A Guide to Writing a Meaningful, Catchy Slogan or Clever Tagline

What is the definition of a slogan or tagline? As defined by Wikipedia: "A tagline is a variation on a branding slogan, often used in advertising and marketing materials. The concept behind a slogan or tagline is to develop a memorable phrase that sums up the premise and tone of a product, service or company, or to reinforce an audience's recall of a product. Some slogans are successful enough to become a part of pop culture."

So, Is that a strong answer to the what's a tagline question?

The “sums up the premise and tone" portion works, because your slogan or tagline should exemplify the essence of your brand – what differentiates you from the competition, why you are better – in a succinct manner. You could call it your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, boiled down to a few carefully chosen, key words.

Is a tagline different than a slogan? Most would consider them one in the same. Consumers most often refer to them as slogans, fondly remembering things like "Where's the beef? That slogan for Wendy's," etc. 

Getting It Down to the True Brand Essence

The lawn sign below promoting an appearance by Vicki Lawrence is an excellent example of winnowing a message down to exactly and only what needs to be communicated. What do you take away from this sign? First, Ms. Lawrence will be in Geneva at the Smith Opera House on the tenth of May. She will, in some way, be performing her well known character "Mama." I communicated the message in 29 words. The sign did the same thing, but needed only nine words! That is effective communication and very fine editing.

How do you figure out what your brand essence is?

Here's an exercise to use. To start, your "strapline" (as they are known in Australia and England) doesn't need to describe what you do. Look at your overall brand identity in terms of a Web site. When someone clicks on your URL, she or he needs to instantly know who you are (a name); what is it that you do or are (product, service or company); and what makes you different and better. The who and what aspects are often covered by your name and accompanying descriptor. 

As an example, let's take Cogswell Cookies and Cakes as an example. Immediately, I get that the company's name is Cogswell, and that they make cookies and cakes. So if your name is Arlen Brothers, make sure you use a descriptor, such as Arlen Brothers Cakes and Cookies. Doing so means that you don't have to make your tag line or slogan work overtime, communicating both what you do AND why you are different and better.

Next step: create a list of phrases and words that are essential to what you do, provide or make focusing on what is important to communicate and what differentiates you from the competition. Staying with cookies, these might include all organic ingredients, no artificial sweeteners, everything make from scratch, custom creations and one-of-a-kind cakes, etc. 

Analyze your list and toss out the parity factors. If enough competitors also don't use artificial sweeteners, this may not be an aspect you wish to promote. It could be "table steaks," as they used to say.

Once you know what you do that they don't, work with your differentiators to create the slogan that sets you apart and conveys your specialness and the value of it to your target audience. In this instance, it could be something like: Cogswell Cookies and Cakes: "Naturally unique. Amazingly delicious."

Be Exactly Like No One Else

A superior, honest, smart branding strategy is to ensure that your messaging is exactly like no one else's. Ponder what really makes you better and different, the uniqueness. If the #1 sprinkler company in the world says "Sprinkler Technology Excellence That Covers the World," using a slogan for your sprinkler business like "A World of Great Sprinklers" will not differentiate your company nearly as much as something that focuses on your USP, such as "More coverage, less water." 

Instead of Bragging About How Wonderful You Are, Communicate Your Consumer Benefits

RE/MAX’s slogan is “Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX.” OK, good for you RE/MAX, but what's in it for me. This boasting doesn't deliver a benefit to the prospect. RE/MAX is counting on me to take a drive and discover the buried advantage for myself. "Hmmm, if they sell more real estate, I guess it would make sense that they'd be the best ones to sell my home."

How about a tagline that says, "Nobody in the world sells more real estate like yours than RE/MAX." Now that's an improvement, because it has personalized the message and made it relevant to me. (RE/MAX recently added a new phrase to their brand positioning: "For all the things that move you." Uh, OK. What exactly are you trying to tell me? Or are you simply being clever without any substance or true and valuable messaging?

Instead of boasting about fabulous or huge you are, remember that (like Mom said), you only get once chance to make a great first impression. Let's say you meet a guy at a party and the first words out of his mouth are, "I was quarterback at Harvard when we won the Ivy League three years in a row," what is your first impression of him? Now, you meet the same guy and he says, "That is a fabulous necklace. I'd love to get one just like it for my mom. Where did you get that?" How has your first impression been altered? When, like our quarterback friend, you focus on what's in it for the customer – the benefits of what you do as opposed to how great thou art – you will make a much better impression and make that prospect care much more about what you are offering. Because now, he or she knows what's in it and valuable for them!

How Many Words In a Slogan Is Too Many?

Recent slogan trends have veered toward the pithy and succinct. The shorter the better is the thought. "I'm Lovin' It." "Turn Here." "Got Milk?" "Just Do It!"

However, think about this: besides "Got Milk?," couldn't many of the other taglines apply to a variety of products and brands in multiple industries? A chain of shoe stores could say, "I'm Lovin' It" in reference to the great array of styles offered and wonderful fit of the shoes.

Ad slogans such as these lack specificity and the critical details that can make a phrase resonate powerfully and connect in a powerful way with the target audience.

Branding Articles: "How to Differentiate Your Brand by Name Alone," and "A Guide to Writing a Meaningful Catchy Slogan or Clever Tagline."

How to Differentiate Your Brand by Name Alone
The words “Resonant Congruent Differentiation,” don't exactly roll off the tongue, or into the mind. The phrase seems more akin to a principle you learned and quickly forget when you were taking "Intro to Psychology." But stick with me, please, and I believe you will see that these three words are not only easy to understand, but make a lot of sense when it comes to creating a powerful, memorable brand name for a company, service or product, and they also are applicable when it comes to personal branding.

Not too long ago, I experienced a spell of roofing angst. Because shingles were on my mind, I began noticing ads and signs for roofers. One yard posting caught my attention: "Mr. Fussy Roofing." Initially, I chortled at this amusing brand strategy. But then I reconsidered, because it hit me: if I'd been aware of Mr. Fussy when I had roofing issues, I'd certainly have called him for an estimate.

This name offers the ideal example of product / service differentiation, thanks to a name that resonates perfectly and is totally congruent. So, despite my initial impression, I now believe that Mr. Fussy is a genius when it comes to marketing. Although I doubt that he boasts an MBA in Marketing, he intuitively understands how to position and strategize for his brand. In other words, Mr. Fussy completely gets the concept of "resonant, congruent differentiation." How so? I'll 'splain, as the late and lamented Ricky Ricardo might say.

What Resonant Congruent Differentiation Really Means

Well work from the last word to the first, just to keep it interesting. Differentiation means why you and different and better than the competition. It's how, in a positive way, that you distinguish your brand from the crowd.

As an example, if every company that makes steel carries the name of the location or owner, such as Willard or Onondoga Steel, not much differentiation will be achieved by naming your company Rogers or Buffalo Steel. Select a brand name like StrongCo Steel and, at the least, you've shown a brand positioning and conveyed some positive benefit via your choice of name.

Next, onto congruent: staying true to the values and qualities that are exemplified by the product / service and communicating the essence of this truth. Let's say you, Mickey Martin, manufacture expensive audio speakers. If you brand them as "Mickey's Speakers," it may not prove to be a congruent name to most of your prospective buyers. Why? Consumers could interpret your product as being a "Mickey Mouse" speaker. Plus, choosing your own name (unless it's Buckingham or Waterford or such), often conveys something of a small-time, low-budget image. Thus, "Mickey's Speakers" is a brand identity that is not congruent with the message you want to immediately communicate, via your name, to the world. Starting out with a name such as this is like deciding to use your 7-iron to tee off on a 550-yard golf hole: you're behind before you start. When you create a more congruent name, you're far more likely to be able to hit the green in 3.

On to resonant: meaning that the name makes the prospect or customer feel in alignment with the key message that your corporate, product or service name communicates. It’s credibility, appropriateness... a connection with your brand essence.

Mr. Fussy Roofing: Our Branding Hero

Let’s use Mr. Fussy Roofing as our example. For right or wrong, roofing contractors do not always have the greatest reputations. People are suspicious of getting ripped off or of shoddy work. (A neighbor had a new roof put on. It drained improperly so water went between the siding and the underlayment. This was, as my daughter says, UNgood. And costly.) Many roofing contractors are small businesses and do not put a lot of thought into their name and marketing approach. (Exhibit #1: A local contractor named DBA Roofing.) Many other MALE business owners would find Mr. Fussy to be too cute or feminine a name, and might instantly rule it out.

However, our Mr. Fussy was not swayed by stereotypes. He went outside the macho comfort zone to create a clever name that resonated congruently with me, his typical audience, and achieved positive supplier differentiation. What do I take away from Mr. Fussy Roofing from the name alone? He cares, he’s different than most, he provides great attention to detail, he’ll likely do an excellent job, and he does roofing. All from three words! And that's great marketing branding even without adding a catchy slogan or creative tagline!

Contrast this with DBA Roofing. All I know is that they do roofing, and perhaps that they couldn’t think of a name until the woman at the county clerk's office asked, "What's your DBA?" I don’t know anything more about what they stand for, what their vision is, or how they do business. Even their tag line, "Roofing since 1964" just lays there, making no promise, delivering no inspired benefit. However, two words – Mr. Fussy – communicates so much more in terms of powerful marketing that is valuable and effective. Mr. Fussy differentiated his business. I get it... and like what he promises, so it resonates with me, and the idea of a roofer being fussy is very congruent and highly desirable.

So Why Don’t More Companies Create Resonantly Congruent Differentiated Names?

There are many reasons: ego, inability to be objective about their own branding strategy and brand personality, stubbornness, caution, corporate culture, a desire to take a safe middle road, and on and on. This desire not to take a chance applies just as often at big corporations as it does in small businesses.

Many people think that Geek Squad is a great name. It’s more fun, evocative and compelling than Your Computer Experts or some other safe, vanilla choice. Yet when it comes to their own name, people get scared and go down a safe path. I recently named a coffee shop “Thanks a Latte.” Would you rather go there for that promised experience or to Herb’s Coffee Hut?

Obviously, you have to take your audience into account. "Thanks a Latte" is aiming for a Starbucks-type of crowd: more upscale, willing to pay a bit more for quality. Yet, in many cases, creating a company name that is striking, and effectively clever will take you so much further, especially if your marketing budgeting is limited. (Hey, isn’t everyone’s?)

Unless you’re one of those cavemen from the Geico commercials, you know that a geek is computer nerd. A geek squad is a whole mess of ‘em. Chances are you’ll find 25 PC repair guys in your Yellow Pages called "Some Name Computer Repair." You’ll only find one Geek Squad. Let’s say you see three commercials. One for Phil’s Computer Shack, another for Waterville Computer Repair, and the third for Geek Squad. Which are you going to remember in terms of marketing branding? And who are YOU going to call?

This brings up another key attribute of memorable, powerful names: attitude. Geek Squad, Thanks a Latte, Mr. Fussy... they all bring a distinctive point of view to the name. A name you can connect with almost viscerally. Consider Mr. Fussy one more time. Who conveys more of a persona in two words: Mr. Fussy or Bob's Roofing? Who communicates more depth of appropriate and convincing meaning in two words? While creating a company name that fits is important, developing one that projects a positive personality, one that you and your business believe in, will go a long way toward achieving true differentiation and memorability. You could say this attitude will give you greater resonance with proper congruence, if you do it properly. Now you truly have a creative, powerful, and clever company personality worthy of promotion that will take your business further.

Do You Want to Describe What You Do, Or Be Memorable?

If you’re going to name your company, stand out from the competition, and be active in marketing, choosing a functional name like The Tofu Shack isn’t really going to dazzle anyone. The Tofu Shack doesn’t go any further than simply being functional on a very basic level, but I've seen worse. Ever notice a truck go by you on the expressway that says something like “Kordis.” They may even have a tag line, such as “Bringing the World to You." Yet you wonder, “What do they do?” Are they importers? A global delivery service? Do they manufacture desktop globes? They have this incredible opportunity to create thousands of consumer impressions a day on the highway and they can’t even be bothered to say what they do. That's not marketing, it's simply a waste of a great moving billboard.

Big companies are fond of neologisms (invented words or terms) such as Claris or Pentium. They get away with it because they have huge budgets. I think you know there’s Intel inside by now. Yet have you ever heard of Comergent? And if you did, would you remember it unless they spent a few million to create branding awareness?

There are other types of names: acronyms, evocative, descriptive, alphanumerical, aspirational and on and on. That’s a topic for a future article.

Yes, your name, brand identity and positioning needs to be more than resonant, congruent, and differentiated. Other essential aspects include being authentic, connected, able to be lived every day, attention to every detail of customer contact, and so on. But an excellent starting point is the resonant/congruent/differentiated test. Think about those ideas in relation to your marketing branding and brand strategy.

Get a Fresh Marketing Approach

If you’d like some fresh thinking about creating a memorable brand name or meaningful catchy slogan or clever tagline, give a call or send an e-mail. After all, wouldn't you love to be able to say that you're resonant, congruent and differentiated?

Chuck Ingersoll. 585.746.2320. E-mail


HOW TO SOLVE 5 Branding Problems related to unfortunate or DULL names 


When you consider "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," "15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance," and "The night time, sniffing, sneezing, coughing, aching, best-sleep-you-ever got- with-a-cold medicine," the addition of more words and specific, key, descriptive, powerful words makes a world of difference and communicates far more effectively.

Geico tells you about the value of saving money in a completely literal way: take a few minutes and gain significant savings. If they simply said, “Pay less with Geico,” there would not be the same depth of meaning or essential communication. Credibility is conveyed via specifics. 

Then think about the Las Vegas brand positioning. It's not lengthy, but it's almost like their slogan conjures up a short story in your mind of wonderful and wild ideas. And they accomplished this in a mere seven words.

The message: don't get hung up on some mandatory guideline such as "Our slogan must be four words or shorter." Those fifth, sixth and seventh might be exactly the ones needed to forge an emotional connection, bond with your audience, and create the true resonant, congruent differentiation that shouts why you are really different and better.

Call On Us for Smarter Branding Strategy

We create meaningful slogans and tag lines, and memorable names. If you are looking for that perfect, catchy slogan or clever tagline and a better branding approach, please get in touch.

Chuck Ingersoll. 585.746.2320. E-mail

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Problem 1: Clueless About Your Bad Name

The nice people at Tastes Like Grandma Homemade Jams are likely blissfully unaware that their name could be, um, misinterpreted. Grandma may indeed taste fabulous, but this is not the flavor the majority of consumers desire. Should the company be made aware of this issue? Nah. Here's an opportunity to leave things alone and continue to provide a quality product. It's so amusing yet harmless that it may create a little buzz for the jam without jeopardizing Grandma's reputation.

Problem #2: Stuck With A Poor Name

Mr. Downer didn't ask to get this surname, but now he has it. And, unfortunately, combine the standard meaning of a downer with his line of business and it's a bummer, man. So what's a funeral director to do to mitigate this unfortunate confluence of name and industry? The best approach here would be a tagline that both acknowledges the "issue" and then positions the brand in a more positive light. For example: "A higher degree of comfort and caring."

Problem #3: You Shot Yourself In Your Own Foot

One can see how this neologism, or coined name, came to be. "Bob, what if we combined analyze and qualify and made a new word. You know, like ANALIFY!" Except neither Bob or in-house naming expert realized it also made the word ANAL rather prominent. Here, it's time for a new name or hiring a brand strategist or brand naming agency to create something new and less... anal for you.

Problem #4: You Know Exactly The Double Meaning of Your Name and Your Milk It For All It's Worth (Not A Problem At All)

The man (just seems like it would be a man, doesn't it?) who operates this fine gardening business knew exactly what he was saying and where he was headed with this name. It's outrageous, attention-getting, controversial, and a certain segment of the public no doubt love it. Others find it repulsive. But in the "any buzz is good buzz world" of too much media input today, where it's so difficult to get brand traction and attention, Mr. Garden Shed is standing out in his field, so to speak.

Problem #5: Your Name Lacks Excitement

This is an example of a company tagline I created to add some pizazz to a brand name that described exactly what the company did, but lacked excitement. Bud's Hots are, well, Bud's Hots. They aren't described as delicious or delightful, so there's no added benefit there. But by adding "Bud's Got the Hots for You," this hot dog stand brand instantly became edgier, and T-shirt sales really took off. The double entendre was reasonably tasteful and gave customers and passersby a chuckle. And a business called Bud's Hots got significantly more exciting.