Taglines may seem like a just a few words next to a logo, but they can really help define and differentiate your core brand message in seconds. A slogan can be the difference between grabbing a visitor’s attention or losing them to your competitor.

You’ve got yourself a good domain, built a really neat site, designed a cool logo, completed your SEO checklist, and if you’re lucky got a good copywriter to crank out some some engaging content for you.

There’s just one more thing you might want to think about. A tagline.

A tagline? What’s that?

You know, a catchy slogan that’s easy to remember.

Why would I need one of those?

So visitors to your site can ‘get’ what you’re all about in four seconds.

I call it the “four-second philosophy”. I chose four seconds because it sounds good, but it really means anywhere between four and ten.

The philsophy goes like this: It’s not called an Internet “browser” for nothing. Because of the nature of the web, you’re competing for the right eyeballs against an almost constant search for something better. If the audience isn’t digging what you’ve got in four seconds (and definitely no more than the magic ten), they’re gone and there’s not much chance they’re coming back.

So what do people look at when they show up without knowing much about you? Your brand, your logo, your design, and as much text as it takes to know that you’ve got what it takes to hold their attention. They want you to stand out from the crowd, to speak to them in a way pushes your competitors into the background. Which is where that tagline comes in.

Taglines are what I call “short form copy”, a phrase that encapsulates, elucidates, entertains, and engages. And that’s just the E’s. Or in other words, it’s a line that quite simply speaks to you. And if it connects with a site visitor on a human level, it might just start that most priceless of internet commodities – a conversation.

There’s a very small but growing group of people out on the Internet, of which I am one, who specialize in writing catchy slogans for businesses and campaigns. Writing a bad tagline is pretty easy, and you can find them almost anywhere, but a good one requires a little extra something that some of us have and some of us don’t. I didn’t get the ball skills of Lionel Messi, but hey, I almost got the next best thing. I can string a few words together.

In the spirit of internet goodwill, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few slogan writing secrets with the Econsultancy digital marketing community, so that you can see if you’ve got what it takes. If you nail your own
slogan, major kudos to you, because it ain’t easy. But If you don’t or you want a
little help, get onto Google and find the tagline and slogan professional that’s
right for you.

So here goes with that list.

Start with your own creative brief

A creative brief is the gateway to what you need in a tagline, and primarily consists of answers to some key marketing questions about your business.

How do you want your brand to be seen? How would you describe it in human terms? What’s your target audience? Ask and answer key questions about your company as objectively as you can.

The English language is your best friend

Call me biased, but to me English is the ultimate toy-box of of meaning, intent, and implication. Hints, juxtapositions, puns, and punctuation are all there to be constructed and deconsructed like a huge bin of Lego.

A slogan is like a poem. It’s something you can sketch, build, take apart and build again. Creating a good tagline has to be fun, or it won’t be good.

Don’t settle for the first great idea you have

When I write lines for a client, I carefully study the creative brief they deliver me, and let that inspire lines choices that test a series of directions expressed by the brief.

Don’t be happy with the first decent concept that makes you say “By George, I’ve got it!”

Keep it simple

Let’s face it. All of us think we’re wonderfully clever. And one of the ways we express our fabulousness is by using long words, you know, to show off how smart we are.

Unfortunately, when it comes to taglines, that impulse has precisely the opposite effect. It only shows how verbose and tedious we can be and is a real switch off.

The research shows that it’s just the way our minds are wired, but shorter single syllable words have more immediacy and impact. They’re easier to understand and visualize. And long words take longer to compute, so they take up valuable attention-grabbing time.

When you only have that four seconds, losing even one to a mouthful of syllables is a bad idea.

Taglines have a music of their own

Just like one of Beyonce’s back-up dancers, taglines need rhythm. Make the most of the music of your line to help them connect to your site vistors.

Even in a few words, a great line can have a flow and a rhythm of its own, and that can make it catchy in sound as well as meaning. Listen to your lines out loud and hone them down to give them more special sauce.

The truth and nothing but

The internet may be full of bluster and linkbait, but when it comes to your tagline, If it doesn’t ring true, it’s not going to do you any good.

Your slogan is high-return content. It’s at the top of your site, so people know it’s money. And if they can’t trust that, it instructs how they feel about the rest of your offering.

Longer really is better

The fashion for three word taglines isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Unless your brand is super-recognised, stringing together a couple of words and hoping they’ll have big impact is fool’s gold. It’s almost certainly not going to happen.

The longer your slogan or tagline, the more options you have, and the more conversational and human it can be. Of course, you can take this notion too far. There’s a big difference between a phrase and a sentence, and you definitely don’t want your tagline to seem like a paragraph.

Warning! Keep the buzz words out

Buzz words are the work of lazy writers and lazy is definitely not something you want associated with your company or brand.

Steer clear of “out of the box, game-changing ideations, of your key performance indicating, revenue generating core concept” if you want to give that fast moving internet audience a reason not to click the back button.

Borrowing it isn’t the same as building it

Your tagline speaks for your brand. And your brand needs to inspire, not be inspired by someone or something else. You may think that paying
homage to a great line or idea might let a little of its greatness brush off on
you, but it won’t. If your line feels second-hand, even if it’s accidental, it’ll
just make your tomorrow business look like yesterday’s man.

Half an idea doesn’t cut it

Don’t expect your audience to finish a thought for you. They won’t do that in four minutes let alone four seconds. Everyone’s far too busy and impatient to work too hard. They’d rather just be entertained and informed by you and your site.

In short, if they think or even worse see an ellipsis, they’ll just….move on to the next, probably before your four seconds are even up.

Humour rules

At its core, good marketing is really a seduction. And one of the best ways to seduce is with laughter. True wit is real power. But don’t be clever for clever’s sake unless you actually want to blow it.

Being funny, really funny isn’t that easy. It’s something that you’re born with. If you’re not naturally funny, which is no crime, you’re better off hiring someone to be funny for you.

Clichés are like, way bad news

Using anything that smacks of a cliché in your tagline is strictly verboten in every respect. The reason Is simple. To you it might be a giggle but your visitors it looks like you picked some vaguely connected cliche INSTEAD of a tagline. That would be bad news.

Go with your gut

There’s no science to writing a great slogan. At the end of the day, you can read a hundred how-tos on the subject, but it’s all art. Or to put it another way, when it feels right, it probably is right.

Formulas are good for learning a strong foundation, but when you’re trying to nail your line, use what you’ve learned to go with your gut on the right slogan.

Shout it out

The phrases you remember best are the ones that talk to you. In other words they’re like what the media likes to call ‘sound bites’. But a sound bite can be delivered anywhere, camera or no camera.

The key is that it has to be memorable. Something people discuss. The same is true of taglines. They need to feel natural. So always ay your line ideas out loud. If it sounds like something you’d never say or hear said, ditch it.

Clever might not do the trick

The internet audience likes its content blunt. I mean we love all our internet surfing brothers and sisters and all, but keep it obvious. Of course, the challenge is to keep it fresh at the same time. Told you this wasn’t easy.

Check it before you use it

I’m not a lawyer, so make sure you consult one before you publish any tagline or slogan.

Why? Tons of reasons, but here’s just one. You came up with a winner line and put it on your site. Everyone loves it. Conversions are up, and there are smiles all round the office, until you get that ‘cease and desist’ letter from a competitor in your business space who came up with something just like it. Oops.

Tagline doctors are trained to help

Well not really. It just comes naturally. We know that you know that services cost money, and we know that you know you’d rather spend it on other stuff. But we’re here for you if you decide to go with a pro.

Happy Taglining!

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