By definition, a tagline encapsulates the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a brand’s essence.

According to Toronto Marketing Blog it’s, "a short phrase that communicates the highest priority message about your brand identity, in an evocative manner. It presents a valuable opportunity to communicate point of difference, promises, solutions or benefits, on everything from letterhead to website."

In fact, the tagline of a tagline might be, "What you do best and what I can expect."

Some of the very best taglines in marketing history have actually entered the pop culture:

  1. Wendy’s, "Where’s the beef?"
  2. United Airlines, "Fly the friendly skies"
  3. Avis Rental Cars, "We’re number two. We try harder"

Nowadays, though, few executives truly understand the role of the tagline or, more importantly, how critical it is to deliver on the promise contained in a two or three-word commitment.

Comcast’s tagline, for example, is laughably bad on delivering what the corporation promises. As a long-time, long-suffering subscriber, I can tell you "The future of awesome" only serves to reinforce the misery of the present.

How does your tagline stack up?

I was interested in learning how Inc. 5000 company taglines fared in comparison to their multi-billion dollar kin. So, I decided to select three candidates. I then evaluated their names, taglines and value propositions. Finally, I compared them to what the organizations said on their websites. My goal: to see if gaps existed between what they promised and I experienced.

Fasten your seatbelts. We’re in for a bumpy ride:

Company name: Federal Conference.

Tagline: "Five Star Event planning."

I’d award this organization a four-star rating for its overall brand promise.

On the plus side, the Federal Conference name tells me who they are, and what they do. Their tagline contains a smart, double entendre that promises high quality and resonates with a customer base dominated by former military personnel. That’s quite clever.

And, the Federal Conference’s home page greets the visitor with a reassuring message: "We’ve planned events for the President of The United States. We are confident we can plan yours." That’s outstanding. But, the boast is never backed-up by client testimonials assuring five-star event planning. And, that, dear reader, is a classic mistake made by branding novices. An educated buyer wants third-party assurance that your brand promise is, in fact, a proven experience.

That said, the rest of the site is highly navigable. It lists the impressive credentials of the senior management team, and assures me Federal Conference possesses the right mix of event planners, GSA contract experts, and ethics attorneys to handle any situation. But wait. I’ll need an ethics attorney to manage a cocktail reception?

Company name: Vets First Choice

Tagline: "Your pharmacy. Your clients. Your success."

I initially thought Vets First Choice would take me to a site that provided resources for military veterans. Instead, multiple visuals of dogs, cats and birds told me Vets First Choice is an online pharmacy for veterinarians.

I had several issues with Vets First Choice. First, and most importantly, is the name itself. The organization tells me they’re the go-to choice for vets, yet never once quotes a veterinarian to that effect. Don’t tell me you’re the first choice. Have one of your customers tell me.

The site does contain a compelling video of one animal care provider who explains the benefits of working with Vets First Choice. And, she does say she feels safer using VFC as opposed to, say, other e-commerce sites. But, again, there is a major disconnect between the promise made in the company name and what the website experience provides (which, by the way, should be a relatively easy fix. VFC could shoot a new video with a different vet who confirms she selected Vets First Choice first).

The rest of the site is crisp and complete. It also contains one absolutely critical branding component: a section explaining why Vets First Choice is different from competitors. This seemingly simple component is often buried or missing entirely from other Inc. 5000 sites.

One last growl: The Vets First Choice’s website doesn’t provide any information about the company’s founders or management team. Bad dog! Were I a veterinarian in search of an online e-commerce partner, I’d want to know the breeding of the people to whom I’m entrusting confidential patient information.

Company name: Welldog

Tagline: "Truly Unconventional"

I know what you’re thinking; I discovered Welldog while conducting the Vets First Choice examination. Well, Fido, you’d be wrong. Despite the name and tagline, Welldog has nothing whatsoever to do with the health and wellbeing of canines. Instead, drum roll please, Welldog specializes in coalmining services.

Welldog’s logo is also a disconnect since it depicts the hind quarters of a pooch peering into a hole (or cave, I suppose). And, the tagline, "Truly unconventional" conveys a potentially scary message.

I’m not responsible for specifying or purchasing mining parts or partners, but I have to believe safety and quality are top priorities. Do the words truly unconventional convey either attribute to you? While intended to imply Welldog’s advanced technology and eco-friendly ways, the tagline (not to mention the name) really does the organization a disservice.

I’m not suggesting Welldog isn’t a superior organization. But, as a marketer of some experience, I’d counsel management to create a new logo and tagline. A canary might be the wrong choice, but why not show the alert, cocked head and front paws of a puppy that’s discovered something new to mining and wells? And, please, drop "truly unconventional" now. (Good puppy.)

Mind the gap.

Whether you’re about to launch a new venture or wondering how best to re-invent your current business model, don’t overlook the very real disconnect a simple tagline can cause.

The best taglines are those that explain your organization’s promise and will align perfectly with your customer’s actual experience. Anything else is a dog’s breakfast.