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Avoid These Five Tragic Tag Line Misfires

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Avoid These Five Tragic Tag Line Misfires

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A tag line is the little slogan that follows a business name on a web site, in ads, on company stationery and elsewhere. A prime branding opportunity, it should say something that encourages ideal customers to do business with you.

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845 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line Distribution Date and Time: 2009-07-14 13:24:00

Written By: Marcia Yudkin Copyright: 2009 Contact Email: [email protected]

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Avoid These Five Tragic Tag Line Misfires Copyright (c) 2009 Marcia Yudkin Creative Marketing Solutions www.yudkin.com/

A tag line is the little slogan that follows a business name on a web site, in ads, on company stationery and elsewhere. A prime branding opportunity, it presents one of the biggest challenges in marketing. You want something that's catchy, appropriate, appealing and distinctive. The tag line should say something that encourages ideal customers to do business with you.

Be sure to generate a lot of possibilities, and eliminate any tag line candidates where you are forced to answer "yes" to any of the five questions below. While I'm illustrating these points using U.S. state slogans (For instance, "Delaware: Small Wonder"), the criteria apply as well to small businesses, medium-sized companies, large corporations, solopreneurs, ecommerce sites and nonprofit organizations anywhere in the world.

Five Common Tag Line Blunders

1. Does it flunk the uniqueness test? A tag line needs to single out your strengths. If your tag line could reasonably apply to your competitors, it doesn't drill down deeply enough to what makes you different. For example, which state would you match up with "More Than You Can Imagine"? You'd have as good a chance at getting this right by picking a state randomly as by trying to guess according to its intended meaning. This is a tag line used by Maryland, but it could equally apply to Nebraska, Idaho, Michigan or any other state with an unglamorous reputation.

Consider also the similarity between South Carolina's slogan, "Smiling Faces. Beautiful Places" and South Dakota's, "Great Faces. Great Places." The word "faces" in South Dakota's tag line probably refers to the presidential heads depicted on Mount Rushmore, and "great" appropriately applies to them. But this tag line is so close to South Carolina's wording that it's easy to see the South Dakota marketers didn't bring out the unique implications of those faces well enough in their tag line.

Some tag lines heavily suggest just one owner because of recognizable associations. Because of the popularity of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, for example, "There's No Place Like Home" evokes Kansas much more than any other state.

2. Is there a questionable double meaning? Not one but two slogans of Colorado become problematic because of this factor. "Rocky Mountain High" and "Enter a Higher State" both use the word "high" in a way that implies not only geographical elevation but also (at least to many in the Baby Boomer generation) marijuana intoxication.

Another state tag line with this weakness is "Oklahoma is OK." To many people, "OK" implies "just OK," which is such faint praise it lacks the power of invitation. Likewise, to someone who believes the American Midwest is boring, Illinois's "Mile After Magnificent Mile" evokes the idea of mile after mile after mile of sameness.

3. Emotionally, is it a clunker? "Utah! Where Ideas Connect" used to be that state's tourism slogan, and it's significant that they inserted an exclamation mark to try to generate some excitement, since the concept itself is flat and unemotional. A tag line should convey positive energy rather than simply state some facts.

Connecticut's slogan "Full of Surprises" doesn't score well on uniqueness, but it does have emotional oomph. Ditto for Maine's "The Way Life Should Be."

4. Does it have an inappropriate tone? "Say WA" (for Washington State) is a prime example of a slogan that sounds like chalk scratching on a blackboard to anyone older than a teenager. Remember that people with nothing better to do than to hang out at a street corner high-fiving their friends are not the logical target of a tourism campaign.

"Live Free or Die," which appears on New Hampshire's license plates, is a brilliant and highly emotional evocation of the no-sales-tax state that epitomizes Yankee independence and political autonomy. However, this slogan doesn't work well as a lure for tourists. Normally it doesn't make a pleasant impression to be reminding people of their mortality in the same breath as saying "Come visit!"

5. Are you junking the previous tag line for the wrong reasons? Simply being tired of it is the worst possible reason. Apparently weariness is why in 1985, Governor Anthony Earl decided that "America's Dairyland" would no longer do as Wisconsin's slogan. Very often, politicians or tourism officials decide to jettison something that's working, then spend a fortune hiring brand consultants to come up with something their constituents hate and that bombs in the marketplace. Don't you follow in their footsteps!

Coming up with a tag line that passes all of these elimination tests is not easy. If I had to select a winner from all the state slogans I've looked at, I'd award first prize to Mississippi's "The South's Warmest Welcome." Only a few other contenders could claim this applied to them, and it's unquestionably and strongly inviting. Second prize goes to Alaska's "Beyond Your Dreams. Within Your Reach." In a positive way, this counteracts the belief of so many in the other 49 states and abroad that they might not easily have the opportunity to experience its charms.

Good luck with your own tag line and branding!

Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that brainstorms creative business names, product names and tag lines for clients. For a systematic process of coming up with an appealing and effective name or tag line, download a free copy of "19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line" at www.namedatlast.com/19steps.htm

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