Tag, you've got it!

A New York Times article reflecting on the life and career of advertising legend Dan Wieden, co-founder of the award-winning agency Wieden + Kennedy (and who recently passed away), sparked some thoughts on crafting a powerhouse tagline. He did it, and so can you.

"A diamond is forever" (and your tagline can be, too)

One of the most impactful - and fun to create - aspects of marketing and advertising is the tagline. It’s a highly useful tool. One of the focal points of the many marketing workshops Gig holds is to concentrate on the brand positioning of a business or organization. What is the special, ownable, distinct message you want people to take away? Can you go one step further and create a one-liner that really seals the deal? The above hall-of-famer is from De Beers of course - it's sturdy as a rock.

Legendary and illustrious
In Gig workshops, I always use a local and national example of the best taglines out there. Nationally (actually, internationally) is Nike. To me, their high-impact tagline - “Just Do It” - is perfect. With the recent passing of advertising icon Dan Wieden, whose ad agency Wieden + Kennedy created the Nike campaign, the New York Times article recalling his life and career notes: “Both brand-specific and open-ended, the tagline reinforced the pitch that Nike was a no-compromise brand built for achievement, but it was also adopted as a self-empowerment mantra in the culture at large.”

Why does it work?

Another point Gig emphasizes to clients and prospects - your brand positioning (and, thus, your tagline) is not a descriptor of what you do. It is a succinct encapsulation of your message, your identity, your image. While the folks at W+K could have gone with something for Nike like “Sportswear and accessories for the athlete in all of us”…they went with something much more memorable and powerful. “Just Do It” speaks to a wide swath of their target audience (passionate athletes and professionals all they way to the occasional jogger). Sell the benefits, not the features. Nike is your gateway to getting it done.

Why did they work?

The story of W+K is its own lightening in a bottle. They launched in Portland, Oregon, a long way from Madison Avenue where the modern advertising movement was born. That alone set them apart. And ushered in a new era of award-winning ad agencies popping up all over the map, well beyond the city center of Manhattan. They had humble beginnings as any start-up would, and one client who was also just emerging - Nike. Both parties were fairly fearless and, as it turns out, highly creative. It takes courage to craft a tagline that is not a lengthy description or, even more bold, asks they audience to be challenged. There is a subtlety in this idea, that you’re not over-explaining or talking down to your target, you’re letting them interpret what it means. Which is why “Just Do It” is so brilliant - because it means something different for everybody. It is for everybody.

Try it. Just Do It!

Give your own business a look. Do you have a tagline? Could you use one? And are you willing to let creativity in and use this line in real life? Think of it as your elevator speech, or at least the wrap up of your speech. What is that final embodiment and feeling you hope people take away? Also, keep in mind not every tagline has to be as short and sweet as Nike’s. There are other great examples of high-impact lines you’ll probably immediately know: Allstate “You’re in good hands” BMW “The ultimate driving machine” and Capital One “What’s in your wallet?” are just a few quick examples of iconic lines that have endured over time. Remember: make it memorable, clear and distinct, and lead with a positive message. You can do it, yes you can!

(published 2022)