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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