"Does exactly what it says on the tin."

"Does exactly what it says on the tin." from Big Ideas Collective

By: Big Ideas Collective  07/10/2010
Keywords: advertising, logo design, corporate identity

A fascinating and often highly successful element of creative communications is an organisation’s strapline.  Sometimes called a ‘tag line’, the strapline is a collection of words that accompany a company’s logo or name.  You know loads of them…  How about Tesco’s ‘Every little helps’?  Iconic ones like Zanussi’s ‘The appliance of science’ and everyone of a certain age remembers ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’.  And that’s what it’s all about – creating a memorable signpost to your brand, identifying certain words with your product. 

By necessity straplines need to be concise and copywriters like me spend hours mulling over all sorts of different variations.  Coming up with the right one is usually always a product of pages of scribbled notes, meetings, space gazing, soaking in the bath and bracing walks.

So, what is the anatomy of the strapline?  What do I consider when I begin the process?

I need to get right under the skin of the business: what it does, its values, benefits for customers, how the business sees itself, its corporate tone of voice and, importantly, who its competitors are.  Once I’ve got to grips with these key pieces of information I begin to work on ideas within a tight structure.

Keep it simple, less than five words of one syllable is the goal; repeating the company name or where it’s located is not necessarily required.

     ‘Just do it’ Nike

Make it meaningful, even emotive, showing off the benefits of the product or service.

     ‘Because you're worth it’ L’Oreal

Be Honest.  Don’t promise the world – you won’t be able to deliver it.

     ‘Never knowingly undersold’ John Lewis

Be original, human brains like alliteration, rhymes and humour.  But be careful, simply firing off three words that happen to have the same initial letter is not going to cut it.

     ‘You shop, we drop’ Tesco Home Delivery

Reputedly, this is a strapline for an all Asian building company in Southall: ‘You've had the cowboys now meet the indians’.  Admit it, you’d remember them!  Along with this gem from a firm of undertakers: ‘We’re the last people to let you down’.

This brings us to personality.  Make it your own.  Injecting personality into a strapline is great.  It gives people a real sense of a business.  How approachable it is likely to be, some organisations even use them to manage the expectations of their clients.

     ‘Reassuringly expensive’
Stella Artois

     ‘Think different’ Apple

Creating the perfect strapline can be tough and, for one reason or another, plenty of organisations get it wrong. The strapline may be too ambiguous, lengthy or bizarre so that nobody cares to relate to it or take the time to understand what is being said.  It may be just plain dull; the use of clichés like ‘working together’ or the word ‘solutions’ are particular irritants of mine.  You must also bear in mind your target audience and what they will latch on to.  You’ll know when you’ve found it and sometimes something just works, even, in one well-know case, where most people don't know what it means...

     ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’

So, here’s my list of what goes in to crafting a great strapline:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it meaningful and bring out benefits
  • Be honest
  • Be original
  • Project personality
  • Know your audience

Finally, live with it before you go live with it; you may discover that you have missed a vital point, or, in the end it just doesn’t say what you need it to.

Before I go, for the avoidance of any doubt... 'Does exactly what it says on the tin' - yes, it's Ronseal's strapline displayingsimplicity, benefits, honesty, originality and knowing who it's talking to.

Exciting, frustrating, brain-melting but ultimately hugely satisfying; finding the right strapline that works well for your business or organisation is a very rewarding part of building your brand and deserves all the attention it gets.  What does yours say about you?

Keywords: advertising, corporate identity, ideas, logo design, marketing company