Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Madison Avenue Insights


In the last column, I discussed the difference between a slogan, which is the backbone of an advertising campaign – “Got Milk” – and a tagline, which is the backbone of the company or product – “Melts in your mouth. Not in your hands.”

The question is: Are taglines still necessary?

If you look at the current advertising of major corporations, it will seem that the top-tier creatives who traditionally head the advertising for such companies believe that the answer is no. You can dispense with taglines.

There is data to back this up. In the listing of the Top 100 Ad Taglines ever, only six on the list were created after 2000. However, the fact that tag lines were not being listed in the top 100 does not mean that a vast number of corporate ads lacked taglines. They could have simply lacked the creativity to get them on the list. However, the counterargument is that if the tagline is of such value, top-tier creatives would have put the effort into creating award-winning taglines.

So, back to the question: Should you be pushing your ad agency or creative team to create a tagline?

In the past, the corporate R&D, marketing department, CFO, and C-suite executives saw their objective as to define what the consumer needs, what the consumer should desire, what is best for the consumer, and spent millions in advertising persuading the consumer to buy into their way of thinking.

Corporate America was Big Brother, but with silk gloves.

Taglines fit well with that strategy: It is the ultimate persuasive reasoning all summed up in a neat, easily understood, easily remembered phrase.

Today, this Big Brother approach has been seriously disrupted – by omni-channel marketing.

In the past, the big three media were television, print and radio. Media budgets were primarily divided amongst those three.

The internet has changed all that, not only in terms of where the media dollars are spent, but, critically important, in how the advertising is conceptualized and executed. The internet is relationship marketing. Creating product personalities through storytelling. Breaking down the wall and inviting the consumer to participate in the shaping and development of the product. Using hashtags to pinpoint a specific point of conversation. Using data to communicate very specific messages to very specific consumers. Omni-channel integrates your marketing through all the media your budget allows.

The internet is relationship focused and is the blueprint for all other media, including TV, print and radio, which are integrated into the omni-marketing and creative strategies.

Advertising has pivoted from persuasion to relationships.

Relationships do not need to be summed up through taglines.

Or do they?

They do.

And, in fact, relationship marketing desperately needs a tagline.


Because in the crafting of a highly emotional story that reaches deep into the consumer psyche, often something is lost. Something very critical – the reason you are in business. The reason you made a serious financial investment, and a serious time commitment.

It was not (hopefully) because you salivated at the thought of an IPO. Or building a retirement nest egg.

It was simply because you identified a hungry audience whose problems, needs, concerns and wants have never been addressed, or never been properly addressed. And you have the better solution.

You are in business because you have the answer to why the consumer should choose you over your competitors.

You have a USP – a Unique Selling Proposition.

Marketing is that simple.

And that complex.

Which is why you need a tagline.

Not to pin it to that end of your advertising, or your product packaging – though why not?

But to pin it to your mind.

The tagline represents the very core of your business, your proposition as to why the consumer should choose you over the competition. Which means it represents your clear understanding of what your business is about, what end-benefit it brings to your target audience.

It represents your Mission Statement.

Starbuck’s Mission Statement – Inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Under Armourto make all athletes better through science, passion, and the relentless pursuit of innovation.

Tesla to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Apple – Apple has always been different. A different kind of company with a different view of the world. It is a special place where we have the opportunity to create the best products on earth – products that change lives and help shape the future. It’s a privilege we hold dear.

JetBlue to inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground. We are committed to giving back in meaningful ways in the communities we serve and to inspire others to do the same.

PatagoniaBuild the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Disney – The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.

AdidasThe Adidas Group strives to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle. We are committed to continuously strengthening our brands and products to improve our competitive position.

Let us break down the components of Adidas’ Mission Statement to see how it reflects the brand and products delivered to the consumer:

Adidas emphasizes its role to continuously lead in offering its customers the best products. For the love of sports, Adidas has a sports-specific culture embedded in everything about the company.

The reason Adidas has a reputation that precedes it is simply because of its uncompromising attitude on quality. Adidas is a brand that one can say demands little marketing efforts courtesy of the satisfaction it gives its customers wherever they are.

Adidas clearly shows that creative mindset is at the heart of all its operations as demonstrated by the constant rollout of incredible sports shoes and other related products.

Adidas, and countless other corporations, follow through on their mission statement through the life of their company, providing them with clarity of purpose and objectives – which translate to building and sustaining the USP that builds long-term customer loyalty.

At one point, Jet Blue had a brilliant tagline that deserved to live forever: “You Above All.” Over the years, however, Jet Blue has constantly changed its line, in effect creating campaign slogans rather than a tagline of longevity.

Of the above, only Adidas currently has a true tagline, “Impossible is Nothing,” reflecting the always pushing the envelope attitude of the seriously resolute athletes that define its core audience.

But all the Mission Statements define the promise the company is making to its consumer. A promise that is immutable. A promise that is engraved in the hearts and minds of all who work there, from the CEO to those who load the pallets.

Your mission statement is conducted through every phase of your business. For Adidas, it is the constant striving to be the leader in quality and technology in athletic footwear. Researching new materials. Creating new materials, vast research on the human form in athletic endeavors – and always studying the competition.

For Disney, it is finding that happy balance between entertainment and family. It is giving the creative team freedom to forge ahead to create entertainment that has children and adults squealing in surprise and delight. It’s giving them freedom to be curious – as Disney himself said, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we are curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

For Patagonia, it is giving grants to organizations that discover the root cause of environmental problems and approach issues with long-term commitments. It is the Patagonia truck that travels about repairing aged Patagonia clothing and footwear so they should not have to be discarded. And enabling customers to buy worn wear that extends a garment’s life by about two years, which cuts its combined carbon, waste, and water footprint by 82%.

Your mission statement is the all-inclusive blueprint for the purpose, direction, and future actions of your company.

Starbucks will never keep America “running” like Dunkin does. Walmart will always save you money so you can live better. Adidas will always help you go beyond your possibilities.

So, why should you develop a tagline if not for your advertising?

The discipline of developing a tagline is that it forces you to see with full clarity every nook and cranny of your mission statement. It presents all the ramifications of your commitment. It transcends marketing to get to the core essence of what your business is.

No, your advertising may not require a tagline.

But you do.

It is your promise. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.



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