Taglines & Descriptors
Developing a tagline or slogan to enhance and further position a brand is a natural and efficient extension of our naming services (plus, it’s fun!).
A memorable catchphrase is a great way to emotionally engage external audiences, galvanize internal ones, and improve brand recall.
Can you recognize these brands from the tagline or slogan alone (answers below)?
- What’s in your wallet? (1)
- Think different. (2)
- All the News That’s Fit to Print (3)
- The Happiest Place on Earth (4)
- Have it your way (5)
With the right tagline or slogan, you can reinforce messaging evoked by the brand name or provide new and complementary messaging. A functional message will help ground an abstract name, and an aspirational one will elevate a straightforward name.
Do I need a tagline, slogan, or descriptor?
Although the terms are not used entirely consistently in branding and advertising, at Catchword we define taglines as memorable brand triggers that instantly evoke a mental image of the brand. Taglines (think Got Milk? or Because You’re Worth It) often become a permanent or at least long-lived feature of the brand. Just do it, probably the most famous tag ever, pushed Nike into the public consciousness and is still being used 30 years later. Taglines don’t explicitly tell you what the brand does or why you should choose it over another. They are usually short-ish (2-8 words), informal (lighthearted, funny, or edgy), and most commonly used for companies rather than products, often appearing as the last bit of copy (the “tag”), in advertising.
Like taglines, slogans are memorable bits of brand copy, but they express brand strategy, such as the brand promise or unique selling proposition. Slogans are commonly used for both companies and products. The jingles we remember from childhood typically highlight the brand slogan: Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Slogans can change over the years to support specific marketing goals and campaigns. Coca-Cola has had dozens of slogans in its 100+ years to focus on different aspects of the brand: Delicious and refreshing, It’s the real thing, Coke adds life, Taste the Feeling.
But sometimes what’s needed is not a tasty tagline or slick slogan but a word or phrase that plainly describes what your brand is—what we call a descriptor. Adding a descriptor to a name identifies the industry or product category to which the brand belongs. Goldfish: Baked Snack Crackers. Roto-Rooter: Plumbing & Drain Service. They work especially well when a name is more abstract rather than suggestive of the offering. (Keysight communicates the critical insights this company provides but doesn’t tell you what sector it operates in. Keysight Technologies does.)
A descriptor is also a godsend if you’re looking for a way to expand upon a brand name to create an available domain name. We use one ourselves in our domain: catchwordbranding.com.
Boggled by all this brandspeak? Not a problem. It doesn’t really matter what you call these nuggets of marketing communication as long as the one you choose is working hard for your brand.
Have a peek at some of our Taglines, Slogans & Descriptors.
Answers to above tagline/slogan quiz:
- Capital One
- The New York Times
- Burger King
Taglines & Descriptors – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a tagline? A slogan? A descriptor? How are they different?
As noted above, taglines, slogans, and descriptors are bits of copy that help express your brand. Sometimes they are paired with your logo. Sometimes they are embedded into your advertising.
Consider Motel 6.
- Tagline: We’ll leave the light on for you
- Save more for what you travel for
- No frills, just rest.
- Descriptor: Economy motel
Taglines help customers remember the brand and emotionally connect, but don’t overtly tell customers anything about what you do or why they should choose your brand. The Motel 6 tagline conveys welcoming homeyness, but the truly distinguishing feature of the brand is lower price, not greater hospitality. Taglines are usually shorter phrases and don’t change frequently. A tagline can help a fairly descriptive brand name evoke more emotion and customer engagement.
Slogans express brand positioning and can be adapted to changing marketing goals. They can be long: There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard. Slogans sound more like campaign headlines and are more likely to feel like jingle lyrics: The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!
Descriptors tell you what the brand does, how it does it, where it does it, or who it does it for. Descriptors frequently are paired with brand names that are more abstract or that express the brand’s emotional benefit or personality but not the functional offering. Without the latter two words in Red Bull Energy Drink, the name could work for almost any brand characterized by power and passion.
Do I even need a tagline?
We recommend companies develop a tagline, slogan, or descriptor with their new name and logo. It will help flesh out your brand communication. Products and services generally don’t need a tagline but might need a slogan or descriptor, depending on the sector, type of name, and marketing plan.
What makes a good tagline, slogan, or descriptor?
Like great names, high-quality taglines and slogans grab your attention. They’re “sticky”–engaging and memorable (M’m! M’m! Good!). They put a stake in the ground (Breakfast of Champions). They become cultural memes (Where’s the beef?). They align with your brand personality and tone, and pair smoothly with your name, creating a balanced package.
And as with great names, creatively using wordsmith techniques can help your tagline or slogan succeed. From rhyme (Once you pop, you can’t stop) to repetition and meter (Shave Time. Shave Money.) to word play and alliteration (Every Kiss Begins with Kay), there are many ways to ensure your tagline or slogan stays with your audience.
Descriptors have one job: succinctly describe the offering in language the target audience can understand. Memorability is always a bonus, so alliteration and meter can help here too, but clever word play is best checked at the door when developing descriptors.
Can a tagline change overtime?
In general, taglines are long lasting, though they may adapt to changing times with really long-lived brands. Slogans change as marketing objectives evolve and advertising campaigns come and go, and descriptors often drop off as the audience develops an understanding of the brand or if the business focus changes. (Apple dropped Computers from the name, and Dunkin’ dropped Donuts because they expanded their offerings and everyone knew the brand.)
Do I need to trademark a tagline?
Many companies trademark their tagline. Large consumer brands often trademark slogans. Descriptors typically can’t be trademarked because they use general, non-proprietary language.
How long does it take to create a tagline?
Multiple factors affect the timeline for any project, including number of rounds of creative work, markets and geographies, and client responsiveness. But in general, we recommend setting aside 4 weeks for tagline and slogan development, not including trademark screening. Developing descriptors can be faster.
What is the cost of creating a tagline?
Tagline development varies in cost depending on the scope and complexity of the project and the comprehensiveness of the services provided (stakeholder briefings, trademark prescreening, linguistic checks, etc.). Fees can range from $5000 for a focused list of descriptors to $25,000 or more for a tagline project involving trademark prescreening and multiple rounds of creative.