Developing a Tagline for Your Professional Services Firm

We are exposed to taglines every day. Some are timeless and connect so completely with the brand that the tagline is almost interchangeable with the brand name. Here are a few classics:

“Just Do It”

“Don’t Leave Home Without It”

“Good to the Last Drop”

“You’re in Good Hands”

“Think Different”

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 professional services firm.

That’s when taglines seem impossible.

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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 then pull out the stops and find some really creative friends. A cascade of ideas follows, but still no winner.

What to do? Here are a few practical suggestions to help you get to a solution.

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 “The land lawyers.” This approach can be very helpful if your firm is not well known and your name does not hint at what you do.

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

For example, “Pay less. Get more.” or “IT. Without the anxiety.”

3. It can attempt to convey an emotion or aspiration.

For example, “Tomorrow, delivered today.” (This, of course, is Nike’s “Just do it” category.)

SEE ALSO: Rebranding Strategies: A Step-By-Step Approach for Professional Services

Choosing Your Professional Services Firm’s Tagline

Here’s a secret. Start by choosing what you want the tagline to do. (Sorry, you can only have one top priority!)

How do you know what is the most important goal? Remember that your tagline travels with your name and logo, so it does not need to do it all. Does your name convey what you do? Northwood Construction probably doesn’t need a tagline to convey what business they’re in. ABC Inc. might. Similarly, your logo may signal your industry or even convey an emotion.

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

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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 in the conference room when the creatives first introduced “Just Do It.” No doubt, it took courage and an open mind to embrace it.

Final Thoughts

A tagline is a clear statement of what you do and who you do it for. It needs to be straightforward and descriptive, but it can’t be too long.

Try to balance the creative with the specific character of your firm (fun-loving, practical, innovative, etc.).

Just don’t over think it.

Oh, by the way, the brands that went with the taglines were (in order) Nike, American Express, Maxwell House, Allstate, and Apple.

Additional Resources:

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.


Author: Natasha Collin

Industries & Topics
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    Ken Norkin

    There’s no reason to speculate about Nike’s reaction to “Just Do It” (Try to imagine the reaction in the conference room when the creatives first introduced “Just Do It.” No doubt, it took courage and an open mind to embrace it.) when the story is available on the web.

    In fact, Nike execs didn’t really embrace the line when it was presented. Neither did all of the creatives at the agency, Wieden & Kennedy. As Dan Wieden tells it, he came up with the line as a way to unify five disparate TV spots in the first well-funded campaign Wieden & Kennedy was producing for Nike.

    From an interview transcript:

    “I showed it to some of the folks in the agency before we went to present to Nike and they said ‘We don’t need that shit.’ I went to Nike and [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight said, ‘We don’t need that shit.’ I said ‘Just trust me on this one.’ So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly.”

    Nike didn’t embrace the line until it worked. Not much courage there.