Do you wonder what some corporate brand/marketing teams do when they get tasked with delivering a powerful new company strapline? Call the advertising agency usually comes top of the list. Some teams will try and work it out for themselves employing their expert knowledge of company culture and ethos. I’m never sure whether the objective external view is better than the more informed but subjective internal perspective but how often can you point to a great contemporary tagline, end-line or sign-off? Increasingly unlikely in my view.
Take my old company BT. I was very lucky to work in the Brand team, the guys responsible for everything to do with the company’s image, brand profile, wordmarks, symbols, language and the corporate strapline. I was looking after all the sponsorship and was detached from the brand work itself but I observed its development at close quarters and I know how much the guys sweated over getting consensus on anything new. The strapline was probably the hardest thing to get right and to reach agreement on because everyone from the Chairman’s wife down had an opinion on what it ought to be. The big problem for the brand guys however wasn’t really Mrs Bland, it was the fact that the organisation was trusted but universally disliked.
When I joined the team the company had moved on from the rather dated concept ‘It’s Good to Talk’, which had proven to be a highly memorable line but a bit too generic in its impact; inviting people to use their phones more must have seemed like a good idea but not when the number of competitors offering cheaper call rates was increasing rapidly. Effectively BT was doing the advertising for them too. But the BT I re-joined was at the vanguard of the broadband revolution (though many people thought it was dragging its feet on roll-out especially in rural areas) and a new strapline was conceived, ‘More Connections, More Possibilities’. To be fair to my colleagues I seem to recall the ad agency coming up with this lulu, all about expanding your horizons. As a concept it worked fine but it was an awkward expression and it never captured anyone’s imagination. It’s certainly not as punchy as ‘Just Do It’ or ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ or ‘Think Different’ or ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ is it?
And so before I left, a big new concept line was being developed (after one or two side-show attempts) to demonstrate the company’s all-round capabilities as, it was believed, consumers were looking to single-source phone, broadband, mobile and tv supply. So the team came up with the tagline ‘Bringing It All Together’. Now it’s still in use I believe which must prove something but I never thought it was a great line. It just doesn’t claim something unique or different in my view, after all couldn’t Virgin Media, Sky and to a lesser extent Talk Talk say exactly the same capability about themselves?
Anyway I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently especially as I’m starting to help businesses say things about themselves. I’ve also been checking out what other people say about straplines – google search will happily find you dozens of copywriters and brand agencies pontificating on the subject. The thing that struck me was not how good or bad some lines can be but how bloody earnest and anal most writers/so called experts can be. Do lighten up people. I also reckon that most companies over-exaggerate their capabilities in their slogans – are Gillette’s products really the best available to mankind? I don’t think they are as it happens but they are certainly the most expensive. Slightly different.
The other observation is that companies can hide behind a strapline, which serves more as an aspiration rather than a statement of current capabilities. Having hired dozens of cars over the years I have never seen any evidence whatsoever that Avis really does try harder than other car hire companies – often it has been laughably the opposite. And does anyone seriously agree that Budweiser is ‘The King of Beers’ when it tastes like dish water? Or the daddy of all conceits, that Ryanair is ‘The Low Fares Airline”. No smirking at the back please.
So I’ve been thinking about some new straplines or words that summarise some of of our leading companies and iconic brands out there not from the point of view of someone who’s been commissioned by a company to put the best possible gloss on its brand image, but as a marketeer who’s taken a truth serum and feels this strange urge to tell it like it really is. So on behalf of disappointed consumers everywhere (and just occasionally a delighted customer) for a bit of fun here’s my list of straplines that are perhaps a little more realistic in their promises:-
Never loved though was respected. But Today?
Thank God for Amazon
You’ll only want to spend £50 but….
Riches of embarrassment
Heinz Beanz meanz
Rugs and smug
For those who like tinned fruit
Britain’s Got Talent
And it’s all been spotted already
Helps you… get fat
Great journalism and Jeremy Clarkson
Cabury’s Dairy Milk
Eville and nice
Use da phone instead
Strictly Come Dancing
For syth’s sake
Saturday Night Fever
As worn by Clarkson
The bank that likes to say we don’t give a f*ck
Abercrombie & Fitch
‘ave a fit (when you see the prices)
Dis nae cost a little
Wait and see
Browse here; buy online
Goes in black, comes out….black
Never in stock
For those who wouldn’t be seen dead at a car boot sale
Not new flicks
T K Maxx
Big labels for less, if you can find them
I’d love to hear your own suggestions or drop me a company/brand name and I’ll see if I can give you a new more honest strap line for them.