Whose line is it anyway? Are taglines the changing face of brands?

Whose Line is it AnywayTaglines have been around for as long as brands have been, forever! Just like brands there are all kinds of taglines good ones, bad ones and also the what are they trying to says. They have and shall continue to form a part of Brand quizzes the world over.  Brand taglines when and where use are an integral part of the brand identity and more often than not define the brand character.

There are brands that have stuck to the same line over years of their existence while some have had their taglines evolve. No wrongs or rights here. Just knowing what works for you best. Wait a minute! Did I just say what works for you? Damn right I did. That is precisely the trip most brand heads are on! Often we forget that as brands establish themselves the consumers become stakeholders, at the end of the day aren’t they the ones giving the equity?

Not so long ago, at one of the organisations I worked with, we were on the hunt for a new creative agency.  So started my journey of identifying, short-listing and inviting agencies to pitch for our creative account.  The invite was as is the custom accompanied by a brief. A week or more of clarification and discussions happened for the agencies to build their understanding and appreciate the brief.  Without exception each of the six agencies that had confirmed participation asked us the same question.

“How amenable are you to changing the tag line?”

The tag line was to all of them and rightly so, the articulation of the brand intent/philosophy.  Coming back, our response was of course “Open to discussion for the purpose of the pitch.”  We had given the agencies the part that they loved best, a license for a creative tangent.

When they came back all of them, basis the homework they had done gave us their understanding of our understanding, the understanding of our customers and consumers and finally a prescription for where the brand should head. Different yet interesting perspectives all.

Point is, here were a set of people who were actually seeking to receive the messages that we were sending out into space and this was their interpretation of what we were trying to say. Imagine the number of interpretations that would exist in the real world where people are not seeking you out.

How many actually register these one, two or probably five words that we as brand creators and custodians plaster all over the place with our other identity marks?   Assuming they are registering it, how unambiguous is our articulation?

Wordsmiths and brand creators within the organisation and the agencies perhaps spend hours and days crafting those magic words to perfection.  These words that form the tag line are the brands way of telling the world at large either or all of these things, obviously just an indicative list

  • What is our philosophy
  • What we are
  • What we do
  • How we like to do things
  • What do we want you to feel
  • Where are we headed etc.

We also put frameworks in place with regard to the context, conditions and placement of the tagline on our communication and signage.  One other thing that we should as brand custodians review is how often those very words are used as filter for our everyday actions and communication.

For example, what really is Nike’s interpretation of “Just do it” how do they live and execute it in their organisation.    Most probably there is a thought through answer for this.  However, who really is ensuring or checking to see whether that is the understanding of every employee or bulk of the consumers? Does it matter and if yes, what steps are taken to improve the understanding?

There are brands that use their tagline to communicate their journey or evolution. Thus changing it along the way. Moving it a step closer or a notch higher in terms of its relevance to its consumers. Some even move from the rational to the emotional space during the course of their journey.

For example Domino’s Pizza in India started off with their process and capability based “Nobody delivers better” to “Hungry Kya” trying to own food as a category on to “Khushiyon ki Home delivery” to its present tagline “Yeh hai rishton ka time”.  Four taglines in a little under twenty years of history in India.

Another example would be that of Lenovo that went from the more cerebral “New World, New Thinking” to “For Those Who Do”.

There is also an increasing incidence of a local articulation of the global thought. Taglines that used to be sacrosanct and uniform across the globe some years ago now come in a local flavour almost like campaign lines.  This perhaps is not just true for taglines alone, some brands are allow multiple versions of their logo to co-exist, transition is not really that high on the agenda.

Some brands like Nokia on the other hand have pretty much dropped their tagline “Connecting People” from its pride of place just below the name for regular use, bringing it out only on occasion.

The rules of the game, perhaps the game itself is changing. Brand identities of today exist in multiple spaces and forms.  The role of the tagline just might be changing from registering impact to grabbing attention!

Bringing me to the starting premise what is the line for anyway? For you (the consumer) to understand me or for me (the brand) to tell you what I want to.  Is there really any purpose the taglines serve or is it just a ball of wool thrown at the curious cats in the business schools to discuss, debate and write about.

Fellow marketers your opinions please.

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2 comments on “Whose line is it anyway? Are taglines the changing face of brands?

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