to err on the side of honesty than gimmicks.

Ultimately, it is not a mandatory to have a tagline. A brand can be built even without one, and if you need to give time for clarity and crispness to emerge, there is no discomfort in waiting for the inspiration to strike. Luke Sullivan puts it most brilliantly in his excellent book on copywriting, “If you have not penned a ‘Just Do It,’ then just don’t.”