How to Write a Tagline (for a startup)

The goal of a good tagline is to quickly articulate what the company does*. This is the sole purpose, although at the same time your goal should also be memorable. So, your tagline should therefore:

1. Articulate what the company does.
2. Be memorable.

Overall, your strategy should be to master both. That being said, it is much more difficult than it sounds.

To start, gather with a your team (maybe cap it at 3 to 5 people) and brainstorm all the taglines you know off the top of your head (any industry, any company). Once, you have done this go through them and weed out all the taglines that do not meet the two points above. Then, start picking out words in the taglines that could apply to you and your company. Then start brainstorming taglines for your company based on these words. (It is much easier to brainstorm when there is a point of reference or a place to start. If you try to brainstorm with no limitations, rules, or point of reference, nothing will be accomplished).

Next step, (put the last aside for a moment) now, think of your company as a movie logline (this is my favorite thing in marketing). A movie logline, tells you the main characters, storyline, and main action in one sentence. (For more information research Blake Synder, Save the Cat). The goal of a movie logline is to convince a studio to buy the script, in the beginning; then for a movie ‘goer’ to see the movie, all by reading just one sentence. Now that is a damn good tagline!

Think of your company like a logline. Who are you? What do you do? What is your story? Now write out your company logline as if you were describing a movie that you want the world to all want to see, but you only have one sentence.

For the company I am currently at, BNOTIONS, our logline:

A group of talented entrepreneurs, designers, strategists and developers build robust mobile, web, and Facebook applications on their way to building a rocket to take them to space.

Make sure your logline describes exactly what you do. For Google, for example: The world’s top engineers on a mission to search and index the world’s information with a dream of one day simplifying and organizing everything. (I made this up, but you get the point).

Now, take the taglines you brainstormed before using the reference words. Apply each one to your company logline. Do the taglines describe the logline? Do you get the same information from the tagline, as you do from the logline? If yes, then you have answered point number 1.

For point number 2, this is a bit more abstract as ‘memorable’ is exactly that. We still don’t know exactly why some things go viral and some don’t, as we still don’t know why some ar memorable and others are not. On this one, take Steve Blank’s advice and “get out of the building.” Aks every opinion you can. Ask your mom, ask your six year old nephew, ask people in line at Starbucks, and ask while shopping in produce at the grocery store. And then, ask them all again. Because, the goal is to see if people remember it. They can’t just like it, they have to remember it. They also need to be able to respond with exactly what your company does from that tagline. Ask, ask, ask.

You are now ready to start tagline brainstorming. Go.



*Please note that this is a recommendation for startup companies who need to match positioning to advertising message in one foul swoop. If you are a large brand with lots of marketing spend these suggestions will not apply to you, nor will the strategy be something for you to follow. In this case, the tagline will be a creative attraction based on positioning. In startups, your marketing will have to be closer to positioning as you will have less room for creative freedom as messaging will take precedence.

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One comment

  1. I have a tagline for my main business that, when I came up with it, I really felt it, but these days I’m just not sure it fits anymore. And it took me 3 years to come up with that one, as I’d had one before that which I didn’t quite like either. Of course, I’m now thinking that a tagline won’t work for me at all since I do multiple things; have to think about that one more, especially after reading this.

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