The Marketing Definition of a Tagline

Young business professionals meeting
••• Getty Images / Thomas Barwick

You probably have heard or read an advertisement that summarizes an entire ad simply by using a catchphrase. Chances are you've seen and become familiar with these statements, including phrases like McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" or Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" 

That's a tagline, a short, memorable description that—hopefully—becomes something like a public earworm, getting stuck in people's brains. A good one may be used for years to come, tossed into conversations as a long-living reminder of the product its attached to. The inner workings of a tagline explain how one is used and how to come up with a good one. 

The Purpose

Taglines are created and intended to leave a lasting impression during a short encounter with the recipient. When one is formed correctly, it will capture the overall benefit of what is being advertised, whether it's a product, business, service, or idea. A tagline offers information that can be easily remembered. In the end, it should help the audience understand the bigger picture and leave them enticed and wanting more. "Think different" summarizes Apple in just two words, and that kind of effectiveness is the ultimate goal.

Different Styles

Humorous taglines present an idea by using sayings and phrases that will entertain the audience and create a sense of fun. Serious taglines invoke overwhelming emotions; spurring the viewer to take action. Inspirational taglines make people think more about common problems and cause them to seek deeper answers regarding an issue. Bounty paper towels have a tagline that is memorable because of its rhythm and the rhyme: "The quicker picker upper."

How to Develop a Tagline

A tagline should be short. Think of it as a hanging sticker that gives the viewer a quick description of quality components rather than a book that details the entire story. 

Be creative. Avoid making a bland, vague, or meaningless statement. Brainstorm dynamic verbs that can be associated with your brand and will move the audience toward a problem area. Offer a solution to an issue so people will begin to invent their own reasons to take advantage of what is being advertised.

Use simple language that is clear and easily understandable. Focus on a friendly approach that will build a lasting connection with the viewers. Decorate with descriptive words that enliven the message and add deeper meaning, but don't get too fancy with words that even a highly educated person wouldn't use in academic writing.

Jingle vs Tagline

Jingles are part of an extended category of taglines. Some jingles are taglines and some aren't. A deciding factor can be found in the length of the phrase or the sentence. When a jingle progresses into a full song, it's more likely to be an anthem than a tagline. If the jingle is short and sweet with a sing-songy tune, it's a jingle type of tagline and it can be used in many more places than the song can. McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" campaign is an example of this with the words being sung in advertisements.

Jingles can be an expensive marketing technique due to audio production and airtime, but they can be highly effective when they're used correctly. Lasting impressions created by companies like Oscar Mayer, for example, certainly benefited from its catchy and memorable "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" jingle.

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