As part of our ongoing exploration of authentic branding and how brand makers create and sustain value, we recently discussed Bain & Company’s Elements of Value. This pyramid of attributes provides a fascinating and powerful framework for discussing and determining exactly what a brand is promising its audience. By identifying the values that a brand or product seeks to fulfill, we can clarify the promise it is making to the consumers who purchase its products.
The greatest opportunity for a succinct declaration of a brand’s promise is its tagline – the short slogan that (usually accompanying a logo) provides a verbal “hook” in the brand’s marketing and advertising. Famous taglines (like Nike’s “Just Do It” or Allstate’s “You’re In Good Hands”) can become cultural touchstones that cement a brand’s identity in the minds of consumers. They also speak to the value proposition – the “promise” – the brand is making to its audience.
Crafting a Successful Tagline
The best taglines accomplish a lot in just a few words. They intrigue us and perk up our ears. They answer our first question about a brand – “what do they do?” – while leaving enough to the imagination that we feel compelled to look deeper. They stick around inside our heads long after we encounter them.
The online marketing platform HubSpot recently asked “What makes a great brand slogan?”, providing insight into the foundational elements of a great tagline. They identify four major aspects of a great slogan: it’s memorable, includes a key benefit, differentiates the brand, and imparts positive feelings. While it’s not always possible to achieve all of these in a short, catchy phrase, many brands have managed to make the most of the opportunity.
Let’s take a look at some of the most successful taglines, what they promise, and how they’re crafted to communicate maximum value.
A Diamond is Forever
The De Beers diamond tagline dates back to 1948 yet still resonates today because of its powerful simplicity. TheBalance recently placed it at the top of their list of The 100 Best Advertising Taglines Ever. What about these four words makes them so effective?
To start, the tagline immediately clues us in that De Beers is in the diamond business and differentiates them from other diamond companies with the promise of “forever.” Not only does this speak to the quality and craftsmanship of the diamond itself, it evokes both nostalgia and romance. The cultural cache of diamonds as priceless, romantic, and eternal elevates the tagline and aligns it with subsequent variations on this idea (such as Shirley Bassey’s theme for the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever).
In Bain’s Elements of Value, nostalgia is identified as an emotional value that resonates with consumers who seek something timeless and enduring, something that reminds them of their past while moving forward. The cultural idea of diamonds as heirloom jewelry also come into play. In fact, heirloom sits near the top of the pyramid as one of the life-changing values. “Forever” also has deeply romantic connotations, speaking to the life-changing value of belonging, and De Beers’ slogan is one reason that diamond rings continue to symbolize enduring love and romance.
Don’t Leave Home Without It
American Express struck it big with this memorable slogan from a 1975 ad campaign. Unlike “A Diamond is Forever,” “Don’t Leave Home Without It” leaves an unresolved question hanging in the air – “what is it” exactly? When paired with the American Express logo, the message becomes clear and the brand is defined, but the moment of suspense helps the words stick inside our heads.
This tagline asserts the necessity of the product by implying that if you don’t have it, you might as well stay home. The value that American Express is selling is access, an emotional value on Bain’s hierarchy that excites us with the ability to get what we want. AmEx isn’t just a card, the tagline tells us, it’s a key that unlocks doors and makes the carrier a member of the club. It promises the life-changing value of affiliation.
This slogan also gently subverts the idea of imparting positive feelings, but it smartly does so by highlighting the urgency of not having the product. Any negativity is a result of being unprepared for the possibilities of the world. The answer, it asserts, is American Express. It’s an effective tactic that communicates value on multiple levels.
Shave Time. Shave Money.
This slogan is too new to have achieved the enduring impact of our previous two examples, but it’s a compelling example of a current tagline that perfectly communicates value to consumers. Dollar Shave Club is a relatively new brand that delivers shaving razors at a low cost. As the tagline indicates clearly in only three (unique) words, the brand is selling reduced cost and increased convenience of shaving. On Bain’s pyramid, reduces cost and saves time are functional values – perfect for a brand that is all about avoiding hassle.
As the blog at Conversion Sciences points out, “Dollar Shave Club showcases brand personality incredibly well… branding their company as a club for common sense, sarcastic smart alecks… you know… what every guy aspires to be.” Using subtle wit (the substitution of “shave” for “save”), the tagline imbeds itself in the reader’s mind. Dollar Shave Club ingeniously blends clarity of purpose with a compelling value proposition.
Brands with catchy, clear taglines earn themselves a leg up in the struggle to capture and keep the attention of consumers. Crafting the perfect tagline is both an art and a science, but those who can do so create more than just a spike in sales – they create a living legacy.