You Too Can Be a Fluke – Branding Through Tag Lines

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When Bobby Fluke inherited his father’s business, he decided the company needed a good tag line. But what can you do with Fluke Transportation?

As it turns out, a lot.

Tag lines are an extremely effective means of promoting recognition of your product or service. “Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” “Just do it.” “The quicker picker-upper.” “You deserve a break today.” For most people, these phrases are synonymous with their brands: M&Ms, Nike, Bounty, and McDonald’s.

There are four elements to a good tag line:

  1. It should be short. 
  2. It should say something specific about your business or product. 
  3. It should stick in the customer’s mind. 
  4. It should be used in every aspect of your public communications.

One of the most common mistakes is to create a tag line so abstract it could apply to almost anything. Consider the following real examples for companies in vastly different industries:

  • “Create. Organize. Share. Connect.”
  • “Experience. Share. Connect.”
  • “Connect. Share. Live.”
  • “Create. Share. Connect.”

One of them is for a company that deals with maps — can you tell which? Not that it matters: the word strings are so random that nobody’s ever going to remember them.

But making a coherent tag line isn’t enough: it must also resonate with your product or service. “The quicker picker-upper” makes sense for a paper towel that gets rid of spills quickly, and an athletic shoe, by its very nature, is urging the wearer to “just do it.”

Another common mistake is to make unwarranted and exaggerated claims. You don’t call yourself the “best,” “greatest,” “unsurpassed,” or “pre-eminent” without solid proof to back it up. Budweiser began billing themselves as the “King of Beers” only after capturing more than 50% of the American beer market.

Yes, there are many potential mistakes in creating a tag line, and there are many companies making them; but that means if you do it right, you’ve put yourself head-and-shoulders above the competition. Creating an effective, memorable tag line can be a daunting task. But here are five steps towards making it easier.

1) Brainstorm

What does your company do? What do you want people to remember about you? Other businesses are doing exactly the same thing you’re doing: what makes you different? Don’t forget to listen to your repeat customers: they’re the ones who know why they keep coming back to you.

2) Clarify

Take the best, most specific ideas you’ve come up with and try turning them into slogans of ten words or less. If a pun suggests itself, play around with it; but remember — even the best pun can get old pretty fast. Or maybe you can hitch a ride with an expression already in common use. Behr paints used something we all learned in grade school — the conjugation of superlatives, “good, better, best” — to create a clever, and easily remembered tag line spotlighting their reputation for excellence: “Good – Better – Behr.”

3) Test

Once you have two or three tag lines that seem to work, try them out on friends, family, and customers. See which gets the best reaction, then refine it. After that, refine it some more.

4) Use it

Once you have your tag line, use it. Put it on your stationary, your vehicles, your website, and of course, your advertisements. (But not your telephone greetings: people calling your company are looking for service, not commercials.)

5) Stick with it

Switching tag lines every couple of months is not an effective branding technique. Specific campaigns may require specific tag lines, but for the core brand, your slogan should be virtually inviolate. Admittedly, sometimes change is necessary, but it should never be done because you or your advertising agency has grown bored. And if you need inspiration, just remember Bobby Fluke. Bobby had no training in marketing, lacked experience in PR, and was saddled with the name Fluke; yet despite these handicaps, he created one of the best tag lines in trucking history: “If it’s on time, it’s a Fluke.” Now go ahead — I dare you to forget that one.  

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