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5 Reasons Why Taglines Fail

Kim Brebach - Friday, November 09, 2012

Avoid these mistakes and yours will stand out

And 8 rules for making them work. 

Strong branding can make your company stand out in a crowded market from competitors. As in real estate, position is everything in marketing. Your tagline is part of your brand and, without one, your audience will be left in the dark. Taglines should work to define your brand, in the same way that clothes define a women: they reveal more about her character.To be effective, taglines must follow a few simple rules:

  • They should be concise – no more than 3-5 words or 5-8 syllables
  • They must be clear – short, strong words work best
  • They should make it easy for the reader to fill in the blanks
  • They work best when they’re clever, funny or intriguing (double meanings are good)


Your tagline should give your brand broader shoulders and help it stand out from the crowd. Not having a tagline is an opportunity missed, yet you’d be surprised how many companies don’t have a tagline, or have taglines that don’t work. Taglines should meet these objectives:

  • Convey a memorable attribute of your brand to the market
  • Articulate a key differentiator or benefit to potential customers
  • Put a smile on their faces
  • Remind your employees of your company’s mission or vision

Nothing sucks like Electrolux.Bold but clear. The word ‘sucks’ is a strong negative in most people’s minds except when it comes to vacuum cleaners. The tagline says everything, and the play on words adds a memorable twist.

Why taglines fail

1. People don’t believe them

Banks are a good example of this: Australians have a low opinion of them, so NAB’s more give, less take is unlikely to connect with people. ANZ’s We live in your world suffers the same fate since we all know that our banks live on different planet. Commbank doesn’t seem to have a tagline, only the CAN’T – CAN slogan its current ad campaign is built around.

2. They say nothing relevant

Westpac’s tagline is Australia’s first bank. It fails the SO WHAT test. When you tell people how good you are, it’s a good idea to remember WIIFM – What’s In IT For Me? That’s what most people will ask. As it happens, St George had a great tagline before Westpac bought it: Good with people, good with money. It spoke to the two things customers of banks are most anxious about. That tagline is long gone, and has not been replaced.

3. They’re obtuse

Vorsprung durch Technik – AUDI. If you want to use foreign words in a tagline, keep them simple, easy to understand and easy to pronounce. Intrigue is one thing, but a tagline like this will simply confuse most people.

4. They lack specificity

We’re Different from Other Funds – HCF. It’s good to be different but a hint at what makes you different would make a big difference. Creating value through true convergence– Lucent. Classic cliché, corporate weasel words.

5. They’re too long

Across the Street, across the World – the best moves are made with Grace – Grace Removals. The tagline tells us a lot about Grace, and even has a play on words, but it misses the mark. There are exceptions, like this one: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight – Federal Express. It works because the tagline conveys a sense of supreme urgency.

Stand and Deliver

Whatever your tagline promises you must deliver on, and do so consistently. If you don’t, you’ll end up like the major banks and Telcos: despised by their customers. If there is a clear gap between promise and customer experience, the brand is in trouble no matter how good the tagline or how clever the advertising. Acting in a way that is consistent with what you stand for is the key to building a strong brand.


Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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