Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tag! You're it...

Tag lines in advertising campaigns can be good or bad. Some of us think that more often than not, they're bad.

"Tag lines", in this instance, are those lovely little catch phrases usually plastered across a magazine ad or billboard, or even fading from view as a commercial wraps up. You know, the "Just Do It" stuff. (That particular tag line actually works reasonably well.)

One of our readers, Bryan Thombs of Evomo (cycling clothing), sent the following email to get this particular conversation going;

Hello Tim.
Have an idea for a topic... thought I would run it up the ole Kool-Aid flag pole. It seems like a good topic for the bicycle industry and marketing dialog.

Just thinking today about the Evomo brand (you know the clothing company I have created) and I have people (friends, family, industry peers) telling me that Evomo needs a tag line... maybe? As they start telling me this, what comes out of their mouth is ultimately a question more than a confident statement. I also begin to think. Does Evomo really need a tag line? I had always thought no way, never!

Well, personally I scoff at tag lines. I find many of them contrived, unrelated to the brand they are attached to, trying way too hard and just not memorable so why bother even having one. Some also just seem to be telling us what to do, and I would rather decide for myself what to do, thanks.

In many cases the amount of money and time spent having a team of people think up some amazing but simple line, is so unbelievable. Not to mention all the market research and data that finally comes together to present the "ultimate" tag line that some how encompasses everything about the company and its products. It also relates to each and every customer, new and old! I think it's impossible, but does that
"ultimate" tag line some how exist somewhere? Could it be discovered one day by just the right marketing/agency monkey and become the secret hook that convinces your customers that you are the ultimate and thus your sales increase 1000% after the first month?

Now, I am not intending to rip on any company in particular. If it seems that way, it's really just my evil twin which is bitter, jaded and argues with me about everything. Its also just my dissection of a very expensive aspect of marketing a brand that I am entering into and finding completely unecessary, or maybe necessary. I mean, I would like to have my sales increase 1000% and have everyone realize that I am the ultimate, who wouldn't!

It seems that the purpose of a tag line is to be memorable and to let everyone know you are the "ultimate". Ultimate? Really, ultimate at what? I was reading a few new cycling magazines this weekend (which) had me really looking at adverts to see just who has a tag line and what it is. Funny, how right there I was already convinced that a tag line were not important since I could not remember any at all. Well, I remember one: "Just do it". Thats the only one I know off the top of my head. I had to actually look to see what other tag lines there might be.

This is a list of tag lines I found:

Wherever you ride

Redefining disk brakes
Between you and the trail
A better bike begins here
Love the ride
The art of high performance
Simply better
Prepare to ride
Get the grip
Makes any ride better
Drive your passion
Born to ride
Where you gonna yak?
Feel it
We get you

I laugh and figure the same people that write the voice overs for action movie trailers must think this stuff up.

Seems to me out of the 15, one tag actually mentions the product and one cleverly incorporates part of the brand's name. The rest can be pretty much applied to any product for sale on the open market, including cars, detergent, shoes, toilet paper, lawn mowers and denture adhesives. That didnt seem like a good thing to me. Some just seemed lame.

All of this makes me wonder:
Would it be better that the tag line describes the product and/or company rather than just be some incomplete sentence stuck onto a logo mark? What is the purpose of a tag line anyway, especialy if it's so vague? Is the risk of having people goof on your tag line or the company "good publicity"? If a customer (new or old) reads the tag line, does it positively or negatively affect their opinion of the company... maybe they don't really care. I would want to know. Is having a tag line something you have to have? Everyone else has one- so should we.

So there you have it. My 15 minutes of ranting about tag lines.
Hope all is well,

There are a lot of really good points in that email- hence this post coming to be.

Like the title bar of this site mentions; Nobody is safe, not even us, from the slings and arrows of outrageous mockery or simple praise.

So here is the current Masi ad, as seen in the current issue of ROAD magazine;

"It'll move you." I know I'm not going to get a Pulitzer or anything, but it didn't seem bad at the time. We were struggling with placing a bunch of copy in the ad, similar to the first one, or just keeping it simple. We went with the simple. As you can see, it wasn't one of those "Just Do It" moments.

This is just to point out how hard it is to come up with that winning tag line, even when you don't have a print deadline a few hours away. Tag lines are what I have called a "necessary evil" in some circumstances, but they can do almost as much harm as good. Get the tag line wrong and you are stuck with endless mockery and ridicule, which usually is not a good thing.

Now the floor is open to discussion!

Tim Jackson

Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:04 PM


  1. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 7:45 AM  
    to bryan...

    i can feel yr frustration. you will know the right tag when it comes. friends and family are the best sources, as they know yr passion, yr brand and what you are trying to acheive. yr clothes are awesome, fresh. dont be scared to mix and match. most of yr competitors dont have tags... dont get into thinking you need something you dont. passion passion passion. Godin is often discussing the 'purple cow'... this is becoming cliche i know but i always keep the purple cow concept at the back of mind when doing any marketing... advertising especially. how to position the product so it is different in a world of brown cows. we have been pumping out ads across markets for the past 6 months and i am getting tired. i suppose my advice is... sit on it, it will come to you. cuonsumers can sniff anything that feels forced or contrived.

    to tim...

    last minute tags suck... we had one last month. 4 weeks later i still really like it though so i/we are happy. some just come to you, others are like pulling teeth.
  2. Blogger Yokota Fritz posted at 1:51 PM  
    I think tags are mostly harmeless, but the goofy ones really draw attention to themselves.

    Regarding Bryan's comment that "Some also just seem to be telling us what to do, and I would rather decide for myself what to do, thanks. -- well, that's the purpose of advertising, to push the consumer to a decision. That's why the EVOMO online shopping cart has a big "BUY NOW" button next to each product listing.
  3. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 2:30 PM  
    I found the tagline list interesting. Not one of them reminded me of a specific brand or product, (with the exception of "Feel it", because we are a Cannondale dealer at the shop where I work)

    The bicycle industry is so equipment specific that, perhaps, the normal advertising tagline techniques are.....well, useless. Unless I know someone that has had a positive experience with say, Masi bikes, (sorry Tim!) I probably will not seek out a Masi dealer unless I happen to be near one. Even then, the shop employees are going to have to get me convinced that I should even take a test ride.

    Clothing is even more personal. The feel, look, and design is not going to be portrayed effectively by a tagline. Does Pearl Izumi have a tagline? Hind? Garneau? Descent? If they do, I don't know it. I could go on with clothing companies, but you get my drift here.

    Tim: That Masi add copy doesn't strike me as a "tagline". It's just kind of "there". The bike is what I identify with. ( It's a gorgeous bike, by the way!) To be honest, I hadn't seen a current Masi bike in about three years, so what if you did have a tagline? Seeing the bike trumps the tagline. Getting it into a shop for sale trumps add copy, because I can actually touch the thing, ride it, and possibly buy it.

    The outlet for your products better be filled with pasionate cyclists that believe in your product. If not, then the "Pearl Izumi" and "Trek" products will simply triumph on name recognition alone.

    What was that tag line again?
  4. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 4:11 AM  
    I guess I make a distinction between a company tag line and an advertising campaign slogan. I don't think this distinction is just semantics. I always consider a corporate tag line to be an explanatory statement to describe what the company does. To use G-Ted's examples...Pearl Izumi's tag line could be "we make great athletic apparel." Trek's might be "Premier American Made Bikes."

    Advertising campaign slogans are usually designed to evoke an emotion. Without a doubt the list above seems rather un-inspiring when read without the proper context. But, you have to consider the rest of an advertisement before evaluating whether the slogan adds value or not. The slogan will be read along with the ad's imagery, copy, logos, etc.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not the slogan that must be remembered it is the feeling that I get about the product and brand that is being advertised that I need to remember.

    While "it'll move you" may not blow me away (it doesn't need to), I do think the ad itself is effective (including the slogan). Here's what I feel when I see this ad...considering the Masi crest, bike, and slogan:

    The bike is a work of art


    Care and Craftsmanship

    Rooted in history



    Singularly focused on making great bikes

    Tim are these some of the feelings you were hoping to convey?
  5. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 4:29 AM  
    Thanks for everyone's great comments. Tim's got people thinking and sharing ideas again. Way to go "Chief".

    To me, the best tag lines are those that convey more than one relevant thing to the reader.
    "It will move you" - you can read that two ways.
    A non-cyclist would see that and say, simply "Yea, I can get from place to place with a bike".
    A cyclist may look at that and say (to borrow a little from Graham), "It's such a work of art; simple and elegant. Wow." They will be truly 'moved'. From the comments I've seen here and on Tim's Masi blog, I think we can safely say that cyclists are 'moved' by the new Masi line.

    When I worked for a sports marketing company our tag line was, "Marketing for Sport". That, also, had two meanings. Either we marketed for sports events or we were marketing for fun. Both were true. Most of our clients were sporting events or sports related clients. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had - I enjoyed every single day there.

    If you are lucky enough to come up with something that plays a couple of ways, it's great!

    Then again, "Just do it" is the most recognizable tag lines ever, so what do I know?
  6. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 4:50 PM  
    Nike spent a ton of money buying "impressions" to burn thier tag line into our minds.

    It's almost impossible to do, but try to pretend you're hearing "just do it" for the first time. Does it jump out as vastly superior to the others in the list? I think not.

    Not in and of itself. The fact that "just do it" succinctly captures Nike's brand identity, and has been relentlessly drummed into our craniums makes it successful. I think there are a few lessons to be found here:

    Tag line = brand identity.

    Consistency of message is good.

    (That's my take.)
  7. Blogger gwadzilla posted at 5:15 AM  
    I recently posted a picture of a Masseratti bike on my blog
    that bike is also beautiful in its own way
    it may not move you
    it moves its owner

    one of the advantage of the pre8 speed stuff
    it lasts longer
    needs less frequent replacement

    the recreational cyclist should get nothing more than 7 speed
    as not everyone wants to replace a chain several times a year

    you see a schwinn varisty from the 70s
    the original chain
    very little wear
    with correct adjustment no skipping

    not everyone is a weight winnie

    I tangent jumped there
    just wanted to comment on the pretty bike
    but all the industry types in the audience made me nervous
    and had me lose my train of thought
  8. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 3:56 AM  
    well bryan, what i feel is that taglines are the words that are not needed to form , they just are formed out of you.So dont feel fruststed ya

Post a Comment

« Home