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Your Tagline: The Most Important Ad You'll Ever Create

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A tagline older than 25 years is usually a sign that your company identity needs reinvigorating. It's never too late to change a dull, tired, non-communicating tagline. Even the biggest brands with famous taglines change their slogan every few years. Most people remember when Coke was "The Real Thing," but look at all the other taglines they've used over a period of 20 years:

  • 1970: It's the real thing.
  • 1971: I'd like to buy the world a Coke.
  • 1976: Coke adds life.
  • 1979: Have a Coke and a Smile.
  • 1990: Can't Beat the Real Thing.

Prime Opportunity: Taglines for Web Content
For some strange reason, few websites have taglines. This is a shame because those companies (and individuals) are missing out on a prime opportunity.

Any company with a website should make sure to have their logo and tagline on every page; it counts as "an impression" each time a viewer sees it, and when a potential customer prints out a single page from your site, you want your company identity on it.

Few designers or webmasters realize that taglines create a first impression and communicate just as much -- if not more -- than a fancy home page.

Tagline Prices & Costs
A small company can get a quality tagline for the same money as a large company: copywriters charge anywhere from $250 to $3,000 to create a tagline. The only reason large companies usually have snappier taglines is that they're the ones who contact professional copywriters rather than trying to "do it themselves."

Large companies also realize that the creation of a great tagline should be considered the first ad a company does, and ideally, done in conjunction with naming and logo design.

A logo designer and copywriter should work together on this identity package; in my 14 years as "the Tagqueen" I've found the result is always better and it gives the company a stronger, more cohesive start.

How Smart is Your Tagline?
The best taglines separate you from your competition, express your personality and add to your branding and marketing campaign. A tagline should tell not only what your company does; it should also make it clear how you are unique compared to your competition.

Assess your current tagline by asking yourself three questions:

1. If you left your business card somewhere, could someone glance at it and know exactly what your company does?

2. Would your tagline work if your competitors used it?

3. Does your tagline focus more on your company or your audience?

A smart tagline includes your unique selling proposition. What do you do best? Why should anyone besides your mother care? Say it in the tagline -- especially if your business name doesn't make it crystal clear what you do.

It's Never Too Late to Improve
A bad tag is worse than none at all; it can actually repel the very people you want to attract - especially if there's an exclamation point after it. This is the mark that tells consumers to RUN AWAY! You might as well put on a bad suit and sell cars if you're going to paste an exclam on the end of a company slogan.

Look at the difference between the quiet, yet serious command "Just do it" compared with the overly-perky, golly-gee sound of "Just Do it!" If Avis had said, "We try harder!" the tone would sound suspiciously salesy rather than conveying the serious and sincere statement of "We try harder."

Can you think of a single tagline that is truly improved by adding an exclamation point to it? If you can, please let me know. I'm still looking for the exception to that rule.

Taglines can create an entirely new perception in people's minds and give an old company a new persona and public image. That's a big job for a few words.

Make sure you make them count.

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