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Are taglines dead?

A while back, Ad Week ran a great article on the death of the tagline at the hands of flexible branding. I’d forgotten about it until recently, when a stay-cation visit to Shelmerdine Garden Centre reminded me that the Winnipeg Headingley institution had re-branded a few years ago with a prominent ‘second nature’ tagline in its new marketing.

The Ad Week piece noted that taglines are diminishing in importance. Many of today’s top brands don’t use them at all and of ‘The 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948, as listed by, two-thirds ran before 1980. Half of Forbes’ Best-Loved Advertising Taglines ran before 1975.’

So, what’s in a tagline?

On the whole, taglines take the guesswork out of a brand’s message and communicate the unique selling proposition (USP) in a few memorable words. And with today’s short attention spans, a good tagline can summarize and fill in the gaps for the rest of your marketing efforts.

Has the age of the tagline passed?

Thanks to social and mobile marketing, we’re getting better at conveying the USP with less copy, making the tagline a bit redundant. And trends like marketing personas and flexible branding mean that a standard tagline may not be the best choice for established brands. Nonetheless, a good tagline may still have a place for unestablished brands, new businesses, commoditized businesses that need to set themselves apart from the pack or even established brands that are new to eCommerce or entering new markets for the first time.

Tips for great taglines

If a tagline is right for your brand, Al Ries reminds us that there are five techniques that effective slogans employ; and I’d argue that same applies for the tagline:

  • Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Repetition
  • Reversal
  • Double-entendre

Does Shelmerdine's ‘second nature’ sell?

Back to Shelmerdine. While second nature is pretty clever, I’m not sure that this tagline is the best fit (Monday morning quarterbacking, of course). On one hand, Shelmerdine is arguably a pretty established local brand, making a tagline one of the less important elements of their marketing efforts. On the other, if the intent was to branch out into eCommerce and to new markets; while memorable, I’m not sure that second nature does much to concisely communicate Shelmerdine’s USP.

Then again, branding is more art than science. What do you think?

Jill KnaggsComment