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June 16, 2008

Brand Names and Taglines: Think Before You Change

BurgerKingLogo.pngCompanies rarely change their names on a whim. Usually there’s a merger, an acquisition, a spinoff, or even a lawsuit driving the switch from one name to the next. There are always reasons, usually good ones, for name changes.

Yet companies whose names have been familiar to us for decades change taglines almost every time they launch a new marketing campaign. Now, however, corporate giants like Avis, Burger King, and Memorex—and their advertising agencies—are returning to their classic taglines.

citi logo.pngMore recently, Citi (formerly Citibank) brought back its 1977, "Citi never sleeps" tagline (actually the original tagline was "The Citi never sleeps"). As you may recall, this tagline was created by the Wells, Rich, Green Agency.

This move makes sense for several reasons.

First, if your values haven’t changed, and your tagline represents your values, why would you change it?

Second, the longer you keep the tagline, the greater the chances are that people will remember it. I remember “We try harder,” “Have it your way,” and “Is it live or is it Memorex” from the TV commercials of my youth.

Avistagline.pngThird, if your company was more popular or more successful in the days when you had the old tagline, people may associate the return to a classic tagline with a return to better quality or service.

That won’t last long, however, if you don’t actually provide better quality and service. A great tagline won’t compensate for a lousy product or service any more than a great name will.

Nevertheless, if you have a great tagline or a great name, you should hold onto it until there’s a really good reason to change.

If you're taking your own tagline into consideration, here are several basic tagline rules to live by:

  1. Make it relevant—for today, tomorrow and well into the future. Think BMW, "the ultimate driving machine."
  2. Take creating a tagline seriously—your tagline is an opportunity to emotionally bond with the consumer.
  3. Test the water—ask existing employees and customers before fully implementing it.
  4. Keep it short—7 words is the most you get if you expect a consumer to log it in their short term memory, but 3 or 4 words is much better.
  5. Make it unique—try putting your competitors name in with your tagline, if it works, it's no good.
  6. Finally, don't think that your tagline says it all—support it with quality products and a sound marketing strategy.

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Posted by Diane Prange at June 16, 2008 7:54 AM
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1 Comment

I love the classics! And the return to some classic taglines establishes the company as "eternal" which increases perceived value. I'm happy to see it. Change for change sake is rarely a good thing. In the case of smaller business (my clients), I still believe that updating their message as their focus changes can really help when targeting a specific niche. But if it ain't broke...

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