What’s in a strapline?


Strapline, tagline, slogan, catchphrase. Call them what you will, those few little words might be more important than you think. In theory, a strapline should be around five words in length, and should convey the absolute essence of your brand. It should be simple, catchy and unforgettable. Used well and consistently, it can become synonymous with a brand, to the point where the name of the brand isn’t even needed. Simples. Right?

Straplines serve different purposes depending on the company. Sometimes they serve to explain the nature of the business or define a particular service or offering; The Gap Partnership, for example, might be confused with a high street clothing chain without its totally clear strapline “Nothing but Negotiation”. Play.com uses “Free Delivery on Everything” alongside its logo throughout its branding, everywhere, to ensure that its core USP gets across to customers.

Some companies incorporate their name into their strapline – for example, “You can do it if you B&Q it”, “That’s why mum’s gone to Iceland”, “Your M&S” and so on. The idea is to present a brand and service offering as one, underlining the value and role to the customer at every iteration.

For many, a strapline is not intended as a literal representation of services, but more to highlight values or ethos. LloydsTSB uses “For the journey” to convey a sense that they are a life-partner to their customers, an invaluable part of the backbone of family life. Sainsburys’ “Making life taste better” does refer to food of course, but it’s more about the quality of life the supermarket offers; compare this, for example, with Asda’s more wallet-conscious “Saving you money every day”.

A strapline is not strictly necessary. Many companies don’t have one and are right not to bother. Many are superfluous and if not done well, can be more damaging than none at all. But if you decide you do want a strapline, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Don’t rush it. It’s tempting to think that, because a strapline is short, it is also quick to come up with. Usually in copywriting the opposite is true. The less that is required, the more time it takes to get right. (Unless you get very lucky, that is.) It is vital that you allow enough time to properly distil the essence of your brand; condensing everything you stand for into a handful of words takes

Think it through. You need to really think hard about what you want your strapline to do. Is it to underline your services, your ethics, your values? Is it a call to action? Whatever it is, you need to be very clear about what you want to say or your message will become blurred and won’t work.

Consider usage.
Think about how and where you are going to use your strapline. Is it going to appear everywhere, as part of your logo? On your business cards? Your website? The practicalities of its usage, the space available, how you want it used in conjunction with your company name, all need to be taken into account before you decide.

The best straplines are simple, almost every day expressions that become – or are already – part of the language we all speak every day. And if you want a really good example, I have three little words for you, a strapline that sums up so much, so simply, and at every use, reminds us all of
the supermarket giant that uses it. Every little helps.



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