How to write a great one.

‘Find Your Happy’.
‘Brilliance re-defined.’
‘Start your impossible.’

These are just a few of the advertising straplines I’ve been subjected to over the last couple of days. I was as surprised as anyone to read that ‘brilliance’ wasn’t quite cutting it and needed to be re-defined. And on hearing ‘Find Your Happy’ shouted from my radio just made me feel, well, a bit sad. Particularly as it seems that it’s open season on using adjectives as nouns and not making any grammatical sense.

‘Start Your Impossible’ is Toyota’s new line. Imagine getting behind the wheel of one and finding out it’s ‘Impossible to Start’.

What would the late, great David Abbot say about all this? I know one thing. He’d say it better.

Which got us thinking, ‘have we lost the art of writing the great company strapline?’ It certainly seems like we aren’t coming up with any good ones anymore and there have been some mighty ones down the years. The most successful ones have turned businesses into billion-dollar companies, distilling everything important that a company stands for and acting as a springboard for great communications.

‘Just do it’, ‘Think different’, ‘Every Little Helps’, ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’, to name but a few.

When done well, straplines, slogans or whatever you want to call them can be very powerful. There’s no better way to sum up what a company wants to say and leave a thought behind in their target audiences mind.

So maybe we need to go back to the drawing board and just do it better.

Recently, a client of ours briefed us to create a new company strapline for them. It needed to embody their values, speak their tone of voice and include two or three different product benefits.

And be a maximum of three words long.

Which brings us to the first rule of writing a great strapline.

Be absolutely clear about what you want to say.

Only then can you take your copywriting tools out of the box and start crafting your line.

Brainstorming a list of words and phrases that describe your business is a good place to start. But also ask yourself – why would a new customer pick us? Try to think how you want your customers to see you, rather than how you see your business. Get everything down on paper and don’t hold back.

While you’re doing this it’s important to keep the following things in mind.

  1. Have an insight.  The best lines are based in truth. Think about how they might feel as your client. Or how they behave when they use your product.The Yellow Pages line “Let your fingers do the walking” is a great example. The line says ‘convenient’. And it works well because customers use their fingers to ‘walk’ through the pages. It’s actually quite long for a strapline, but the way it’s written and the natural feel to it keeps it simple.
  2. Use natural sounding language rather than being overly clever. It will communicate much quicker. And if you can coin an everyday phrase like ‘Every little helps’, even better.
  3. Simplicity is vital. It should be easy to grasp in two seconds. Could your audience take it in as they click through various web pages or walk along a busy tube platform?
  4. Make it memorable. While ‘zingy’ wordplay like ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ might work for B2C brands, it’s not really appropriate in the B2B space. The best way to make it memorable for B2B customers is to focus on what they want from your company. What do they value most in your services? Then say it in a simple and hard-hitting way. G.E’s ‘Imagination at work’ is a great example of this.
  5. Make it a rallying cry. Some of the best straplines don’t just sell the company and its ethos. They also act as a motivating statement that the whole company can get behind and feel proud of. Think Adidas’s ‘Impossible is Nothing’ or Apple’s ‘Think Different’

It’s also important not to rush this process. Reducing things down to one or two words that work together well, are memorable, motivate, inspire, have some emotion and sell the company is difficult and takes time. And a great copywriter.

Watch out for more Creative How-To’s on the blog soon.


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