Taglines, Headlines, Hashtaglines, and More

Who knew my recent column in Adweek about taglines would have sparked such interest?! The piece, in which I share my perspectives on the changing role and nature of taglines, prompted many people to comment and share their own insights.  i_love_taglines_mug-p1689298992246342772otmb_400Here is a sampling of the reactions:

–  The column headline, The Death of the Tagline, really set people off.

  • Jmsptrk wrote: Why is everything in this God-forsaken business always “dead”? Print is dead. TV commercials are dead. Dead, dead, dead. You’d think that an industry (rag) that prides itself on creativity could come up with a better line than “_______ is dead” every time you write a column about a new technology or trend.
  • RM Pitts chimed in: Ah yes…another Adweek “Death of……Headline. Death of TV, Death of Marketing, Death of Headlines with the phrase “Death of” in it. What ninnies these “marketers” be.

Note to readers:  These comments were frustrating and funny to me at the same time because the original headline for the piece was “Taglines Are Dead…Long Live Taglines.” We also looked at the headline “Taglines Disrupted.” What we accomplished by changing the headline to “Death of the Tagline” (getting people’s attention!), we lost in representing the full POV of the piece.

Note to self:  Some people only read headlines

–  But some people did indeed read beyond the headline and had this to say about taglines’ demise:

  • RMPitts continued his comment saying:  The death of the tagline has more to do with the weakness of the advertising agencies and the willingness of the advertisers to follow whatever transient trend that is out there.
  • OrionAdvertising blamed it on lack of skill:  It’s easy to say taglines are dead when we are responsible for killing them off. We don’t have meaningful taglines today because most people don’t know how to craft them. They have not been trained in the art and discipline of distilling the promise that links the brand to the brain.
  • Brandstein commented:  Great taglines will never die. At its best it summarizes the whole brand and it tells loud and clear what the brand stands for. Like “Das Auto” for Volkswagen.
  • David_Esrati added:  BMW may have abandoned “the ultimate driving machine” but their fans never will.
  • JohnRichardBell tweeted:

–  @BarrettAll did a mini-poll on Twitter:

–  Several comments suggested that hashtags are the new taglines:

  • TraderJoesSecrets wrote a thoughtful comment that started with:  It’s possible that the hashtag is the new tagline, but most hashtags have pretty short lifespans. That, in turn could mean that as the pace of history accelerates, brands themselves have to be more dynamic and responsive.
  • Chris added:  Could it be too that the hashtag has meant a more flexible approach for brands, so much that they aren’t necessarily wedded to a company-tagline but more a product-, service-, event-specific one?
  • But Bill_Crandall rejected the notion:  A digital “hashtag” lasts about 30 days. A traditional “tagline” or brand campaign theme, when done right, might last 30 years and still counting. As in “BMW. The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

 –  I learned a lot from the comments that talked about the important distinction between taglines and brand descriptors or brand lines:

  • Craig_Kleber wrote:  Tag-lines, as I have understood them, tend to be wed more to the advertising message and creative strategy that precedes them… The more strategic idea is that of a Brand-line… But brands also help people navigate, create aspiration and elevation, even help create personal identity. In other words people want you to stand for something that in many ways is exclusive and supremely confident… Maybe tag-lines are in retreat, and for some good reasons, but a brand that is meaningful to its owners, employees and advocates can often do well by having a brand-line that sets expectations higher throughout the marketing, not just advertising. Powerful words are still powerful things.
  • ZooAdMan added:  A real tagline becomes a rally cry for a brand, and an alignment tool for the employees as well as the consumers. It speaks to the core of the brand. In Wendy’s case, for years that was “Old Fashioned Hamburgers.” That phrase told you what to expect from the brand as a product and a promise. “Where’s the Beef” was merely a flash in the pan…

–  Others shared the perspective that taglines serve an internal purpose in addition to enhancing external communications:

  • Stephen_Dawe observed: Sometimes the “tagline” helps keep the client…on brand as much as the brand on brand. I’ve used the tagline in a presentation to debate feedback that would suggest taking everything in a whole different (and wrong) direction but was able to use this anchor to keep a bad idea from gaining traction.
  • mattherrmann shared:  I find that with many clients, the single most time consuming part of any new campaign development process is still the tagline. It’s not because taglines are particularly motivating or important to consumers – it’s because of how important they are for internal audiences. The work we make isn’t just for consumers – the best communications efforts align an organization around a common cause and vision.

–  Other Twitterers shared: 


I’m so glad so many people engaged in this conversation (thanks for all the RT’s — and a special shout-out to Velocidi which wrote a whole post in response:  http://www.velocidi.com/blog/15-minute-mornings-death-of-the-tagline/) – and I hope it continues!


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