Couldn’t write a good tagline? Oh, yes, you can!

People argue about taglines although they have been around for years. They even argue about what they’re called. We’ve seen a variety of names starting with the delightfully old-fashioned “slogan,” through to more modern terms like “strapline,” “baseline,” “endline,” etc. Personally I quite like tagline.

However what matters is not what they’re called, but what they are. People argue about that, too. My own view is that a tagline is a short phrase that supports a name or brand … bringing attention to what the name or brand does for the reader.

In some ways a tagline acts as a microscopic mission statement. Another way of putting it is to call it the opening line of your “value proposition.”

Yes, it’s quite an important little phrase. Particularly with a new project/product/service, it lays the foundation for how that will be perceived.

Developing taglines for major brands and branding exercises is a skilled job and probably not one that should be tackled by the uninitiated. Many different criteria creep into big brand stories and even the experts will spend a lot of money testing taglines, logos, etc. before issuing them.

However using taglines is not restricted to the Kelloggs and Coca-Colas of this world. They are also useful for a variety of other, less global purposes. You may well find them useful to include as subtitles to the name of a project, proposal, report or other business document, by supporting the main title and adding gravitas to it.

So how do we approach creating a tagline?


Many people tell you that the best way to set about creating a tagline is to brainstorm your way through a large selection of words and phrases that you randomly associate with your project. (By project I mean project/product/service, but I’m keeping it down to one word for the sake of brevity.)

They tell you to note down every word that comes into your mind which can be associated with your project. They tell you to look up as much as you can in the dictionary and the thesaurus. Write it all down. Have a word feast and sooner or later the bones of a good tagline will fall out.

Well, I agree with that up to a point. It can be useful. But to my way of thinking there is a shortcut you can take, and that amounts to a reality check. As I suggested earlier, what really makes a good tagline is how it encapsulates what the project achieves for the intended audience.

So, when I’m attempting to create a tagline, that’s what I look at first.

I say to myself, OK. What does this project really achieve – or intend to achieve – for its recipients? In other words, does it offer a key benefit?

Then I start writing down ideas that encapsulate that. Not what the project means to me, or to the client, or to the Board of Directors. What it means to the recipient of the project. What it will do for him/her. What its key benefit is. (I know, I keep harping on about focusing on benefits and “what’s in it for them.” But in business, what else is there to keep the wheels turning?)

And if you keep those thoughts firmly in your mind, suddenly you’ll find you’re writing tagline ideas that are much crisper, more focused, and more relevant.

How to handle too many benefits

A few years ago I was called in by a chain of estate agents (realtors) in the UK to help them develop their marketing message. I arrived to find half a dozen sweaty, harassed team members all working away on long lists of genuine benefits that their company offered customers. Many of those benefits were unique to the company, and their service offering truly was excellent.

However that was part of the problem; there were too many benefits. Despite hours of brainstorming they hadn’t yet been able to see the wood for the trees. It was time for me to speak up.

“OK,” I said. “Let’s group all those benefits together for a moment. What do they achieve collectively for the customer? What is one of the biggest negatives about buying and selling your home? And how do we overcome that?”

Gradually, I saw some light bulbs switching on over people’s heads. “Yes,” I said as they all started smiling. “We take the stress out of it.” Not only did that get developed into a tagline – it also formed the basis of their value proposition over the ensuing months and was very successful.

The takeout point here, is stand back and look at the tagline from different angles. Brainstorm your benefits, then ask yourselves what those benefits achieve collectively. I know this is an awful cliché, but “think outside the box.”

How it works in practice

Let’s look at a couple of examples now. First, the self-indulgent, zero-benefit variety that sadly you still see today;

“We’re no 1”

“The finest pizzas in town”

“First for XXX software”

As we’ve seen, a tagline needs to be developed on the basis of what is achieved for the recipient by the name or brand the tagline supports. To do this it needs not only to say what you want recipients to believe, but also why they should believe it.

So how about “we’re no 1 because we work harder for you” … ? If you must say you’re no 1 at anything, don’t expect anyone to believe it unless there’s some sort of justification.

How about “pizzas that turn on your tastebuds” … ? If you say “the finest” it’s tempting to reply, “so what do they taste like?” This version, then, makes it clear.

And how about “first for XXX software that grows your business – not your costs” … ? Once again, an upfront benefit that justifies and qualifies your “first” status.

Finally, there’s the issue of sound and rhythm in a tagline. Even if it isn’t destined to be spoken or sung in a TV commercial, a tagline that “sounds” attractive will be more easily remembered than one which uses awkward words and construction, no matter how accurate.

By all means use the literary tricks of alliteration and assonance, even rhymes if the topic is fairly light-hearted. Use “active voice,” not passive voice. Use short words rather than long ones, and keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum.

How to write taglines and much  more:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. Great advice and very well written : )
    Taglines are always an exciting challenge but are often misunderstood, too generic or over-exaggerated. Short, to the point, stating a justifiable differentiator unique to your business and if possible it should also sound good.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Susan – I think writing taglines is an exciting challenge, too – a lot of fun. It’s almost a slightly uncomfortable cross between business and poetry … would you agree?


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