The importance of taglines for branding

There are those that say the tagline is all but deceased, citing large businesses that either don’t use them or no longer use them. In the case of the latter, it could be argued that the tagline proved to be successful to the point of redundancy.

HTC, for example, manufacturers of some of the best smartphones on the market to date, dropped their tantalising tag ‘Quietly brilliant’. Do you know what was quietly brilliant? That tagline. When it appears, as you first turn on the phone, there is a sense that you are holding something special – and when you see it in an advertisement, there is a similar feeling of that this is a superior product. Is the humbleness of it that’s attractive?

“We have a lot of innovations but we haven’t been loud enough,” said Benjamin Ho (Marketing officer) at the time. It seems that HTC outgrew it’s own modest tagline, and that’s a good thing. The tagline helped HTC mobile transform from a fringe player, to one of the most marketable on the planet.

My work here is done!

When a tagline does its job, and the brand moves forward and outward, it’s a sight to behold – can any other small group of words have so much effect on the fortunes, or failures, of a company?

If ‘Quietly brilliant’ could have done a ‘mic drop’ as it walked out of the room, it would have. Taglines are meant to instill a company vision, statement or drive. Many of the successful ones are emotive, and encourage the consumer to feel something positive, and hopefully about the brand!

Many companies have ‘gone off’ the tagline, convinced by young marketers with neat hair that ‘flexible branding’ is the new big thing. ‘Flexible branding’? What does that even mean? Nothing, it’s a nonsense. Just when the buzzword thought it was out, the 1990’s pulls it right back in!

The thing is, once you’ve chosen your branding how flexible is it? Exactly. Branding needs to be consistent, otherwise you don’t have a branding strategy you have a very public drawing board – and a messy, incoherent one at that.

So, the tagline is dead. Or is it alive and kicking consumers toward the store? The latter, almost certainly.

It’s alive!

A good tagline can be your best and least expensive form of advertising. So cheap, in fact, that it is free if you make it yourself. As mentioned, the very best taglines are emotive, or evocative short calls to action.

  • Just do it
  • Reach out and touch someone
  • Think differently


Each one is a call to action, encouraging the audience to do something positive and in turn it helps create a positive image for the company. Win, win.

Lead by example

There have been some truly great taglines over the years, even though they seem to have drifted off in more recent times. Is this indicative of a lack of imagination on the part of the marketing team, an unwillingness to invest in what appears to be just a few simple words?

Whatever the reason, be assured that this phenomenon is almost certainly not linked to ‘flexible branding’. Or, if it is, then we may well see a return to the tagline once those companies see the folly of their thinking.

Some of the better ones are etched into our minds like so much indelible ink. Here are some of the very best, that just about everybody in the world has heard of.

Don’t leave home without it

You know that one, don’t you? Of course you do. American Express hit a goldmine with that one in 1975, when first coined by Ogilvy & Mather. Intended for travellers cheques, this tagline became a part of pop culture and was used when conveying the idea that something is important, and it wasn’t quite ‘American Express’ anymore.

This evergreen slogan hasn’t been used for a while now, but it is still globally recognised.

Melts in your mouth, not in your hand

A strange one this, since it wasn’t just used for M&M’s; Galaxy Minstrels and Treets also used this tagline. Ad man Rosser Reeves probably had no idea just popular this tagline would become when he created it back in 1954.

The tagline itself addresses an issue that chocolate lovers the world over have faced at one time or another – the fact that chocolate does indeed melt in your hands, something that every parent is only too well aware of. M&M’s have changed tack since, but try and find someone who doesn’t associate that sentence with them… It will take a while!

All because the lady loves Milk Tray

Taking full advantage of the popularity of James Bond, and the fact just about every man in the world wanted to be just like him, Cadbury ad men hit upon this rather clever video/tagline two-step. Did it work? Ask anyone old enough to remember Roger Moore as Bond if they know what ‘All because the lady loves Milk Tray’ means, and you will have your answer.

Playing on the male need to be, well, male and show his significant other that he would be willing to jump off cliffs, Cadbury dealt a winning hand with this – one Bond himself would be proud of, no doubt.

American by birth, rebel by choice

Another tagline that tweaked the male ego, this one from Harley Davidson will always be remembered as belonging to one of the greatest motorcycle makers in the world.

I bet you remember another group that this slogan is associated with? Being rebels themselves, and doubtless proud of their heritage, this tagline struck an enormous chord and became, along with the ‘bikes themselves, synonymous with the biker community.

Better with, than without

A great tagline has the ability to send powerful imagery, encourage action and ensure that your brand remains in the public consciousness long after you change marketing strategy.

Advertisements have the same effect, or they are supposed to, but taglines are forever and are just as portable as the rest of your branding – you can literally take it everywhere with you.

If you believe in the power of advertising, then you believe in the power of the tagline – whether you choose to admit it or not. The tagline is here to stay, but the really clever ones seem to have been consigned to the archives.

So the question isn’t really “is the tagline dead”, but rather “are the marketing agencies getting lazy?”.

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