Taglines – because they’re worth it

May 5 2021

Walmart’s tagline ‛Save Money. Live Better.’ is nuts-and-bolts effective. Short and to the point. Four words, two ideas. And it says almost everything you need to know about the store. Or, at least, what Walmart wants you to think about the store.

Kroger’s is even shorter and, perhaps, more ambitious. “Fresh for everyone” is less about saving a few cents and more subtly introduces the idea that Kroger’s is an egalitarian store that believes everyone has the right to good, fresh and tasty food.

I’ve been mulling over grocery taglines because UK chain Sainsbury’s, which has been a feature of the high street for 99 years, has just tooted the fanfare horns and revealed it is launching a new one. It is, wait for it, ‛Helping Everyone Eat Better’. What a mess. What does it even mean?

When crafting the phrase no doubt marketing heavy-hitters and creative blue-sky-thinkers interfaced, zoomed, scratched their goatees and raised fingers with Eureka insights. But to me, it’s a dud. I don’t mean to be pernickety, but is Sainsbury’s really helping? How are they helping? Can they really help everyone? Especially those that don’t even shop at Sainsbury’s?

Shoppers are less loyal these days and switch brands more often than ever before. Sainsbury’s more fickle customers may cross the road and spend their hard-earned cash in Tesco where ‛Every Little Helps’. It’s humble, sensible and true. No wonder it has resonated with shoppers.

And it’s clever, too, as the motto is not just about looking after the pennies and allowing the pounds to look after themselves. It includes the full experience of shopping at Tesco – from how well-stocked the shelves are to human values such as how often the staff smile. The motto helped inform the TV campaign starring a very fussy and hard-to-please customer called Dotty, which was so successful the storyline ran to 25 advertising films.

So, taglines can work beautifully. And they can flop. Sometimes they are enhanced by clever typography and frequently they are be-jingled-up with catchy or moody music but, at the end of the day, they always boil down to half a dozen or fewer words that are supposed to deliver a brand load of meaning. In a way, it’s poetry. Here are five of our favourites:

  • Because You’re Worth It – L’Oreal. This phrase has been with us for so long we have forgotten it is a little revolutionary. Launched in 1973 it summed up a new spirit of feminism. Don’t apologise for using make-up to look good. It’s not superficial. Or skin deep. Or expensive. Why? Because you’re worth it!
  • No FT, no comment – The Financial Times. When it comes to quality business journalism is there anything better than providing clever and succinct information? Enough said!
  • Vorsprung durch technik – Audi. This confident but untranslated line is precision-engineered to support Audi’s credentials as a quality German car maker. It works like a well-oiled machine.
  • The Wonderful Everyday – Ikea. Imaginative and inspirational yet down-to-earth and feel-good. Yup, there’s nothing flat-packed about this joyous yet sensible world. It also weaves in sustainability issues.
  • Just Do It – Nike. Short and inspirational and confident and utterly compelling. It manages to be universal yet intensely personal so customers can imagine achieving a moment of greatness. So… Nike…

In many ways, funnily enough, it’s much harder to write a terrible tagline. Perhaps that’s because they are often the result of copywriters trying far too hard to squeeze extra meaning into a few words. Grammar is often mangled. Ill-fitting ideas are rammed together. Assumptions are made. Nonsense ensues. Here are five wonderful examples of tagline trash:

  • Be Your Way – Burger King. Three words cobbled together to create a shapeless, dry, grey, boring, dull, shapeless (did I already say that?) and truly tasteless linguistic patty. Not even flame-grilling can save it.
  • Be legacy – Stella Artois. Copywriters are allowed to throttle grammar, but only if it works. This strange phrase doesn’t. What does it mean? What has beer got to do with a legacy? How about ‛Be Legless’? I like Stella’s old UK motto: ‘Reassuringly expensive’. Clever. It made Stella somehow taste like an expensive premium beer even though it wasn’t.
  • Cheat on your girlfriend; not on your workout – Reebok. Haha. Really funny. Haha. Not. It was rapidly pulled.
  • Dare Greatly – Cadillac. Dare how, exactly? Where’s the jeopardy? Crashing? Getting lost? Running out of petrol? Breaking down? There are plenty of ways to be daring, but buying an expensive car complete with motion detectors, anti-lock breaks, traction control, a satnav, lane departure and blindspot warning systems or adaptive cruise control is not one of them.
  • Impossible is Nothing – Adidas. ‛Nothing is impossible’ might not be logically accurate but at least it would appeal to hyperbolic coaches encouraging a team to give 110%. ’Impossible is nothing’ might impress a room or zoom of creatives, but it’s gobbledegook. If Adidas wants to bury it, their arch rivals have some good advice: Just Do It.

There is no doubt that good taglines can help build brand value over time. If used intelligently and as part of a well-thought-out content strategy for long enough they gradually become an integral part of the brand’s identity. They help set a tone and create a consistent voice throughout the marketing mix – from op-ed pieces to punchy social media posts. If you would like to talk to us about your marketing or content strategy, we would love to hear from you.

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