Firm leaders and marketers often look at B2C companies as the yardstick for taglines for their own firms. Nike, Apple and Coca-Cola are brands that often come to mind. We are familiar with them all and have probably been “inspired” by one of them to finish a marathon, to motivate a team in solving a pressing problem or to rationalize our services against an upstart competitor.
- “Just Do It”
- “Think different”
- “The Real Thing”
Unfortunately, recalling a powerful equivalent in the professional services space is like finding a unicorn in the forbidden forest. At its best, a firm tagline might be recalled by some employees. At its worst, a tagline is a brand-eroding embarrassment; but most often, it is just a huge waste of time.
I wonder why so many firms try to breathe life into an ailing brand with the “perfect” tagline. Firms would be much better off if they moved on and focused on higher ROI areas. Here are three reasons it’s time to move on:
- Few taglines have wide organic pick-up. The famous ones have recognition as the result of hundreds of millions of dollars in billboards, commercials and celebrity endorsements. It is even more rare when a tagline speaks to the zeitgeist and catches fire own its own. Most are simply ignored like I was at junior high dances.
- B2C taglines are tied to emotional benefits associated with the product. The normal emotions tied to professional services purchases are anxiety and fear. The fear of making a wrong decision or committing a career-limiting move. These are not brand-magnet emotions. Before you even think about it, please don’t argue using the flipside of those emotions—TRUST—in your tagline. Trust is not a tagline. It is a result that is earned.
- Taglines in professional services firms are written/approved by committee. As a result, “Just do it.” becomes “We strive to design our client service with integrity to help you produce lasting results.” You’re laughing or moaning because you know it is true.
Memorable and meaningful taglines are not impossible to find. The best place to look is at firms with exceptional cultures. A clear, strong culture is the precursor to a tagline with any possibility of power and uniqueness.
Take, for example, Accenture’s “High Performance Delivered.” The tagline was not developed in committee. It was dictated at the highest level and established as a mandate. The intellectual capital engine of the entire firm was realigned to support and demonstrate it. And, most importantly, a culture of confidence was unleashed to deliver it. Then, Tiger came into the picture.
The graveyard of professional services taglines is crowded. If you are thinking about your need for a tagline, make sure you have what it takes to give it life. Otherwise, start carving that headstone first.
Instead of wasting time on a tagline, focus on being crystal clear about your culture, identifying your ideal client and delivering incomparable value to your clients. If you don’t have those three things straight, no tagline will save you.
If you doubt what I say, take the quiz below and see how many taglines you can recall.
- The uncola
- The road will never be the same
- Better by __________
- Ask about it at work
- We know money
- Stronger than dirt
- I can’t believe I ate the whole thing
- Mama mia, thatsa spicy meatball
- The relief goes on
- Are you in good hands?
- You’re in good hands with_______
- Doesn’t your dog deserve ______?
- Something special in the air
- Behold the power of cheese
- Don’t leave home without it
- For fast, fast, fast relief
- Legendary reliability
- Think different
- The power to be your best
- Think outside the box
- Reach out and touch someone
- The world’s networking company
- Never follow
- We try harder
- Higher standards
- Bank of Opportunity
- Thank you for your support
- _______ works wonders
- Flick my _________
- We mean clean
- Life’s messy Clean it up!
- The ultimate driving machine
- Better sound through research
- The quicker picker-upper
- When you’ve got it, flaunt it
- The way to fly
- We’re getting there
- The king of beers
- It just tastes better
- Have it your way
- Break through
- ________, take me away
- A can a week, that’s all we ask
- Got milk?
- 3M Innovation
- 7-Up The uncola
- Acura The road will never be the same
- Adobe Better by Adobe
- Aflac Ask about it at work
- AIG We know money
- Ajax Stronger than dirt
- Alka-Seltzer I can’t believe I ate the whole thing
- Alka-Seltzer Mama mia, thatsa spicy meatball
- Allegra The relief goes on
- Allstate Are you in good hands?
- Allstate Insurance You’re in good hands with Allstate
- Alpo Dog Food Doesn’t your dog deserve Alpo?
- Ambien Works like a dream
- American Airlines Something special in the air
- American Dairy Association Behold the power of cheese
- American Express Don’t leave home without it
- Anacin For fast, fast, fast relief
- APC Legendary reliability
- Apple Think different
- Apple The power to be your best
- Apple Think outside the box
- AT&T Reach out and touch someone
- AT&T The world’s networking company
- Audi Never follow
- Avis We try harder
- Bank of America Higher standards
- Bank of America Bank of Opportunity
- Bartles & Jaymes Thank you for your support
- Bayer Aspirin Bayer works wonders
- Bic Flick my Bic
- Bissell We mean clean
- Bissell Life’s messy Clean it up!
- BMW The ultimate driving machine
- BOSE Better sound through research
- Bounty The quicker picker-upper
- Braniff Airlines When you’ve got it, flaunt it
- Bristol-Myers Squibb Co Hope, triumph, and the miracle of medicine
- British Airways The way to fly
- British Rail We’re getting there
- Budweiser Wassup?!
- Budweiser The king of beers
- Burger King It just tastes better
- Burger King Have it your way
- Cadillac Break through
- Calgon Toiletries Calgon, take me away
- California Almond Growers A can a week, that’s all we ask
- California Milk Processor Board Got milk?