Is the Tagline Dead? How to “Just Do It” in the 21st Century

Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)

Taglines, slogans, catchphrases that encapsulate a brand’s identity—they’re gr-r-reat! You know ’em, you love ’em, but are they going the way of Blockbuster, the dodo, and the door-to-door salesman?

Maybe you noticed that of last week’s Top 10 Classic Taglines, nearly all of them date back to the 20th century. Have taglines become relics of the past? And if so, why?

Why We Need to “Think Different”

AdWeek notes in an insightful article that taglines were used to “to summarize lengthy ad copy with a pithy phrase.” Now that copy has shrunk, in proportion to our attention-spans, taglines take up too much room to be tacked on to a tweet.

The most famous slogans were all propelled by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. Today branding is more fractured and flexible, spread across myriad mediums and dispatching diverse messages.

Why Taglines Will Survive & Thrive

Is the tagline dead? No—just look at some of today’s most successful taglines.

Chase’s “So You Can” concisely expresses support, partnership, and customer-oriented service. Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places” telegraphs adventure, positivity, and a can-do attitude. These slogans are modern: inclusive, active, and fun.

True, we may never see another “Got Milk?”—but taglines aren’t going extinct anytime soon. While the sun might have set on the golden age of taglines, succinct slogans will thrive in the 21st century—they’ll just be doing slightly different things.

  • Morphing into Repeatable Messaging: As MarketSmiths’ Lucy pointed out in an awesome blog post on adaptable content, brands have a need for short, value-driven phrases that can be used across all media. Sounds a lot like a tagline, doesn’t it?
  • Communicating Value in Crowded Marketplace: Where once there were 3 channels on TV, there are now thousands upon thousands, to say nothing of the infinite internet. Monoculture is dead; there’s probably a lot more brands that do what you do. A winning tagline can instantly single you out among a market at critical mass.
  • Simplifying Complexity: A recent client of ours, a tech consultant, had a job description that required a dizzying array of jargon. Indecipherable acronyms abounded, but the simple tagline was there to bring it all home: “work better together”. Taglines act as easy-to-read signposts in an increasingly complex world.

Where will the tagline be in another half century? Six feet deep or morphed beyond recognition? Perhaps, but we think short, simple, catchy statements will always have a place in copywriting for humans.

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Lucy Dotson

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