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Developing a tagline

Taglines seem ideally designed for today's fast-paced, appearance-based culture.

They turn up everywhere in the business world, and the best of them contain an almost mysterious quality which elevates them, and the product they are linked with, beyond the level of "business" and towards the level of "business brand".

Think about these iconic taglines from the corporate world:

  • "Just Do It"
  • "Don't Leave Home Without It"

Most people would instantly recognise them as the highly successful taglines for Nike and American Express - taglines which are memorable and add to their organisation's branding.

"Just Do It" portrays Nike as a company that overcomes obstacles, that works hard and reaps the rewards. And through the "Don't Leave Home Without It" tagline, American Express emphasises that there are no substitutes - that it is essential and irreplaceable.

How much money and how many customers do you think have bought Nike goods or used American Express at least in part because of the sentiments expressed in these taglines?

More groups in the community sector are using taglines to great effect in expressing so much about an organisation, its work and values, in just a few short words.

Taglines aim to set your group apart from the rest - identifying it as unique and providing it with its own identity or brand which can increase the chance it will receive support in preference to other similar groups.

And developing a winning tagline isn't hard. Much of the work can be done pretty quickly, and it can be a great team building exercise. Some tips towards doing so are:

See what others are doing

Look at what other groups in both the community and corporate sectors have done. Others' effective taglines can offer you guidance and inspiration for your own efforts.

In addition, exposure to enough taglines will help you get your head around what makes some of them work, and some fail. In the course of this process you should start seeing some patterns emerge - for example, plays-on-words, puns, forceful statements or taglines which tug on heart strings.

Some might be used in conjunction with logos or graphics. If this is the case, examine how the elements mesh together and think about whether your organisation will have to do something similar.

Decide what you want your tagline to say

Deciding what your tagline will say requires you to reflect on who you are and what you do.

All taglines have one thing in common - they effectively convey either a single element, or the central element, of an organisation's work. Your aim therefore should be to have a tagline which both reflects and reinforces who you are and what you do.

Consider these questions:

  1. Who do you work with?
  2. What do you try to achieve for your members and stakeholders?
  3. How are you different and unique compared to similar groups which work in your area?
  4. What sort of feeling or response do you want to prompt from people who read your tagline?

Getting a feel for these things allows your group to explore the areas you wish your tagline to concentrate on, and what you wish it to communicate.

Brainstorming and discussion sessions

This can be a wonderful interactive team-building exercise for organisations, and something which encourages everyone to get involved.

Gather together and think about the key aspects of your work. Write down everything that comes to mind and all the new ideas each concept sparks. Remember, they don't have to necessarily make sense at this stage - you're more aiming at ideas than the perfect tagline right now.

From there, narrow your ideas list by discarding those which are overlong, confusing, uncomfortably pretentious or smart-alecky.

It will then be up to your group - and its key personnel - to look at the best idea or ideas and mould them into a tagline.

Again you might want to involve people around your group in evaluating and weighing up a shortlist of tagline options. Use a group email, your group's website or newsletter to encourage everyone to take part.

Multiple taglines?

While having a think about your tagline, also look at whether you might need a different tagline for:
  • A special project your group runs.
  • A distinct program it operates.
  • During a major appeal or fundraiser.

Having two taglines, as long as they are for very distinct and very separate purposes, is fine.

Integrate the tagline into what you do

Your tagline should be integrated into your:
  • Logos and letterheads.
  • Signs or banners you use in public.
  • Stalls at fêtes, fairs or other events.
  • Media releases.
  • Annual reports and newsletters.
  • Appeal and donation documents.
  • Your website and emails - especially your email signatures.

This helps expose your new tagline to the world. And just like the corporate examples discussed earlier in this article, the more people that are exposed to the link between your group's name and its tagline, the faster your brand will be built.

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