How to write a tagline customers can’t forget

The only race I ever ran took me over the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was April 2012, two days before elite runners from all over the world traveled the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, up Heartbreak Hill and down Boylston Street while thousands cheered. On the Saturday before that Marathon Monday, I was sweating and red-faced, trudging along a few measly miles at the tail end of that famous course, running my first (and only) 5K.

I remember a girl in a tutu passed me on Commonwealth Avenue. She was probably 10 years old. She ran easily, with joy that was apparent on her face and in her stride, as well as in her outfit. As she pulled ahead of me, the voice in my head made one clear statement:

You, Rebecca Joyner, are NO RUNNER.

I hit my goal that day. I crossed the finish line. I ran the whole way. I have a medal and a bright yellow shirt to prove it. But I never signed up for a race again.

Yet, I recently found myself walking the aisles of the New Balance factory store in Lawrence, Mass. in search of a new pair of running shoes. Why, why, why am I subjecting myself to this humbling experience again? This run-for-two-minutes-walk-for-two-minutes-run-for-two-minutes training routine designed to get me from my couch to some finish line (literal or figurative)?

The words stamped on the bag holding my new sneakers explain why: “Always in beta.”

Echo your customers’ pain points and goals.
It is no easy thing to find the exact few words that will connect your brand with your target customer. B2C companies might seem to have it easier here.

Of course a company that sells athletic wear should see the emotion in its customers’ buying decisions.

Of course that company should realize the way it describes its rubber sole is not the thing that will echo in the customer’s head while she’s pounding those shoes against the treadmill, asking herself Why On Earth she is doing this again. While that customer might ultimately buy from the company because its products fit her budget, because it’s a locally based business or, most importantly, because the shoes feel good, that short tagline is important, too.
I like to think that as a cynical, attentive consumer (and marketer), I cannot be swayed by a tagline. I didn’t shop around for the best wording when I decided to buy new sneakers and try this crazy thing again. However, “always in beta” speaks to me, and it’s something I think about when I really don’t want to go to the gym.

The voice in my head now says:

So, maybe you’re no runner. But you’re not done yet. This is your beta.

When it comes to jargon: delete, delete, delete.
B2B companies can do this, too. You might sell to other businesses, but those who make the purchasing decisions are human beings, subject to the same strong reactions to the right combination of ideas and words as any consumer.

Those words need to:

  • Convey your value proposition
  • Showcase your differentiators
  • Reflect your core values
  • Speak in honest language

The fewer words you have, the more they matter. This is something to keep in mind when you’re creating any piece of content, but particularly for short content: taglines, boilerplates, social media descriptors and more.

Are your typical buyers moved by jargon like “revolutionary," “innovative” or “cutting edge?” Or do those words work against you, since most of us now take them as warning beacons for BS? Your prospects are more likely to pay attention when you acknowledge the pain they feel about, for example, middle-of-the-night data center or the struggle of achieving better performance with flat IT budgets.

Give them straight talk about real things that THEY care about.

A lot goes into figuring out just what those real things are. When you’re creating your “Always in beta” wording, it helps to be able to call upon:

  • Accurate, detailed buyer personas
  • Influencer and social media audits
  • A/B test results of your content strategy

There’s a lot of effort reflected in those three bullets, but it’s worthwhile when it informs (among other things) the creation of just the right few words to influence your PR and marketing campaigns for the next quarter, year or longer.

Answer these two critical questions.
It’s unusually hot and dry in Greater Boston this summer. The lawns all over my neighborhood have turned brown, and the sound of daytime is the wheeze of overworked air conditioning units. It’s hard weather for running – especially if your status as a runner is more aspirational than, you know, true. In the meantime, New Balance is reportedly on the hunt to replace its advertising firm. Maybe “Always in beta,” in an echo of its own meaning, will make way for some other message. I’ll remember it, though, every time I convince myself to lace up my shoes and get off my couch.

This is the sign of a marketing message with legs, and the test works whether you’re applying it to a tagline, slogan, boilerplate or any other short content. If your ideal customers can identify with it, remember it and connect it to their own needs and goals, you’ve found the answer to two critical questions: “Why this product?” and “Why now?”

Content strategy and creation are among the ways Metis makes ideas happen for technology companies. Find out more about our services.


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