Taglines (by Erika White)

Taglines: A Sign of the Times or a Pastime?

Be brief or be gone. This is something we’ve all probably heard directly or indirectly as we’ve acclimated to various workplaces. Everyone, especially management, is pressed for time. So much so that more and more people have started referring to time as their “most precious resource.” But, in a constantly connected world, how long is long enough and how short is too short? Advertisers seem to be trying to answer this very question.

Recently, Visa Inc. announced that it would be retiring its global tagline “Go” and resurrecting a shorter version of a tagline that the Company previously used in the United States (Elliott, 2014). Visa’s “new” global tagline is “Everywhere you want to be.” This may sound familiar to many of you since the Company previously used “It’s everywhere you want to be” for their tagline in the U.S. While the removal of a single word may not seem that significant, the decision supports a trend towards shorter taglines—a trend supported by a variety of companies including Alka Seltzer and Masterpiece Theatre who have cut a word or words out of their taglines recently (Elliott, 2014).

Visa creative activiation

While some companies have tightened taglines to accommodate a world that is short on time, the trend of tightened taglines began well before this year and last. For instance, Dodge changed its ad slogan from “Grab life by the horns” to “Grab life” in 2007 (Wert, 2007). The transition had a different motive associated with it—to attract more women to the brand. Coke also transitioned to a more inclusive tagline in 2009—Open Happiness—to broaden its appeal (Yohn, 2013). Coke chose this short and sweet tagline to keep up with brands that were transitioning away from declarative statements in their taglines and towards lines that were more inviting (Yohn, 2013).

Whether a brand is shortening its tagline to save its audience time, to market to a new audience or to appeal to the changing needs of its audience, the fact is that brands have been shortening taglines for years—some brands, such as Starbucks and Apple, even to the point that they don’t have one (Yohn, 2013).

As a consumer, do you think taglines are trying to keep up with us or dying all together? Please share some of the taglines you find most memorable and the years they were launched. Maybe our perceptions of taglines have changed over the years and we’ve been too busy to even notice…

 

References

Elliott, S. (2014). Visa trims slogan to expand meaning. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/business/media/visa-trims-slogan-to-expand-meaning.html?hpw&rref=business&_r=0

Wert, R. (2007). Dodge needs women: Chrysler brand shortens slogan for her pleasure. Jalopnik.com. http://jalopnik.com/251767/dodge-needs-women-chrysler-brand-shortens-slogan-for-her-pleasure

Yohn, D.L. (2013). The Death of the tagline: Flexible branding is the new name of the game. Adweek.com. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/death-tagline-152255

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6 Responses to Taglines (by Erika White)

  1. Amy Bozic says:

    Erika,
    This is a thought-provoking post!

    While shorter taglines are attributed to the consumer time-crunch, I wonder how many advertisers shorten their taglines because of short attention spans. If it’s short, it’s more memorable. But not always – some taglines are shortened to the point where they are robbed of meaning. They don’t trigger thoughts about the product and nothing evokes an emotional response or a desire to know more about the product.

    In 1988, “Just Do It,” elevated a floundering sportswear company, Nike, to the top of the heap (Resource, n.d.). I believe that, in the process, Nike and their tagline/slogan helped motivate people to get off the couch. Nike, like few other companies, has proved taglines can help establish a company’s identity. I think taglines are here to stay, because consumers relate to them – when they are good.

    Resource Center. (n.d.). The 10 best slogans and taglines of all time. Retrieved February 27, 2014, from http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/lib/10-best-slogans-of-all-time.htm

  2. Misty Brown says:

    I hadn’t stopped to think about the fact that Starbucks never used a tagline. Apple is less of a surprise, as they do not even use the word apple and most of their marketing materials. In congruence with its one-button iPhone, the absence of words in Apple’s marketing fits cleanly into the brand premise.

    One of history’s most iconic taglines is more than a quarter of a century old and belongs to Nike: Just do it (Wikipedia, n.d.). There are many things that make this slogan so successful:

    1. Brief — Sometimes three is better than one. Visa’s retired “Go” may have been a space-saver but also perhaps too ambiguous.

    2. Inspiring — This is a statement, a mantra and a complete thought all in one. It’s intentionally and successfully ambiguous and gives Nike the flexibility to apply it across any sport, goal or activity.

    3. Clear — Second-grade reading levels can both pronounce the phrase and comprehend the tagline’s meaning. It makes it easy to use in more countries despite language and culture differences, and it allows Nike to grab a broad market share that crosses generations.

    4. Timeless — This tagline is not dependent on a decade or even a century of activity. It supersedes the confines of a particular society.

    When I was the copywriter for automaker Isuzu in the early 2000s, it used the tagline “Go farther.” I loved it for all of the reasons I outlined for Nike. Now Ford uses “Go further,” which is far less successful, if for no other reason than it is grammatically incorrect. (Oh, and it’s far from original.)

    Thank you for a great post. Taglines are one of my favorite topics, and you provided a lot of food for thought.

    Reference
    Wikipedia (n.d.). Just Do It. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Do_It

    • Erika White says:

      Interesting to see Nike twice here! I was thinking about them as I constructed this post. I think one of the reasons that campaign “stuck” so well is because is was associated with human stories through the creative advertising that accompanied it. I agree with Amy that taglines are likely to stay around, but brands that want to make them “short and sweet” will have the added obligation of providing intriguing context that really make them “stick.”

  3. Michele says:

    Hi Erika,

    I noticed the Visa commercial during the Olympics but didn’t realize that the tagline had changed. However, I did notice that they were using “everywhere” differently, making it more a state of mind rather than a physical location. It struck me that Visa was saying not just that you can go anywhere in the world and still use Visa but that you can use Visa to help achieve whatever your dreams are. This message seemed like a response to MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign which focuses not on the purchase itself but on the resulting experience.

    I did a little research after reading your post and I found that an article that described Visa’s reasoning when it changed it’s tagline from “It’s everywhere you want to be” to “Life Takes Visa.” I found it interesting that Visa’s goals haven’t changed that much between that introduction in 2006 and its introduction of the new tagline now. In 2006, Visa’s goal was “to make an emotional connection with consumers” (Raine, 2006, pgh 10). A spokesperson stated: “Life Takes Visa reinforces our brand promise to deliver innovative products and services that can be used anytime, anywhere, and that empowers Visa cardholders to experience life and business their way and on their terms” (Raine, 2006, pgh). Compare that to their message in 2014 – “it’s about realizing potential and achieving dreams” (Payments News, 2014, pgh 3). The 2014 statement highlights many of the same characteristics as the 2006 one: “New innovations, like mobile and e-commerce, are extending the value and reach of secure Visa payments to new people and places around the world” (Payments News, 2014, pgh 3). Examples given include mobile payments in Rwanda, online payments in California, and the use of prepaid cards in Brazil (Payments News, 2014). The focus remains on innovation, on highlighting both personal and business uses, and on the fact that Visa can be used throughout the world. The tagline may be shorter, but Visa doesn’t want to convey any less – or even any different – information than in the past.

    I also thought about some of my favorite taglines. “Just Do It” from Nike remains one of my favorites. It is connected to Nike but it is more than that. It is an inspirational, aspirational message that can apply to many contexts, both athletic and not. Creating a tagline that can be so much more than a company brand while still being a brand is an impressive achievement.

    Just the other day, I found myself using another tagline that is personally meaningful but that probably didn’t make quite as strong an impression on other people. Do you remember “Time to Make the Donuts” from Dunkin Donuts? I’m not sure that many people do but at the time Dunkin Donuts was using that tagline in their marketing, my mother was managing a competing coffee/donut shop and several members of my family were working there. My family started using “time to make the donuts” as a phrase when we had to stop what we were doing to head into work and we still use it when we have to stop something fun to do something less fun like go to work or, in my case, start homework. While I don’t think any of us will go back to making donuts, that tagline has certainly stuck in my family.

    Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking post!
    Best,
    Michele

    References

    Payments News (2014, January 13). Visa launches “Everywhere You Want to Be” campaign. Payments News. Retrieved from http://www.paymentsnews.com/2014/01/visa-launches-everywhere-you-want-to-be-campaign.html

    Raine, G. (2006, February 8). Visa putting new life in advertising theme. “It’s Everywhere You Want to Be” ends after 20 years. SFGate. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Visa-putting-new-life-in-advertising-theme-2522967.php

  4. Christa says:

    Great work, Erika. Your question really made me think about the particular attributes of a tagline and what makes it stick. Like Heath and Heath have taught us, it’s important to evaluate whether it is a successful idea through their six principles. Is it a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credentialed Emotional Story?

    I do think it’s really important for marketing executives to still focus on the tagline because sometimes, all you have a is a sentence to describe your message. Now, for a very well-known brand out there, that is borderline ubiquitous, it may not be as important. We all know what Coca-Cola is. Their tagline really doesn’t do a whole lot for us.

    That said, some of my favorite taglines include:
    Just Do It. (Nike) Lots of opportunity to stay consistent through executions and mediums.
    When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (FedEx) Very concrete. I know exactly what their business does with this tagline.
    What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. (Vegas) What a great way to story tell.
    Think Outside the Bun. (Taco Bell) It’s original. Unexpected. I didn’t realize that most fast food comes on a bun, until they told me so.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hi Erika,

    Great thought provoking topic! I think the shortened taglines leave no room for error and provides a clear message, such as the example you provided on Dodge: “Grab Life by the horns” versus “Grab Life”. Both have the same meaning and understanding, but the latter seems more general and has the ability to integrate itself into other tags which may bring more notoriety to the brand. I also think it’s a reflection of time restriction as well. Marketers only have a small amount of time to gain consumer’s attention and cutting to the chase is the best way to go.

    In addition to provoking thought I also found this topic really interesting as well because a single word, such as “Thrive” can have just as much appeal and impact as a the longer phrase of “The nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine”. Although Nyquil has recently opted for a shorter versus of “Feel better faster” the earlier tagline was uniquely cleaver and added a description of what the product cures.

    A few common tag lines that I resonate with are (Tagline Guru, 2014):
    The happiest place on earth. Disneyland
    Got Milk California Milk Processor Board

    Best,
    Jennifer

    Reference:

    Adforum (n/d). Retrieved from: http://www.adforum.com/creative-work/ad/player/57583
    Tagline Guru. (2014). Slogan and jingle list. Retreived from: http://www.taglineguru.com/sloganlist.html