Call It Brandline Not A Tagline

Many economic development organizations and communities view branding as the creation of a logo and catchy tagline. They believe it is as simple as being clever, catching people’s attention and your brand will work hard to attract investment from tourists and business executives. Unfortunately, many creative Agencies fuel that misperception by encouraging communities to engage in logo redesign work under the guise of “rebranding”.

A brand is a promise. It sets an expectation of an experience. Branding is the proactive management of a complex delivery system to ensure the promised experience is reliably delivered each and every time.

Logos, taglines, advertising, promotional programs are all tools for communicating your community promise. If you do not have a clear handle on what your community promise is, do not waste your time or money on a new (or revised) logo and tagline.

For a tagline to be effective, it must clearly communicate your community’s promise.

Eric Swartz promotes himself as the Tagline Guru. His client list is truly impressive. You would think the Guru of taglines would have the quintessential tagline for his company. Eric doesn’t disappoint. His company tagline is “It’s Your Brand On The Line”.

In a succinct statement, Eric highlights the most important thing to remember about taglines. A great tagline, at its core, explains your brand promise. If you read more of the information on Eric’s website, you’ll see there are other aspect like memorability, simplicity, relevancy and a host of other characteristics that will set your tagline apart. But, the most important in my mind, is the ability to communicate what you are promising.

Bad Taglines Are Unfortunately Everywhere

A friend sent me a link to an Advertising Age article on the worst city taglines. The author gave Buffalo, NY lead coverage with the launch of their new tagline – “Buffalo. For Real.” The criticism is that the tagline doesn’t mean anything. The community’s promise is far from obvious.

You are probably thinking that Buffalo is simply an exception, and most communities really have effective taglines. But what about Hooker, Ok – “It’s a Location, Not a Vocation”. Huh? Really

Or, Chandler, AZ – “High-Tech Oasis of the Silicon Desert”

Or, Weed, CA – “Weed Like to Welcome You”

There are plenty more examples of complete misses that will amuse you (unless of course your city is one of them).


Before you engage an Agency to redesign your logo, or create a new tagline, be certain you have a clear handle on your community’s promise. Provide a copy of your promise to the Agency and judge any proposed tagline concept on the criteria of how effective it is in communicating your promise. If it fails to do so, reject it. Don’t try and fix it, reject it. My experience is that trying to fix a bad tagline rarely transforms it into a great tagline. Send the Agency back to the drawing board.

Is there anything worse than not having a great tagline?

Linesville, PA – “Where the Ducks Walk on Fish”.

Yes, having a bad tagline is far worse than not having a tagline at all.

What is Your 2 Cents?

Do you have examples that are not on the list but should be? Leave a comment and share.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Eric La Brecque

    June 7, 2011

    We couldn’t agree more. We specifically recommend against tag lines for cities and regions for precisely this purpose—they distract from the bigger, deeper work the brand has to do. Worse, they trivialize this work. We see so many RFPs that continue to lay undue emphasis on taglines and logos at the expense of, say, arriving at a compelling brand narrative. A shame, because we suspect that even the communities issuing the RFPs know there’s an element of magical thinking in this: Too often, their budgets are too small to really build the tools and systems to drive long-term, sustainable change. And as long as we’re having a conversation around taglines, logos and the like we can’t argue for the commitment of time and resources that will get real results.

    We’re out to break a vicious cycle: Communities committing too little to achieve results out of a misguided sense of what’s most important, failing to see results, and therefore re-committing too little yet again.

    It’s up to us as consultants to educate communities as to a better approach. We welcome the invitation to consult on the RFPs themselves.

  2. […] brands at P&G I actually insisted my team avoid the term tagline and instead refer to it as a brand line. My rationale was that too many times Agencies lose sight of the lines strategic […]

  3. […] Meaningful, Motivating and Memorable.  Great taglines reinforce your community’s promise.  They are the succinct and compelling articulation of your promise.  The best taglines encourage action.  They help cause the reader to want to learn more about […]

  4. […]   […]

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