Is it the idea? The follow through? The play on words? Or does it have no impact on you whatsoever? Or does it? I bet you remember at least one strapline you read somewhere and if so that was a good business strapline because you remembered it.
But do you really need a business strapline and if so what should it be? Let’s take a look…
Do you need a business strapline?
Business straplines work well for big corporate companies for three reasons:
- They have the need to embody their business with a single line of text, for both employees, consumers and the company itself, to help define their place in society.
- They have the power to create a strapline and send it out worldwide as a part of their identity.
- They have the power to have that strapline repeated constantly, making it a communication asset that’s remembered.
Based on the above we can say that the value of a strapline is only as big as the company it represents. That might also mean that a small company shouldn’t bother with one and I’ve heard a few so-called brand experts say the same thing. I however would disagree.
Typical brand experts advise against it because they’re used to dealing with bigger brands from a strategic point of view, not smaller businesses. I help companies of all sizes with their brand strategy and brand design, from the local start up sole trader to established global charities, and I come from a self-employed and design background. This means that my input is not just strategic but practical and hands on. When I create a brand, I don’t just plan it, I design every aspect of it. With that said, my advice to any business would be to have a strapline of some sort and use it.
Straplines in general represent a bigger idea which is great for big businesses because their company and products are already known brands. They’re just using additional tactics to ensure that their name stays in your brain with the use of a strapline. As a smaller business you may not have that brand power but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a strapline. It just means that you can use it in a different way that’s more advantageous to you. A strapline could simply be defining what it is you do. It doesn’t have to be clever or catchy, it just needs to communicate.
A simple strapline could set you apart easily and confirm what it is you do for the customer. It might not sound like much but believe me, it works. Customers searching for products or services need confirmation that they have found what they are looking for and a simple strapline does just that.
If you were looking for a builder, which one would you choose:
- DMS – Building & Contractors
- DMS – Expert Building & Contractors
As you can see, a strapline of some sort is beneficial for any size business but here’s another reason why you should have one.
A strapline strengthens your identity
When designing brands, I find a common problem with small businesses who don’t bother with straplines. They had nothing to put on their marketing collateral and you need content to put on marketing material. I would create the logo, the colour scheme and graphics to form a system of design that could be identifiable to customers but colours and graphics can be interpretable by consumers. A strapline however solves that. It adds an extra layer of graphical communication to be explored within a document and it removes any abstractive element to define clear communication.
If you place a simple strapline on a document, then you’re at least confirming your audience’s expectations. If you repeat it consistently across all materials then your forming a bond with your potential customers, much like bigger businesses do with their straplines.
Repetition is one of the keys to creating a strong identity so to finally answer “Do you need a strapline?”, the answer is yes. Just remember:
- It doesn’t have to be fancy?
- It doesn’t have to be clever
- You don’t need to waste a lot of time trying to think of one
- You can always change it
- Use and repeat it
If you do want to put more time and effort into a strapline then let’s take a look at what makes a good strapline.
What makes a good strapline?
Some of the best straplines take a quirky and creative edge to articulate a big idea. Some of my favs are:
- L’Oréal – “Because You’re Worth It”
- Rimmel – “Get the London look”
- Maxfactor – “the makeup of makeup artists”
- Maybelline – “Maybe its Maybelline”
- HSBC – “The World’s Local Bank”
- Daewoo – “That’ll be the Daewoo”
- EDF – “Save today, save tomorrow”
- APPLE – “Think Different”
- KITKAT – “Have a break, have a KitKat “
- HMRC – “Tax doesn’t have to be taxing “
Each one is different to the next, communicating with a global audience and interpretable but each one is also speaking in a third person form, almost like a friend talking to you or a thought inside your head. The language is simple and chatty, taking into account its core audience, maybe replicating what the user says when they experience the brand.
The goal, message and tone of each strapline can be broken down by looking at the specific words and language used to reveal the brands identity in relation to the customer. Let’s take a look at the first four examples, each from a beauty or fashion related business.
L’Oréal’s “Because you’re worth it”:
- Persuading the buyer to indulge
- Appealing to the buyer’s emotions and indecision
- Subconsciously claiming that their products are luxurious and high-end.
L’Oréal’s identity is one of a best friend. Familiar, friendly, encouraging yet classy, maybe something the buyer wants to aspire to!
Rimmel’s “Get the London Look”:
- It’s suggestive yet also commanding?
- It’s dictating not asking
- “London Look” relates to a fashion and design language
Rimmel wants to be seen as an industry leader, dictating fashion and style as oppose to following it. The words used relate specifically to those who are highly, professionally or personally interested in fashion with aspirations to be up to date. Rimmel is more like your boss!
Maxfactor – “the makeup of makeup artists”:
- The statement shows a clear sign of expertise, intelligence and prestige
- The product is used by experts, indicating a quality product and an intelligent purchase for industry users
- Likewise, it has the exact same effect on personal users, appealing to their aspirations of having professional makeup and looking like a star
Maxfactor takes a unique stance with their strapline, positioning themselves as industry experts but at the same time the universal, emotional and desirable appeal of having the best, makes the strapline work on everyday users as well. Maxfactor is like your well-informed work colleague or professional beauty advisor.
Maybelline – “Maybe its Maybelline”
- The strapline is a question, stemming from observing someone else
- It’s something the buyer doesn’t have
- Its information that the buyer is not privy to!
Whilst Maybelline has the softest, casual and common spoken strapline, presenting it as a friendly and breezy phrase, it may be the most impactful, placing itself directly onto the buyer’s mind as a thought that they have probably had themselves. Maybelline knows it core demographic and uses their own language and emotional feelings to sell them something. Maybelline is not your best friend, boss or well-informed colleague, it’s you! Someone who doesn’t have Maybelline.
Although each of the straplines are different, we can see how each is used to appeal psychologically to the buyer and we can ascertain common features in each. A good strapline must have:
- Focus on the core demographic
It needs to speak directly to the person most likely to buy the products
- Common language
It needs to be simply spoken, casual, almost chatty or like a thought itself
It needs to work on several layers with a duality of some sort. Whether it’s a dual meaning, a dual definition or a contradiction of terms, the duality will make it quirky, intelligent and memorable
It needs to be said by someone
- The end goal and big idea
The big idea is what your business is about, articulated by the strapline in a casual form without mentioning anything about your business.
These five points make for great straplines for big businesses but if you’re a small business there’s no reason why you can’t do the same. At the very least it’ll give you something to put on your marketing material that exudes a little more character. We ourselves use two straplines, one on the logo and one as an additional text element for documents.