Writing a marketing strap line that means something

What is a marketing strapline?

A great marketing strap line should summarise what your brand stands for in just a few words. It doesn’t have to be descriptive (although some are, like eBay’s “The world’s online market place”), but it should support your brand positioning and communicate what you are about.

Why use a marketing strapline?

The benefits of developing and using your own brand strapline include:

  • Instant brand positioning in just a few words
  • Memory hook for potential customers
  • Helps to develop affinity with your brand
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors
  • A great customer marketing framing tool

This all sounds very simple, but trust me it isn’t.

In this post I will show you how to create en effective strap line that has meaning and purpose.



A strap line must be done well, or not at all

I can remember the drawn out and painful affair that was my first attempt to implement a strap line at a company I worked for.

The mistakes I made were:

  • Allowing too many people to have a say
  • Losing focus on the point of having one
  • Allowing the final version to be wholly uninspired and almost meaningless

Brands will literally spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on agencies to develop their marketing strap lines, with varying degrees of success.

One of the strap lines that grinds on me the most is Burger King’s “Have it your way”.

The introduction of this to their marketing was a total knee jerk reaction to the increasing popularity of Subway and it has absolutely no substance.

Who honestly goes in to BK and customises their burger? You have it how it is given, therefore I’m not having it my way at all.

On the flip side, McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” helps to support their strategy of tying the brand to positive emotional connections.

Coke do the same thing with their “Always Coca-Cola” with the double whammy of implying any moment is the right moment for a Coke, not just the summer.

Examples of great strap lines

Before we get to my tips on how to write a great marketing strapline, here are some examples of what I think are the best straplines in the business. These are all winning straplines that stand the test of time.

They are short, punchy, “on brand” and have meaning!

  • Just do it – Nike
  • Impossible is nothing – Adidas
  • I’m lovin it – McDonalds
  • Reassuringly expensive – Stella Artois
  • Because your worth it – L’Oreal
  • The best a man can get – Gillette
  • Every little helps – Tesco
  • Never knowingly undersold – John Lewis
  • The world’s local bank – HSBC
  • Always Coca-Cola – Coca-Cola
  • A diamond is forever – De Beers
  • Does exactly what is says on the tin – Ronseal
  • Intel inside – Intel
  • Think different – Apple
  • Becuase not every web host is created equal – ReviewHosting
  • Beanz meanz Heinz – Heinz
  • Don’t just book it. Thomas Cook it. – Thomas Cook
  • Connecting people – Nokia
  • Liquid Engineering – Castrol GTX
  • Its good to talk – BT
  • The ultimate driving machine – BMW
  • Ah, Bisto! – Bisto

Here are my tips on how to go about creating a killer marketing strap line that has substance and benefits your marketing:

Tip one: Make sure it has substance

A strap line is not just a fancy marketing exercise to fill some office time and tick a box, it has to mean something and be grounded in reality or you shouldn’t have one at all.

brand promises

For example, if you want to focus on customer support, is that a genuine strength of yours?

Just saying it won’t make it true, and the disconnect between the promise and reality will create problems with your customers.

I think that is what irritates me about Burger King’s, it just doesn’t mean anything.

Tip two: Keep the number of people working on it to a minimum

The larger the team, the more voices there are that want to be heard and the harder it is to come to a final decision.

I have personally learnt this the hard way.

Create an internal working team that has the authority to work up the strapline with out any external pressures.

Tip three: Stay on brand

Your strap line has to fit in with existing branding and make sense to your customers.

For example, if your customers are what we’d describe as ‘silver surfers’ (pensioners), don’t do a riff on a recent popular cultural reference or run with an aggressive tone.

Nike’s “Just do it” fits in perfectly with their slightly edgy branding and no-nonsense approach.

It also doesn’t limit their product range in any way, as it doesn’t make any references to a sport or even clothing.

Tip four: Be creative

Apple’s “Think different” is a great example of being creative.

It is aspirational, it positions the businesses internal culture, it is exciting and it is timeless.

It is also applicable to everything they do, not just one particular product or piece of technology.

41 Comments Writing a marketing strap line that means something

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  3. Kellie Jensen

    Hi Matt,
    I respectfully disagree with you about Burger King’s “Have it your way.” I remember when this came out when I was a kid and everyone was talking about how you could order what you wanted on your burger finally when McDonald’s would not let you have what you wanted. As a kid this was a big deal to me because I didn’t like onions or pickles so I could go to BK and have it they way I wanted it.

    Reply
    1. Matthew Telfer

      Hi Kellie,

      The ability to remove a couple of elements was a nice touch but there aren’t many variations you can ask for, and not enough for me to develop a strap line.

      I think their current strap line “Taste is king” is far, far better. Puts a clear gap between themselves and McDonalds (which never competes on quality).

      Cheers,

      Matt

      Reply
      1. Kellie Jensen

        Hi Matt,
        Well they did it for 40 years with that campaign. After they did it, McDonald’s started letting people have it their way too. Just saying.
        Cheers back

        Reply
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  5. Harvey

    Good article. I am currently coming up with my first strap line for my company and I am finding it a difficult task. We are a food service company but our main USP’s are customer service and relationship building rather than positioning ourselves on quality or price.

    Reply
    1. Matthew Telfer

      Hi Harvey,

      Creating a strap line that connects with everyone is really difficult, especially from an internal sign-off point of view.

      Maybe ask your clients to describe your company in 3 words and see if that generates any ideas?

      Good luck!

      Matt

      Reply
  6. Jean Fleury

    Hi Matthew,

    I’ve recently started work for a young company and I am trying to come up with a strap line for them. They produce high quality bespoke industrial furniture from reclaimed materials. Any ideas please?

    Reply
    1. Matthew Telfer

      Hi Jean,

      It would need to take a lot of time to understand your business and your customers to give any ideas that are specific to your business. If you want me to give any feedback on what you’ve already come up with, I’m happy to do that.

      Matt

      Reply
    2. Stuart C

      Scrapa-cularly comfortable furniture!
      Reclaim comfort with (company name)
      Three chairs for comfort!
      History your bum will thank you for!
      Tree-rificly comfortable, Metally beautiful!

      Reply
  7. Juanita Aniello

    Great article, made you really think. I am not in marketing although I do have marketing ideas for my creations/inventions. I have a few ideas on the above especially the young company that produces high quality industrial furniture. You would need to know more about the company, its name, what type of image it wants to project ( a young image or more conservative image)what it’s focus is on(customer service, after care, selling, price, combination of some or all). That really goes for any company needing a catchy strap line. By the way, I am fast becoming one of the generation referred to as ” Silver Surfer” a term I really hate, so I really hope no one uses that in their strap line. It is quite a derogatory term besides in the passage of time everyone becomes a silver surfer.

    Reply
  8. S Fletcher-Mallinson

    I personally can identify strongly with Burger King’s ‘Have it your way’ because for most of my life I have asked for something or other to be changed, usually pickles, onions or mustard omitted. In fact even today I prefer Burger King because of their motto and eagerness to please, but I find now that McDonalds can be just as accommodating when I ask for one of their special big burgers and ‘hold the bun’ (due to a gluten sensitivity).

    Reply
  9. A Reada

    You might think Apple’s “Think different” is a great example of being creative.

    Most people I know think it made them a bit of a joke. It shouted to the world that they don’t know the difference between an adjective (different) and an adverb (differently) or which one to use.

    Impression given: ‘We think we’re trendy, but actually we’re a bit stupid / ignorant’

    Or maybe it was a conscious decision to appeal to just that sort of market? – People who think they’re trendy but aren’t in fact the brighest stars in the dark sky?

    Reply
    1. John O

      Re Think Different, I appreciate A READA’s point. A strap line doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect to be memorable and appealing – the main aim, as I see it. You are right that the adverb should be used, but Americans are more likely to use an adjective to serve as one.
      One could say ‘I’m lovin’ it’ is a similar insult to grammar as usually verbs of the head and heart like love, hate, believe, hear are only used in the simple form (i.e. not ‘I’m hating it’ , but ‘I hate it’). The language mutates and these soundbites are built to appeal and get our attention.
      They don’t replace a jolly good book!

      Reply
      1. Andrew

        Wasn’t “Think different” a response to IBM’s strapline of the time, which was “Think”?

        Reply
  10. Rich

    Get Secure Get Garrison is one of ours at Garrison Locks. This is good but needs more!

    I have to agree that the Have it your way for BK never done it for me. TBH.

    Reply
  11. Tony

    Hi we are starting a new venture most of us have been in the industry over 20 years. Site not finished yet http://www.yappley.com working on a strap line but to encapsulate our ethos in two or three words is proving to be quite difficult. Any advice most welcome.

    Reply
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  13. francesca small

    Hi Matt. We are currently going through a re brand at work and we are changing our name to Joe’s. we are a food service company that sells mainly marinated chicken and cooked chicken products ( chicken burger etc) although we do sell other concepts of food now such as curry.
    our philosophy is very much about our service and how we are your right hand man ( the second chef). we really need a strap line that represents our service as well as the food.

    Reply
    1. David

      Is it necessary to mention the product? “Rely on Joe’s” / “Joe’s Got You’re Back” / “Reliable Joe’s” / “Joe’s Make you Look Good” etc etc?

      Reply
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  16. Stuart C

    We’re an additional support needs charity that provides specialist 1 to 1 support for people with Dyspraxia in Scotland. We’re rebranding because we’re changing to a social enterprise.
    Out strap line is simply “Dyspraxia Scotland, the help that you wished for”. It was developed because our clients usually come to us when they are at their wits end or have not been able to get the help they really want and need.

    Any ideas greatly appreciated and very welcome.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  17. Nicola

    Hi Matthew,
    Greater article. I am finding it difficult to make our Usp tangible in just a few words. So is more of a sentence than a line.
    We our a small wellbeing centre that offers counselling, personal training, nutrition etc. Our Usp is that our therapists have experienced the type of therapies we offer due to our own lack of wellbeing at some point in our lives – so we understand… My ‘sentence’ is:
    Our team understands because we have accessed the support we offer at some point in our lives…
    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Nicola

    Reply
  18. linda cloke

    Hi Matthew

    Great article thank you. It inspired me immediately. I am starting a new events business which offers discounts. Its called MiZone and I have come up with the strapline

    It’s Your Choice!

    do you think this is too harsh?

    Reply
  19. Denise

    Timely article. I am about to open a luxury glamping retreat called Swallowfields. The website is currently being built and I would like to add a strapline. The site is set in a wildflower meadow with lots of nature surrounding it. It’s a place to come and chill out, get back to living in the moment and recharge the batteries. Currently have thought of

    space to breathe, time to dream

    or would like a connection to the Swallow bird .. living life as free as a bird … I’d welcome any ideas?

    Reply
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  21. Anna Maria

    Hi ! It is an timeless article 🙂

    I am organizing a PhD School on data Science.

    PhD school “Data Science essential. Preparing for the digitalized energy sector: the case of wind energy.
    I was asked to write a Stripline ??!? so I found your article.

    I thought to
    Discover data with energy
    Discover Innovation
    innovation is discovering
    Data is Energy

    Reply
  22. anna maria

    Hi

    I am organize a PhD School
    “Data Science essential. Preparing for the digitalized energy sector: the case of wind ener-gy

    I have been asked to write a Stripeline :-O ??!!
    then I have found your site 🙂

    My first ideas:

    Discovery goes with the wind

    Data is discovery, discovery is opportunity. Mine it.

    Be ready for changes: learn how to discover

    all a bit bad 🙁

    Reply

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