How to Write taglines

It has come to your attention that you need a tagline. Maybe your logo looks barren. Maybe you have a goofy name like Kapowza and people have no idea what you do until you tell them. Let me be clear, you’re not looking for a slogan. A slogan is something catchy for a campaign, a one off--but a tagline is laser-chiseled in granite. If your company was to drop dead tomorrow, this is what they’d put on the tombstone.

Disclaimer: there is no real process. These are tips and tricks; a dusty map to guide you through a tricky landscape.

  1. Figure out who the company is. Even if it’s yours, have you ever written it down? There are a lot of exercises one could do, but our favorite is to list out every single descriptive phrase or word you can think of that relates to the brand. Do it until you run out of words (no dictionaries or Google searches). Then categorize and rank the descriptors that you wrote. What ideas show up the most? Often times it’s not what you think. (Fun exercise: ask your customers or clients to do the same, see how close you are.)
  2. Now that you know who the company is, create a phrase out of the ranked words you just wrote.  The phrase won’t make any sense. It’ll be something like “urban skateboard life” or “happy fun drink.”
  3. Take that phrase and write the worst line you can think of. Something terrible with lots of exclamation points and clunky language. Seriously, do it. Because once you do you can write nothing worse than this thing staring back at you. Write it at the top of the page and look at what you’ve done. Be proud. You are now freed up from the pressure of failure, because you got the failure out of the way already.
  4. Okay, now you have to actually write. Sorry, there’s no magic secret here. Except that you should write a lot. At least 50-100 lines. Don’t think about it too much, just write whatever comes off the top of your head--the pen shouldn’t stop moving. Some lines will be good, some will be bad. Nothing will be worse than that stinker at the top.
  5. Like a blobfish, you’ll know it when you see it. You’ll write a line and move on to the next one, but you’ll find yourself being drawn back to it. Then you’ll stop and just think about it. “Hmmm,” you’ll say, “that’s not bad.” When you get to this point, stop writing. Sometimes these gems are gift wrapped and will show up three minutes in. Often times they’re buried in an attic behind the old fur coats and family films and they come along in a few days.
  6. Now let it sit for awhile. When it’s fresh, of course it’s good. Creative stuff has a fruit like quality, as soon as it’s picked it’s bright and colorful and full of life and flavor. Leave it on the counter for a few days and it may start to fade, it could get soft, and maybe it’ll start to stink. If it stinks, back to the writing board.
  7. Don’t give up. Most of the good lines came by accident. “Got Milk?” was the title of a presentation board to the milk counsel. “Just Do It” was the last words of a guy being put to death by the firing squad in Utah. There is no magic process.

The best work happens when you’re not thinking about it. Swing too hard and you’ll miss every time. Be relaxed, smooth, and the idea will show up. Muse is a funny thing, it’s never where you saw it last.

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