What can a strapline do for my business?

Just Do It
Every little helps
Vorsprung Durch Technik

Straplines are those little verbal nuggets that go under the logo, designed to catch the essence of the brand or organisation. The ones above are some famous examples and you surely know already that they belong to Nike, Tesco and Audi respectively.

Perhaps it’s because the big company straplines are so ubiquitous and seem so powerful that we smaller fish sometimes think that they’re vitally important for our own business. You’ve had the logo designed, but wouldn’t it be great if there were three or four magic words to go with it that would inspire customers and motivate staff?

Well of course it would, but let’s just think for a second. Why is it that those big company slogans are so potent? Is it actually the awesome effectiveness of the copywriting or could it be something else? After all, there’s nothing so amazing about ‘Every little helps’ for example – it’s the kind of thing your granny might say when you clearly haven’t helped that much at all.

The reason ‘Every little helps’ works so well is the combination of two things:

  1. It’s saying the right thing about the brand
  2. There’s a huge investment of money behind it

And guess which one is most important. A lot of straplines are remembered for years after they’ve become redundant because we've seen and heard them countless times on TV commercials. They’re spoken by famous actors, set to music, given a unique sound ident. They’re embedded in our heads through constant repetition over months and years. That’s why they seem like words with an almost supernatural power.

All this is pretty obvious, but I know from experience that people sometimes expect a strapline to have a similar fairy dust effect on their own small to medium sized business. Of course, there’s absolutely no reason every organisation can’t benefit from the right words to accompany the logo, but it’s a question of managing expectations and the budget.

The first thing to ask yourself is exactly what is a strapline going to achieve. Big companies can use vague inspirational phrases to their advantage because people already know the essence of what they offer, but if you’re a little known outfit phrases like ‘Exceeding expectations’, ‘Simply years ahead’ or ‘Relentless focus on you’ tend to be anodyne and lacking in credibility.

Often it can be better to take a specific, more concrete approach. For example, if your logo is on your vans, it’s far better to tell people exactly what your business is. It’s impossible to invoke the feel-good factor if they have no idea whether you’re a baker or a candle-stick maker.

In other words, don’t expect the strapline to perform miracles of marketing. Think of it as a way of quickly conveying the nature of your business to the big wide world that doesn’t know you from Adam, rather than changing hearts and minds. All that can come from the quality of your service which will grow you into a business capable of affording multi-million advertising campaigns and a strapline that’s pure emotion.