What makes a good strapline and how you can create one?

I bet you remember at least one strapline you read somewhere and if so that was a good strapline because you remembered it.

But what was really great about it?  Was it the idea? The follow through? The play on words? The tone of voice? Or the language used?  And how can you make one for your brand?

That begs the question, do you even need a business strapline?

Do you need a business strapline?

Business straplines work well for corporate companies because:

  1. They are so large that they have the need to embody their business with a single line of text to help define themselves.
  2. They have the power to produce a creative strapline and promote it worldwide as a part of their identity.
  3. They have the power to repeat that strapline constantly, making it a communication asset that’s effective.

Based on the above we can say that a strapline is an effective marketing tool for large organisations who have enough resources to utilise one and can justify having one.

So, should a small business bother with a strapline? I’ve heard a few so-called brand experts answer that question with a “No”, however, I would disagree.

Typical brand experts advise against it because they’re used to dealing with bigger brands, not smaller businesses.  I work with brands of all sizes from the local start-up sole trader to established global charities, and I come from a self-employed and design background.  My input is not just strategic but practical and hands-on, and when I create a brand, I don’t just plan it, I design every aspect of it. My advice to any business would be to have a strapline of some sort and use it. And this is how…

Straplines tend to represent a bigger idea which is great for big businesses because their company and products are already known brands.  They’re just using additional tactics to ensure that their name stays in your brain with the use of a strapline. 

As a small business, you may not have that brand power but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a strapline.  It means that you need to use it in a different way that’s more advantageous to you.  It doesn’t have to be clever or catchy, it just needs to communicate what you’re offering. It might not sound like much but believe me, it works.  Customers searching for products or services need confirmation that they have found what they are looking for and a simple strapline does just that.

For example, if you were looking for a builder, which one would you choose:

  • DMS
  • DMS – Building & Contractors
  • DMS – Expert Building & Contractors

As you’ve just seen, a strapline of some sort is beneficial for any size business but here’s another reason why you should have one.

A strapline strengthens your identity.

A common problem for small businesses who don’t bother with straplines is that they have nothing to put on their marketing material.  I would create a brand identity system for a business setting in place the colours, type and imagery to be used on all of their collateral but colours and graphics are interpretable by consumers.  A strapline solves that by bringing in another element of brand identity design; brand language.  It adds an extra layer of communication to a document and it removes any abstractive element to define clear communication.

If you place a simple strapline on a document, then you’re at least confirming your audience’s expectations.  If you repeat it consistently across all materials then you’re forming a bond with your potential customers and the strapline becomes apart of your brand.

Repetition is one of the keys to creating a strong identity so to finally answer “Do you need a strapline?”, the answer is yes.  Just remember:

  1.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.
  2. It doesn’t have to be clever.
  3. You can always change it.
  4. Use and repeat it.

If you do want to put more time and effort into a strapline then let’s take a look at what makes a good strapline.

What makes a good strapline?

Some of the best straplines take a quirky and creative edge to articulate a big idea.  Some of my favs are:

  1. L’Oréal – “Because You’re Worth It”
  2. Rimmel – “Get the London look”
  3. Maxfactor – “the makeup of makeup artists”
  4. Maybelline – “Maybe its Maybelline”
  5. HSBC – “The World’s Local Bank”
  6. Daewoo – “That’ll be the Daewoo”
  7. EDF – “Save today, save tomorrow”
  8. APPLE – “Think Different”
  9. KITKAT – “Have a break, have a KitKat “
  10. HMRC – “Tax doesn’t have to be taxing “

Each one is different to the next, interpretable, speaking in a third person format almost like a friend talking to you or as a thought inside your head.  The language is simple and chatty, taking into account its core audience, maybe replicating what the user thinks when they experience the brand.

The goal, message and tone of each strapline can be broken down by looking at the specific words and language used to reveal the brands identity in relation to the customer.  Let’s take a look at the first four examples, each from a beauty or fashion related business.

L’Oréal’s “Because you’re worth it”:

  1. Persuading the buyer to indulge
  2. Appealing to the buyer’s emotions and indecision
  3. Subconsciously claiming that their products are luxurious and high-end.

L’Oréal’s identity is one of a best friend.  Familiar, friendly, encouraging yet classy, maybe something the buyer wants to aspire to.

Rimmel’s “Get the London Look”:

  1. It’s suggestive yet also commanding?
  2. It’s dictating not asking
  3. “London Look” relates to a more urban and slang fashion language as opposed to industrial lingo
  4. It’s telling the reader to become apart of the tribe/community (London) to better themselves.

Rimmel wants to be seen as a leader, dictating fashion and style as opposed to following it.  The language relate specifically to those who are highly, professionally or personally interested in fashion with aspirations to be up to date and in with the crowd.  Rimmel talks from a point of authority. It could be your boss or a friend but whoever’s talking is more intelligible and fashionable than you are.

Maxfactor – “the makeup of makeup artists”:

  1. The statement shows a clear sign of expertise, intelligence and prestige
  2. The product is used by experts, indicating a quality product and an intelligent purchase for industry user.
  3. Likewise, it has the exact same effect on personal users, appealing to their aspirations of having professional makeup and looking like a star.

Maxfactor takes a unique stance with their strapline positioning themselves as industry products which are available to all. It suggests that you’re buying the best based on evidence, intelligence and exclusivity, building aspirations of what their products can do for you. Maxfactor is like your well-informed work colleague or professional beauty advisor.

Maybelline – “Maybe its Maybelline”

  1. The strapline is a question, stemming from observing someone else
  2. It’s something the buyer doesn’t have
  3. Its information that the buyer is not privy to!

Maybelline has the softest, most casual and common spoken strapline, presented as a friendly and breezy phrase. It may be the most impactful, placing itself directly into the buyer’s mind as a thought that they have probably had themselves.  Maybelline knows it core demographic and uses their own language and emotional feelings to sell them something.  Maybelline is not your best friend, boss or well-informed colleague, it’s you!  Someone who doesn’t have Maybelline.

Each strapline is different but each one is highly in tune with the customer’s demographics, psychology and lifestyle, almost mimicking what the reader should be thinking or placing thoughts inside the customers head.

Now let’s create your own strapline.

Creating your own business strapline

To help build one, let’s build one together using a recruitment agency as an example: Recruer.

1. What it says on the tin

If you have an ambiguous company name then it might be a good idea to have a strapline which basically says what it is on the tin.

eg. Recruer – Recruitment Agency

Keep it short and simple but carry on reading to make it even better.

2. Define your customer

Gather intelligence and do the research to figure out who you’re customer is?:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Income
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Hobbies
  • Culture
  • Religion

Figure out any and all commonalities that your target market share from the way they talk to the way they walk. What problems do they face and how do they want them solved?

The idea is to tap into their psyche to find out what they might actually think or say when they experience your brand. The best way to find this out is to ask them.

This should layout:

Your target audience

All of your collected data should identify who needs to hear your strapline and who will make sense of it, and which person is most likely to buy your products/services?

For our example we can say that Recruer’s target audience is

  • CEO’s and directors working in large financial organisations
  • Male and female
  • 35+
  • £55,000+ income
  • Loves numbers, business, leadership and technology
  • Works in a fast-paced environment
  • Accustomed to city life
  • Accustomed to negotiating

If you have in-depth data about your target audience you can begin to think like them and talk like them.

This data will form the basis of your strapline but to create it literally we need to consider language.

Brand language and keywords

Straplines need to incorporate keywords defined by your target audiences lifestyle and culture.

Your very own brand language can also play a role in the strapline to project your own character and identity into the fold.

eg. Recruers Brand Language:
Recruer do not use the word “agency”.
They take a unique approach and refer to themselves instead as “agents”, symbolising differentiation, a group of many, an individual service and an authoritative figure. Other brand words may be used such as industry lingo or brand keywords used to describe products and services specifically.

In addition, we need to consider general keywords related to the sector such as: Candidates, employment, hiring, position, finance, development, officer, money, job, cash, wage, excellence etc.

To create your strapline write down:

  • Your brand values
  • Your brand language keywords
  • Industry lingo
  • General keywords associated with your sector

Tone of voice

Tone and style can vary according to your type of business but for a strapline to be successful and have a wider appeal it needs to be spoken simply, casually, almost chatty or like a thought itself.

Even if you use industry lingo, it needs to be worded in a way that shows duality so it speaks to every person on a common level with one meaning in addition to second specific set of people with a second meaning that represents a second idea.

The difficult part is to consider all of the above abd keep your strapline as short and simple as possible

Duality

The strapline needs to work on several layers with a duality of some sort.  Whether it’s a dual meaning, a dual definition or a contradiction of terms, the duality will make it quirky, intelligent and memorable.

Try and make your strapline a play on words.

Personification

You may think that it’s you who will be saying th strapline but as we’ve seen from our examples, many straplines are spoken from the point of view of the customer, almost as if it’s something they have said/created instead of the brand itself.

The viewpoint from which your strapline is spoken is important. Who is saying what and from what perspective?

If possible your strapline needs to be seen as your customer’s very own thought.

A concept

A concept, if not more than one should be articulated with your strapline.
It could be a benefit, an idea, a suggestion, a thought, a description or an aspiration.

Recruers Strapline

Based on all of the above we now have several straplines ready for use.

What it says on tin:
Recruer – Recruitment Agency
Recruer – Financial Recruitment Agent
Recruer – Financial Talent Agency

Alternative ideology concepts:
Recruer – What’s Your Financial Position?
Recruer – Recruiting Excellence
Recruer – Employing Excellence
Recruer – The right person for the job

The first concepts take the ideology of “What it says on the tin” but adds revisions with an original stance. The alternative concepts utilise all of the above tips to create a great set of straplines that are short, simple and contain dualities, whether it be a dual meaning or perspective.

If you need help coming up with a strapline then get in touch.  Or read more about creating a business name.



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