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December 2010 - Posts

  • Theme lines, tag lines: I’m not so sure anymore.

    Dec 14 2010

    So much time is put into developing and deploying advertising theme lines. Do you think they're important?

    I wonder. Because as I go around my house looking at branded items, I don’t recall any tag lines for them. And I doubt that advertising theme lines had anything to do with my purchases. How many theme lines for brands in your house can you remember? And even if you can recall one, did it have any bearing on why you bought those services?

    Commercial communications are changing rapidly to keep up with our increasingly sophisticated "media screens" that protect us from the onslaught of messages. If you buy something, it's probably because of product benefits, location, service and/or price – not advertising. And research agrees. The most important influences are word of mouth, your past experience in using the product or what you read on the packaging in the store.

    If you're reading this blog, there’s a good chance you're in marketing communications. So take a moment and recall a theme line for an advertising agency or a public relations firm. My guess is that very few of you can come up with even one agency theme line. Of all companies, you’d think an agency would promote a theme line so folks in their own industry could recall it.

    Yet, there are ad or PR agencies that have a brand image in your mind. So what makes up that image? The people who work there, the clients they work for, the work they do for those clients, the building their offices are in – those are the things that built the brand in your mind. And it's those real facts that we need to get across in contemporary marketing communications.

    That's what I love about social media. The language is real. It's not condensed down into something that sounds like advertising. It's more believable to 21rst century man. The social media superstars present themselves as pure, utilitarian benefit, and have anti-taglines to match. My associate, David Yoon recalls that Facebook's was something like "Facebook is the easiest way to keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues." And Yelp? "Yelp is the fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses." It's a DR school of copywriting that assumes the user knows what they're doing.

    In print, headlines have probably 10 times the power of theme lines in most instances. The eye glances at the page, sees a visual and reads the headline almost simultaneously. It glances at the logo, maybe reads the tag line and then the finger turns the page. It's probably smarter to put the company’s web address by its logo instead of a tag line. For me, the weakest moments for theme lines comes when a live TV announcer is reading sponsor copy. They'll read some copy, and end with the name of the product, and then recite a tag line like "America's insurance company". I find it slightly embarrassing.

    What do you think about tag lines? Are they less believable or less important in today’s environment?

    Joe Phelps | CEO