Here is a little-known fact about me. I’m a tagline junkie. I love them. I secretly love coming up with them. Sometimes they just fly out of my mouth. Other times I slide them in when I’m working on marketing materials or websites for clients. When I was a child, I used to make up commercials using the products in the shower – shampoo, conditioner, soap….you name it.  In fact, one of the first I can remember making up is for a lotion called Soft Sense.

“Soft Sense. Not nonsense, GOOD sense.”

I had a voice and tone all picked out, held the bottle up at the appropriate time…maybe if they’d had my brilliant tag line and campaign idea back, then they’d still be around today! Just sayin’ – but I digress.

So now that you know how much taglines mean to me, imagine my distress when I read a recent article recently whose headline began:

“Are taglines still relevant? Heineken says no.”

WHAT? WHY???? NO! With all the amazing taglines that have been written, printed, sung and spoken over my 46 years on this earth, some permanently embedded in my brain for LIFE, how could this even be an option. What is a BRAND without a catchy TAGLINE? Come now Heineken marketing team. This cannot be true.

Or is it?

I decided to do a little research to see – is there any truth to this? As a starting place, I pulled up the most recent list of Fortune 500 companies and then looked at their ads over the past 1-3 years. My findings proved that, in fact, some companies are dumping the tagline in their overall marketing campaigns/strategy. And in the cases where there was no tagline, the brand itself was the closing element. And it worked.

But I’m going to save this section of the blog for “part 2”, because this whole whirlwind of emotion triggered yet a deeper question…what IS a tagline?. And what differentiates it from a slogan or campaign? What you say? Aren’t they one in the same? Well, actually no.

A tagline’s “special purpose” (insert reference to The Jerk hahahaha) is to act as an identifier for the overall brand. It aims to stick into your brain like a bad song you can’t shake so that every time you hear it, you know who, or what, it is for, why it is better than someone else’s, and what is special about it. It can help form the emotional connection that all brands strive for, and invokes a feeling every time you encounter it.

A slogan on the other hand, is something marketers use as part of an advertising campaign or to promote something very specific. The differentiator is that it is used more for a short-term identifier or feeling. I can (and should) certainly tie in with the brand, but it’s not meant to be the identity of the product or brand.

Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Walmart

The company tagline, which was updated several years ago, proudly reads “Save Money. Live Better.” This is a clear identification of the brand. Walmart is all about low prices, and they’re making an emotion tie-in about what saving money can do for you – it can help you live better.

Yet while this tagline is in place, there are several advertising slogans for various campaigns the company is does throughout the year. For example, there are the commercials featuring rollbacks, like this one for Holiday Rollbacks. Then there’s the campaign highlighting online ordering with free pickup and delivery services that don’t really feature any kind of slogan at all.

Is this a demonstration that the tagline is dead, or that marketers are exchanging the tagline for the ad campaign. Hardly. In fact, in the online ordering commercials, you can clearly see Walmart bags throughout which display the brand’s tagline.

  1. Nike

Just Do It has been one of the most successful and most identifiable tag lines of our time. Brand recognition based on the phrase spans several generations. The phrase is not only used by the brand in many marketing efforts, but can be seen on athletic gear of all kinds, on people all over the world. World-class athletes support, live and breathe this mantra, and becoming a spokesperson for Nike is one of the most sought after and coveted achievements one can reach.

A more recent campaign Nike launched centered around some of its supporters displaying their obsessive loyalty and love for the brand in the “It’s Gotta Be The Shoes.”

And it must be working because my friend Angela recently took her son back to school shopping and was talked into (by incessant pleading, begging, tears, and temper tantrums) purchasing a pair of Nike KD shoes for a whopping $125. Her son is eleven.

  1. Allstate

Insurance giant Allstate’s  “You’re in good hands” tagline has been a staple in house and auto insurance since 1950, and I’m quite certain we’ll all always think of Michael Moore’s smooth and deep tone settling in our ears, saying to us “…you’re in good hands with Allstate.” I suppose that sort of makes sense in light of the ad campaign they’ve been running with the Mayhem character who always seems to inspire, well, mayhem. Their brand is all about supporting people when they’re in trouble, when you most need someone to help (your in good hands).

Their Mayhem ad campaign, and the mischievous yet lovable character who goes along with it, is a demonstration of that commitment.

The fact that Allstate’s tagline has been alive and well all these years is yet another indicator that the tagline is not dead. Far from it.

I realize I may have given you a lot to digest, but it is really interesting to go back and dissect the slogan vs. campaign idea. And hopefully, helping determine the differences will keep the ideas flowing in regard to helping one support the other for your brand.

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art director/design master/dog whisperer