Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Seasons Koll
August 1, 2016

Question: I want to revamp our tagline, but I have no clue where to start. What’s the best way to come up with one that truly reflects the unique gifts and shopping experience we offer without being too wordy?

Answer: Taglines are an incredible asset to any business, but they are equally difficult to come up with. There is a reason advertising firms make so much money! Still, no one knows your business better than you do, and that makes you the most qualified to quantify your brand in a tagline.

Looking at corporate taglines we are exposed to everyday, it is clear taglines can be incredibly effective in customer retention and brand awareness—we all have some memorized without even knowing it. Here’s the first one that came to my mind as inspiration: “Nationwide is on your side.” I literally can hear the melody of that tagline when I read it. This is a great example of a highly effective tagline. While it doesn’t state exactly what Nationwide does, it endears you to the company and instills the feeling the company wants you to have about it. It also speaks to how you would use its services and what you would most want from a company in that field. The melodic tune fits the words, which makes it easy to remember, and using the company name in the tagline reinforces the company brand.

You also can focus on what you offer and promote your company as the only real source for it. Hallmark accomplishes this with their tagline, “When you care enough to send the very best,” implying they are the source for “the very best.” Focusing on a problem you can solve for people is also a great tactic. Verizon accomplishes this with, “Can you hear me now?”

To start formulating your store’s tagline, break down what it is about corporate taglines such as these that works and figure out how to apply those elements to your brand. Corporations spend thousands of dollars to do exactly that. To boost your brand recognition, starting with your store name is a great jumping off point. Like Nationwide, does your name rhyme with something you sell or services you offer? Or, does your store name work in a catchy sentence that reflects your store’s branding (e.g., “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”)?

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best. When someone asks you about your store, how do you describe it? If you can quantify what you do in one sentence for a potential customer, you can turn that sentence into a tagline. For example, the tagline for Lowe’s is “Never stop improving.” Target’s is “Expect more, pay less,” while Best Buy promotes “Expert service, unbeatable price.” Are you the only resource for something special in your area? For instance, do you staff more employees so you can offer better customer service or faster turnaround? These unique qualities can inspire your tagline.

Put together a handful of ideas, some using your brand name, some speaking to what you sell or do, some designed to inspire confidence, and gather feedback to narrow your choices. Show them to staff, regular customers, family, and friends. They can help you pick the best one and find the right tweaks to arrive at the perfect tagline.

If you just can’t seem to come up with anything that shines, have a contest for customers to create their own taglines for your store. Reward the winner with a generous gift certificate to your store. You will spend much less than an advertising agency would charge, learn more about how your customers see your store, and end up with a great tagline that fits from the people whose perceptions you can trust the most—your customers!

You want your tagline as short and succinct as possible. Look for redundant content. Check a thesaurus for potential alternate words. Consider slang words or abbreviations that are well known and understood. There are many ways to say the same thing, and you likely will have to play around a while to get your tagline right. Keep it simple.

Once you have a catchy, memorable tagline that you know conveys what your store is about, commit to it. Taglines only work when they are reinforced over time and seen repeatedly. Make sure yours is used everywhere and every time possible. Add it to your business cards and social media presence and include it in all your advertising. The more exposure your tagline gets, the better!

Seasons Koll owns Presents of Mind (www.presentsofmind.tv), a one-stop cards and gift boutique in Portland, Ore., family owned since 1989.