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Taglines, Slogans and the Irony Behind the Brand

Andrea Newton is a qualified and experienced HR consultant with over 25 years’ experience helping individuals develop the skill and confidence to be their best selves, and in helping organisations develop a culture so that people want to work there. Below she delves into the intricacies of brand taglines, their effectiveness and the irony behind some examples.

“Just do it” – probably one of the most recognised taglines of all. Ticks all the boxes – simple, concise, easy to say, appealing to the target market, represents the brand promise and attitude and chances are, even Grandma will remember it and know which brand it relates to. That’s the thing about taglines – creating a memorable phrase that sums up your business and reinforces your brand in the customer’s mind and gives an accurate representation of what your business is about.

Customers will build an impression of you from your tagline and so it should quickly and efficiently sum up what your business is about – it’s the next thing they see after your logo which you have no doubt sweated blood and tears over. It would therefore make sense that whatever tagline is agreed by our marketing professionals, that it accurately represents our product, service, business ethos and values. So let’s have a look at a few more.

“Every little helps” – well, there is an irony straight away – every little does help if you are the female employed on the shop floor as opposed to the male in the warehouse, and the difference in gender pay – Tesco’s most recent challenge. With employees claiming as much as £4bn under an equal pay claim, that becomes something of a headache for Marketing with their “Every little helps” tagline. Tesco will probably also feel “Every little helps” if they can knock back some of those claims but from a people management position, it’s not great PR.

With a £1.5bn debt wiping them out, and today being accused of “pervasive institutional failings” in the FT, Carillion were never really going to “build a better future” were they? Apparently the Chairman had “no grip of reality” and there were “widespread cultural problems” so once again the tagline hardly reflected the reality of the business – no building of better futures there, in fact they are accused of “aversion to change” and “short term thinking” – so whilst the tagline might have been aspirational, it certainly doesn’t seem to have reflected their reality – why was nobody reminding them of their commitment to the future?

They are not the only ones whose taglines don’t seem to connect with the actual operation. A recent Dispatches programme showed us the reality of the Purple Palace – where “Everything is Premier but the price” … except how the Premier Inn employees are treated and paid. Dispatches suggested it was a ridiculously low sum of money for the work involved, not paid any overtime and seemingly put under great pressure to clean rooms in an impossibly short time – hence the deviation from the rule book with cleaning the bathroom with a used towel– and more bad press as one of their hotels recently advertised for cleaning staff who “speak Romanian” …. clearly little Premier commitment towards their people.

Maybe in all these cases we could say that it’s great for the Marketing teams to have such aspirations, but maybe the Board, HR and all managers need to also share in that. If the tagline is so important and reflects the brand and our business in the eyes of the customer, we have to make damn sure that behind the scenes we live up to it. Marketing have a role to play when defining what that tagline is, but then also a role at the senior table in reminding those of the commitment made and the amount of damage to a brand with a tagline that becomes something of a joke.

If Mr Kipling really is ditching his “exceedingly good cakes” line, perhaps there is something going on operationally with the quality of the cakes that we don’t yet know about? Food for thought maybe?

Taglines are critical– a good one sets you apart from your competitors and informs your customers of your goals, but as we can see here, to avoid your brand becoming a laughing stock, it needs to also reflect reality. Choose well!

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