Taglines are the verbal earworms of the marketing world, burrowing deep into customers' brains and helping them remember what a campaign, brand or your entire business is about.

If they're good, that is.

If they're not...well, let's hope you still have enough money in your pocket for lunch.

So then what makes a tagline irresistible?


3 points to always hit


Amy Halford, marketing lead at Anytime Fitness, lays out the three most important building blocks of a fantastic tagline.


1. The tagline accurately communicates your brand promise. If you're going to promise your customer something, you have to dig deep, look beyond functional benefits and know exactly what your purpose is and why you're taking action in the first place. You need to know and emotionally connect with your customers beyond the stereotypical profiles.


"Purpose is not a definition of brand values," Hatford stresses. "Purpose is a brand's reason for existence, and a strong brand purpose is related to serving a highly relevant consumer need."

"Building a purpose is not a shallow endeavor. It requires honesty about the strength of the brand, a commitment to the values associated with the stated brand purpose, and a manifestation across every touchpoint the consumer encounters."

Customers will share stories about their experience with you. Seek those stories out so every employee grasps the powerful influence they have and the value of what they do.


2. Your message is pithy. Customers don't have the time--nor the interest--for longwinded ambiguities that go nowhere. Be blunt and say what you mean. Go for the emotional jugular every time.

Think of the great slogans from brands like McDonald's ("I'm lovin' it"), Nike ("Just do it") or Apple ("Think different"). Two, three words and that's it! Brevity works in creating a punch.


3. The words are sticky and have longevity. Stickiness just refers to how memorable the message is for the long haul.

D.D. Kullman outlines the six characteristics that will keep your headline in customers' brains on the Zion & Zion blog:

  • Descriptive (e.g., function, character, need or wish)
  • Tells people your unique selling proposition (what sets you apart)
  • Short and concise (Halford recommends no more than 5 words)
  • Catchy (mnemonic devices like rhyme, alliteration or simple cleverness matter!)
  • Long-lasting (goes beyond trends to communicate an essential truth)
  • Relevant (aligns to your company, values and customers; feels authentic)

How to test the strength of your tagline


Once you've clarified your purpose, use this trick from Halford to evaluate your tagline options.

Chant them.

Chant-worthy taglines will have a rhythm to them. They sound natural and are even fun to say. And those qualities will encourage other people to repeat the tagline without feeling like it's work or awkward. They won't get distracted by the feeling that something in their subconscious is alerting them that there's something "off" in the message.

The last step is to take only the chant-worthy headlines and evaluate them for whether they hit the sentiment you want to communicate based on your brand strategy.

"Share your tagline with people who have experience with your brand," Halford suggests. "If it's true and meaningful, they will react in an emotional way. We shared our new tagline, 'Let's Make Healthy Happen', with our franchisees at our annual conference and they cheered, some of them exclaiming, 'That's exactly what we do!' If you get an emotional response and head nods, then you know you are onto something. If you hear crickets chirping, go back to the drawing board."