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Creating An Effective Tagline

Joey Tackett

Managing Director, Branding, Forum One

Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, embodied her brand exquisitely in her iconic five-word speech at the Webby Awards—“Sometimes, geeks can be chic” 

This speech format is possibly the cruelest, yet most brilliant and creative thing, to ask star-studded and industry winners to follow—accept your award with only FIVE WORDS. Not one, or two, or 10. You get five. 

Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue

Beyond the fun of watching these creative speeches, this exercise is something every organization should do when they are thinking about how to express their brand’s value to the world. Forget the elevator pitch; you get a short sentence that has a period. That’s it. Done. You get one chance, so make every word count. Developing an effective tagline is exactly the same exercise. Nail it, and you can become instantly memorable.

Effective taglines achieve three things:

  1. They are clear and concise. 
  2. They make an emotional connection.
  3. They embody your brand personality.

Let’s look at these aspects of an effective tagline in more detail.

Be clear and concise 

Okay, let me be clear: I am not saying your tagline must be only five words. Though, that is often a great place to start. In most cases, six or seven words are the maximum number for an effective tagline. Shorter is great, too. The more important objective is to make the most of every word in the tagline. 

Your tagline is part of a three-part brand core. Essentially, if you boil your brand communication vehicles down to their purest form, these three things are most commonly the communications vehicles that people see the most.

Because of this importance as part of your brand communications strategy, your tagline needs to achieve one or more of the following three things:

  1. Clearly convey what you do
  2. Clearly convey how you are different
  3. Clearly convey the future state you promise

Depending on how well your name or logo visuals communicate what you do, you may need to rely on your tagline to do that along with one or more of the other things. If you are working with an unclear acronym and no logo visuals, your tagline is essential to communicate all of these things. 

Examples of nonprofit brands that do this well: 

  • Atla: Collectors & Connections in Religion & Theology
  • amfAR: Making AIDS history
  • SAVE: Let’s end abuse right here. 

Make an emotional connection

The most effective taglines make people feel something. 

This could be humor, like in the case of Anna Wintour’s Webby speech that made people chuckle with a dry joke that she delivered quite seriously. This could be through making a bold claim, like our very own Creative Director, Corey Jones, did in his 2017 five-word speech for our two Webby awards for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s website design: “Black history is America’s history.” 

Making an emotional connection involves the whole package, including your words and the overall tone. 

Examples of great taglines that do this very well:

Embody your brand essence

Does your tagline sound like your organization? Does it evoke the emotions that you hope to engage in people? This final aspect is very much about the framing and tone of your tagline. 

Examples of great taglines that do this very well:

Your tagline success checklist

  1. Is it seven words or less?
  2. Is it crystal clear what we do and/or how we do it?
  3. Does it make people feel something (ask a few people, they will tell you)?
  4. Does it evoke your brand essence—your personality and your style?

 

Need help expressing your brand’s vision?

Get in touch today! Forum One’s brand experts work with some of the most influential nonprofit brands to craft strong messaging and visuals that advance their missions. We would love to discuss how to strengthen your brand.

Written By

Joey Tackett

Managing Director, Branding, Forum One