Five Steps to a Killer Tagline

What is a tagline?

Sometimes referred to as a slogan, catch line or strap line, a tagline is a simple and memorable phrase designed to encapsulate a brand’s essence, mission and/or benefit. It should be prepared with great care as it inevitably becomes an integral part of the brand’s image and recognizability.


A well-appointed tagline should: 

  • Clarify your purpose.
  • Act as a pillar to support your business name.
  • Speak directly to your right people.
  • Be compelling enough to allure them into wanting to know more.
  • Be believable and conceivable.
  • Be scalable. (Don’t micro-focus. Allow room for some expansion.)
  • Be concise. (It’s a slogan, not a manifesto.)
  • Be catchy and memorable.
  • Roll off the tongue.
  • Evoke emotion and/or be a call to action.

As a writer, I’ve developed dozens of taglines for businesses. The questionnaire I send to clients before we start the process is intense. That’s because, in my experience, tagline creation is far and away one of the most complex and misunderstood writing processes around. Perhaps that’s because somewhere along the way, it developed a reputation for being a fast & easy process. Au contraire… 

Here are five key steps you need to take before you get tangled up in trying to spawn your magic words:

01. Before you even consider putting pen to paper, you must understand truly, madly and deeply what it is you do. It’s imperative that you fully comprehend your reasons for being in business prior to attempting to explain it to the world in a few short words. This is always harder than you think it is. 

Even if you think you know, dig in a bit more. Consider these questions throughout your thought process:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What’s your claim to fame?
  • How can you succinctly, yet explicitly,  describe what you do?
  • What products or services do you offer?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you offer that others do not?
  • What benefits does your item offer over the competition?


02. Who is your most-likely-to-buy persona? Remember that you are a part of your niche. No matter what it is that you do, you’re best able to serve those who have similar values and belief systems. Note: you’re not seeking a gaggle of doppelgängers, but rather people who share similar passions and virtues, overall.


03. Brainstorm single words that envelop what you’d most like to share. Proper utilization, density and placement of keywords not only earns you some search engine love via subtle SEO, it also helps validate and express your mission and position.

Your keyword contenders should be three things:

  • Understandable.
    Stay away from obscure words that no one gets or you defeat the purpose of a tagline designed to impel, enamor and motivate.
  • Evocative.
    Think of words that are energizing & powerful enough to make them feel compelled to learn more. Words that speak to your right person- either by addressing their needs or goals or by resonating with their personality type.
  • You.
    Your wording needs to reflect your persona. The feeling should mirror your brand personality and yours. Use verbage that speaks to the soul of what you do from your own heart. It should sound like a word you’d use in everyday conversation without sounding contrived.


04. Not to be confused with features, your benefits should describe the positive things that a buyer can expect to receive when they use your product/services. These words should describe what your business/offering can do for the consumer. Which segues us into value…


05. Understand and be able to explain the value they can expect from working with you. This is for your sake as well as theirs. It’s always helpful to reiterate your worth to yourself prior to iterating to your audience.  Because the majority of human decision-making is done emotionally within the subconscious, your value needs to be felt. Appeal to their self-interests by portraying an aura of ‘what’s in it for me’.  This should answer the question: How will their lives be better having done business with you?

:: Now that you’ve got a thorough understanding of your business brand, you’re ready to start thinking about penning your tagline. ::

Your Format:
Taglines can present in a variety of ways, depending on the format and the message you want to get across.

They can:

Promise something.
FedEx: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

Describe the need you fill or goal you help achieve.
Geico: Fifteen minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
Subway: Eat Fresh

Evoke emotion, simply but powerfully.
With a phrase
Disney: The happiest place on Earth.
or, using single words:
Jaguar: Grace. Space. Pace.

Act as a call to action.
Nike: Just do it.

Give your right people a sense of belonging.
(The ole: ‘Hey, that sounds like me!’ factor.)
Harley Davidson: American by birth. Rebel by choice.

Be suggestive.
(This style is especially effective when you’re able to offer some ‘can’t argue with that’ reasoning why it makes perfect sense to use your company.)
Walmart: Save money. Live better.

Your Wording:

  • A tagline doesn’t need to be clever. If it sounds genuinely like your brand, by all means- go with it. But, opting for something less than witty is perfectly acceptable.
  • Homonyms are okay…sometimes. If you’re going to use them, make sure they’re able to be understood instantly. People shouldn’t have to read your tagline more than once to grasp its message. Also, be sure the homonym you choose is germane to your message and doesn’t have any alternate meanings with potentially negative connotations. Take mine for example: Creative Solutions that Mean Business. 
  • Idioms and clichés don’t work well as taglines. Common sense may hint that using memorable, existing phrases will bring your brand to mind whenever the saying it uttered. I beg to differ. These oft-overused phrases are probably already associated with something (other than your brand) in the consumer mind. They feel generic and decidedly un-creative. Besides- if the phrase doesn’t belong to you from the start, it can never really belong to your business.

That’s it!

One last bit of parting advice~
Before you set anything in stone, double-check to ensure that it’s truly authentic. Ask Google. Consult with an attorney. Bounce it off your trusted confidantes to see if they think it sounds even remotely familiar. And, of supreme importance: Before you go live, visit the US Patent & Trade Office to be sure someone else didn’t have your awesome idea before you did.

A memorable, effective tagline is poetry in motion, and creating one is no small task. Be prepared to pour a good deal of time, creativity, and mental energy into it. In the end, the results are more than worth the effort.