Does your business have a tagline?

Well, there is a good chance it’s bad.

My undergraduate journalism teacher would be furious at me for burying the lede. This is a write up on developing an effective tagline for the professional services organization. But give me an opportunity to explain the brash opening. 

We are exposed to taglines every day. Some are timeless and connect so completely with the brand that they are almost interchangeable with a name. Here are a few classics which I’m sure you’ll recognize:

  • “You’re in Good Hands”
  • “Breakfast of Champions”
  • “The Quicker Picker Upper”                                                                         
  • “A Diamond Is Forever”
  • “Just Do It”

Good taglines seem so obvious. And that is their magic. We don’t think about taglines in any sort of systematic way. Then one day we need to “come up with” a tagline for your business. And that is where things typically go sideways.

As Hinge’s Director of Business Development, I have a lot of conversations. Organizations will come to us to help solve their largest marketing and branding challenges. It’s from these conversations and the background prep that goes into them that I have developed my highly educated opinion on taglines.

Most are bad. 

Really bad.

We might start with a brainstorming session to come up with a page full of options—only to realize that nothing quite lives up to expectations. We need the next “The king of beers!” In that frustration, we’ll pull out all the stops and find some really creative friends. A cascade of ideas follows, but still no winner. Eventually the group settles on something like: 

“Your Trusted Advisor”

That’s cool. Same as every other Accounting and Financial Services firm. Ever.

Tagline Defined

A tagline is a short slogan used to reinforce a key aspect of a product or brand. It goes by many names (in the UK, for instance, they call it a strapline), and it can range from witty to mundane.

In the context of professional services firms, a tagline is usually part of a firm’s identity (as opposed to an ad slogan) — so it usually appears in conjunction with the firm’s name and logo.

Why You Need a Tagline

Part of the difficulty in selecting a tagline is that many professional services marketers don’t really understand what a tagline can—or cannot—do.

It is a bit of an oversimplification, but a tagline can take on three forms:

  1. It can describe what you do

For example, “The program management specialists” or “CPAs and advisors.” This approach can be very helpful if your firm is not well known and your name does not hint at what you do.

  1. It can convey a benefit of your service or your market position

For example, “The accessible CPAs.” or “IT. Without the anxiety.”

Our client, MHP, worked with us to rebrand and develop new collateral that would help them enter new, adjacent markets to their home state of Wyoming. “We know the territory” serves as a tagline that shows prospective clients that they are knowledgeable while also playing to the history of the region.

MHP rebranding
  1. It can attempt to convey an emotion or aspiration.

The Nike “Just Do It” category. This tends to be the most common option. It is also the riskiest and most likely to miss the mark if not tied to your target audience.

Choosing Your Professional Services Firm’s Tagline

Here’s a secret: start by choosing what you want the tagline to do from the options above. And before you ask, you can only have one top priority. 

So how do you know what is the most important goal? Remember that a tagline almost always travels with an organization’s name and/or logo, so it does not need to check every box. 

A good question to ask is if your name conveys what you do? 

For example, The International Finance Corporation doesn’t need a tagline to convey what business they’re in (Hint: It’s international finance). Similarly, your logo can signal industry focus or even convey an emotion already. There isn’t a need to double up on any of those three pathways. 

When you have evaluated what your name and logo communicate, you are in a position to identify what role your tagline can play in expressing your firm’s brand. A tagline is often the most flexible element of your brand identity, so it can make up for shortcomings in other areas.

Take a look at our work with Jones CPA Group to see how we used research to create a powerful and relatable rebrand including the tagline, “Let’s talk success.”

Also, remember that it takes time and exposure for a tagline to gain traction. Repetition and association with evocative imagery give it power. Try to imagine the reaction back in 1988 when a forward thinking agency first introduced “Just Do It” to a conference room in Beaverton, Oregon. No doubt, it took courage and an open mind to embrace it. The rest is history.

Final Thoughts

A tagline is a clear statement of what you do, who you do it for, or how I should feel. It needs to be straightforward, descriptive, and can’t be too long. Try to balance the creative with the specific character of your firm (fun-loving, practical, innovative, etc.).

And please don’t make it “our people make us different.”

If you’re scoring at home, the taglines from the introduction represented (in order) Allstate, Wheaties, Bounty, Debeers, and Nike. I hope you got a better grade than I received in that college English class. 

Free Resource

The Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms

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Joe Pope

How Hinge Can Help

Develop rebranding strategies that better connect with existing clients and prospects. Hinge’s Branding Program can help your firm stand out from the competition and build a brand that drives sustained growth.

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