When you think of Hall of Fame-level company taglines, a manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment probably isn’t the first to come to mind.
Instead, most people think of “Just Do It.” “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Or even “You’re in good hands.”
Those are good, for sure. But they’re not great.
Here’s why John Deere wins the tagline wars with “Nothing Runs Like a Deere”:
- It speaks to a major brand attribute. These products are FAST. So you can get more done in less time.
- It’s not limiting. When the company broadened its product lines beyond agricultural into industrial equipment, the tagline still captured its value proposition.
- There’s no confusion over exactly whose equipment you’re talking about. So unlike “Just Do It,” this tagline is too specific to be attributed to a competitor.
Writing a kickass tagline is tough, there’s no doubt. But you can increase your odds of creative success by analyzing and emulating just what makes a tagline great. In addition to being unmistakably tied to your brand like John Deere, highly effective taglines often follow one or more of these models:
Incorporating clever word play. Tropicana was onto something with “Squeeze the day.” A play on the English translation of carpe diem (popularized in the movie Dead Poets Society), the tagline reflected the energy-boosting qualities of orange juice (Vitamin C! Sugar!) in encouraging people to make the most of every minute.
Realtor.com has also mastered the art of wordplay with “To each their home.” Same with Universal Studios Theme Parks’ “Let Yourself Woah.” Check the price of a wand at Diagon Alley and you’ll be saying “Whoa!” with a slightly different emphasis. (Yes, the spelling is a nit-picky annoyance but it’s still a pretty decent tagline.)
Evoking an emotion or mindset that makes sense for your brand. It took me a minute to grasp the sly, multilayered power of LL Bean’s “Be an outsider.” First, Be an = Bean, so it kinda sorta sneaks in the name of the brand. Next, there’s the multiple meanings of the term outsider. It connects to the brand as a purveyor of outdoor apparel, but it also speaks to everyone’s secret desire to be a nonconformist. In addition to being a powerful tagline, it’s also now a brilliant hashtag.
“Long Live Dogs” from The Farmer’s Dog also falls firmly in this category by planting a super-subtle seed of fear in the mind of every dog owner. Of course I don’t want to shorten my furry BFF’s time on this earth by feeding them inferior brown pellets from the (gasp!) grocery store.
Leveraging familiarity without being repetitive. American Express struck gold in the 1970s with the long-running “Don’t leave home without it.” And they were smart enough to leverage the extraordinary equity it built with a new iteration four decades later: “Don’t live life without it.”
Capital One achieves the same goal in a slightly different way. Though “What’s in your wallet?” doesn’t change, the rotating cast of celebrity spokespeople delivering it does. Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner appeal to slightly different fan bases, but their delivery of the same brash tagline provides continuity across audiences and platforms. It even earned its own meme generator.
Going head to head with the competition. My personal favorite is the non-so-subtle difference in brand values reflected in the taglines of Home Depot and Lowes a few years back. The somewhat begrudging “You can do it. We can help.” was a sharp contrast to the more inviting and collaborative “Let’s build something together.”
Another classic example is car rental company Avis. After years of playing catch-up to brands like Hertz, Avis decided to lean into its #2 position in the market with “We try harder.” Because who doesn’t root for the underdog?
Most importantly of all, make sure your tagline is 100% reflective of your brand positioning. Imagine walking into a garbage-strewn Magic Kingdom filled with broken-down rides and peeling paint. Your first thought would likely be, “The happiest place on Earth? I think not!” A tagline that misses the mark is worse than no tagline at all.
It’s time to unleash your creative best self, leverage your brand positioning and competitive strengths, and come up with a tagline that will serve your organization well for years to come.
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