You are currently browsing articles tagged tagline.

Three Dots.

No, not Amazon Dots.  Dots or periods in taglines.  You’ve seen them. Three word taglines all separated by dots.  Wrangler did it a while back with “Real. Comfortable. Jeans.”  Many others have done it.  The reason they don’t come to mind easily is because it’s a poor, lazy branding tactic. The What’s The Idea? brand framework includes three proof plank – three supports for the brand claim – so I’m not against the notion of 3 strategic measures. What I am against is 3 measures or values in a tagline. It’s a hot mess.

I’m just back from MerleFest, a wonderful annual gathering of bluegrass and American roots music. MerleFest has one of the strongest, most iconic logos in the business.  Someone, however, has decided to pair the logo with the tagline “Music. Moments. Memories.”  Oy.  What does it mean? I’ll tell you what it means – everything. And therefore nothing. The brain can’t process all that; alliteration or not.

So if you are with an ad agency that comes up with a 3 word ad line that wants to be a tagline, don’t do it. Good brand shops wouldn’t make this mistake. It’s poor brand craft.



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“Preservation is one of the highest forms of good citizenship” said the late John Belle, partner at Beyer, Blinder and Belle, the architectural firm that renovated Grand Central Terminal. Words to live by, also, in the branding business.

We want to preserve in the minds of consumers a brand’s “good-ats.” And we want to maintain the linkage of those good-ats to consumers’ most strenuous “care-abouts.”  Good brands start with good products. It’s simple really — build a product that is good at something. Make sure it’s something customers really care about.  Then work your ass off to preserve the product good-ats over time.  

One definition of branding is “identity + reputation.” It’s a nice definition but doesn’t take into account product — or should I say core product value. Good-ats and care-abouts.

So when you are spending a quarter of a million dollars with a big branding firm, make sure your strategy and tagline have a product component to it. Otherwise, your brand strategy firm may not be good-at branding. Peace.




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Tivo just sucker punched Apple. Apple TV specifically. Tivo just launched a new product called the BOLT which holds to its core value by allowing viewers to scan past pods of advertising with a click of a button. The launch ad highlights another 7 or 8 things it does that Apple TV doesn’t including get rid of the cable box. With Apple TV you can’t record your shows, you can’t watch shows on any device – so the ad says.

The Tivo BOLT ad works. It contains a picture of the box, which offers a lovely Apple-esque product design. The unchanged Tivo logo, a particularly simple and brilliant design of a TV with Martian antenna, is not only distinctive but fun. And Tivo’s restraint in not trying to tie everything up in with a bow in the form of a new tagline beneath the logo, is genius. Under the mark, a space typically reserved for a tagline, it simply read “San Jose, California.”

Start with a great product that meets pent up market demand (for features and function) and take care of marketing with clean comms and design and you have the secret to success. Apple has always known this, apparently Tivo does now too.



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I don’t mean to pick on HP or its advertising and marketing again. But I must.  The company is using arguably the world’s best advertising agency (BBDO) and can’t get out of its own way.  They can’t come up with a sustainable brand idea; an idea that marries what they do best with what customers want most. Today’s new idea, as seen in an ad in the NYT, revolves around the notion of “further faster.”  It is all claim, exposition and pedantic nothingness – not a single sign of proof in the copy. Do HP and Meg Whitman really think IT executives and Fortune 2000 leaders don’t know they have to be faster and more informed in their business decisions? OMG. If “further faster” is the idea — at least it is better than “make it matter,” their last strategic foray. You wouldn’t know it from this ad however.

HP has bigger fish to fry than a tagline and brand idea. They are splitting the company and losing small cities worth of money. That said, someone at the top in the marketing dept. should be trying much harder to deliver a clear, meaningful idea.

BBDO is great at selling consumer goods but perhaps doesn’t truly get B2B. (B team?) This whole mess is really hard to believe. If HP wants to get to the future faster, they had better learn a lot more about claim and proof…and find the organizing principle that helps make more money. Peace.



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I met a midsize business owner last year who spent a great deal of time and money refreshing his brand. The catalyst for a rebrand is often a creaky website. When your website looks like a brochure, hasn’t been updated in 3 years and has more stock photos than an art director’s attic, it’s time for a new site. This is often when small marketing companies or agencies try to sell you a new logo and tagline. Voila!

A logo and website — a new set of clothes — make you look sharp. A tagline energizes and organizes you, but after that “Has anything else really changed?” Has your strategy changed? 95% of the time the answer is a resounding no.

In the case of my friend, he worked with some smart people who knew a thing about marketing. The tagline, a de facto brand strategy, was alliterative making it memorable by design and, more importantly, was based upon something customers wanted dearly. But did the company do its part to deliver on the strategy? Did it operationalize the strategy? Did the company work hard to prove the strategy or the claim? Not yet. The story is still to unfold.

Rebranding is not a paint job. It’s a business-building. Brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  



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In branding, the strategic idea (or claim) is the bank. The ads, promotions, events and deeds of marketing are the deposits. The bolder the claim the better the branding. The weaker the claim the limper. When Orson Munn and Peter Rabot created the tagline “Amazing Things Are Happening Here,” for NewYork-Presbyterian, they went bold. Really bold. If the litmus for every ad was “amazing things” then they had their work cut out for them. When they learned Deathstalker Scorpion venom aided in treating brain cancer, they made an ad. When a child with rampant abdominal cancer had all of her organ’s removed so she could be treated and live to tell about it on a TV commercial, she amazed the country…on the Super Bowl.

It’s hard to be amazing every day, yet Messrs. Munn and Rabot built a brand doing so, making way more deposits than withdrawals. Munn Rabot no longer works with with NewYork-Presbyterian and it shows. NewYork-Presbyterian knows they own a great idea and kept the tagline but to the new regime, amazing means buying a new hospital (Lawrence Hospital) and investing in new equipment.NYPres ad (Click on ad from today’s NYT.) I’m sure there are lots of amazing things happening at Lawrence Hospital that could have been brought to light with a little digging. That’s branding trade craft. Unfortunately, that was lacking.

Ideas need heroes. Ideas need management. Alas.



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Hey marketers and marketing agents, take this test.  Answer these questions in the form of fill in the blank quiz:

My brand strategy statement is: __________________________________.  (This is not a ponderous mission statement cover all business possibilities, it’s a single statement with no conjunctions or commas. If you do not have this statement, but do have a tagline, use it.)

The three elements of my business formula than make me different and better are:




These elements, which I call brand planks, must support the strategy statement. So the statement needs to relate to the planks. Similar to colors in a room, the planks and strategy must be familiar and provide tight linkage.      

Please take this test and send me the results. The reality is, when you see what you’ve written (or not written) you will be well on your way to fixing your business and brand woes. If you can’t articulate this stuff, how will your customers be able to? Peace.

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“Make it matter” is the new HP tagline.  The first ad I’ve come across with the line appeared in the paper today touting a sub-$900 laptop, wireless printer and Beats headphone package.  Aimed at school-bound kids and their parents, this bundle will matter to kids who typically may ask mom and dad for Apple machines. It will give both parents and students pause.

Meaningfulness is what good marketing and good brand plans mean to achieve — so why not put the idea right in the work? “Make it matter.”  Were I riding point on this idea, I’d make sure every ad served up to the general pop mattered. All product ads would need to provide a definable point of difference with a rational or emotional tug. It’s going to be hard to live up to. 

Make it matter is bi-directional.  It tells the reader to make it matter, but also suggests HP makes it matter. When you tagline is “Setting new standards in healthcare” every ad needs to show a new standard.  Brand ideas matter. Words matter. Good luck BBDO. Your day just got a lot longer.  Peace.  

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The body is amazing thing.  Nobody will argue with that.   One of the keys to health is proper digestion.  It starts with enzymes in the mouth, mastication of solids via the teeth, then channeling food down the throat through various stomach and intestinal tubes and reservoirs, where the extraction of goodness and badness occur, adding life and nourishment to our blood and cells. Digestion.

But digestion also happens in marketing communications. We hear, see, read and, yes, even smell promotional cues all day long.  Sometimes — even when we sleep.  Color, poetry, context, cortex stimulation, likeability all contribute to what we remember and choose to act upon. Megan Kent, a master strategist and student of the brain’s role in brand experience, is expert in the digestion of marketing. Her theory of “brand synchronicity” would likely support these thoughts on marketing digestion:

  • If you need a tab on your homepage labeled “What is brand X?” …you are having some marketing indigestion.
  • If your tagline is comprised of three separate and unrelated words….you have marketing indigestion.
  • If your ad agency writes ads promising change, and then laundry lists the supports to the point of confusion… grab the Tums.
  • If you test the work asking consumers “What’s the main idea of the communication?” to which they offer a look of consternation and a long thoughtful ummm…you are in the land of the indigestible marko-babble.

Digestion of food is easy; the good is separated from the bad. When it comes to marketing and advertising, digestion is not so easy.  Only the well-organized can create selling nourishment. Peace.

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